Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here


rebeccamec's picture

National Disability Awards Ad - 2010

The text of this commercial reads like a poem and strikes an important chord in the hearts of those who care about the portrayal of disability:

“Don’t tell me I lack vision;
I see things people cannot,
dream things people will not;
Do not;
Dare not.
Fate could not stop me,
Nor prejudice,
Or doctor’s prognosis,
Or can’t, won’t, or don’t.
And when people ask me how I compete with sighted competitors, I tell them,
'They never see me coming.'”
As Seibers says in the DSR, "Identity is not the structure that creates a person's pristine individuality or inner essence but the structure by which that person identifies and becomes identified with a set of social narratives, ideas, myths, values, and types of knowledge of varying reliability, usefulness, and verifiability" (275). In this commercial, the subject's essence is easily conveyed as someone who surpasses what people expect of him as a blind person. This reconstructive narrative expresses his social location, using the negative words usually associated with disability, including lack, cannot, not, stop, prognosis, won't, and don't, while contrasting these words with clips that highlight his energy and vigor. He expresses that although others may identify him as defective, he is strong and unafraid to express his talent. Further, in this commercial, the subject is not overcoming his situation, but rather overcoming stereotypes about his blindness. The nature of his complex embodiment is clear, defying the social construction of blindness as a weakness.
When not demonstrating his physical prowess, he maintains eye contact with the viewer in a powerful, striking way. He is surrounded by photos of boxers and martial artists who all look on from posters, seeming to cheer him on. In terms of the objects featured, he seems to focus strongly on his hands, which, like his posture, always seem full of energy (either pointedly posed in his meditation state, or rubbing themselves together as he seems to concentrate). There is no role of the victim in this commercial. If anything, he seems to challenge the onlooker to question their thoughts about disability and blindness, with he as living proof defying all stereotypes. Only in the end is he shown with his cane, walking away, and with a posture as strong as when he is practicing martial arts. I am very moved by this powerful portrait of talent and demonstration that disability does not always define identity in a negative, debilitating way.


nbarker's picture

This video struck a chord with me too--the strength, not just physically, but personally, that is remarkable. The commercial is powerful, and poetic, just as you said.

I noticed in Riva's visit that she mentioned that many male-identified crips will take up martial arts. I wonder if that might be a way of reclaiming a maleness of body, as agression and martial arts have been seen as a traditionally male discipline in our culture. Riva remarked that disability can be not just emasculating, but degendering and unsexing for anyone who has had to deal with societal pressures of disability. It's an odd trend for me, though, because I had to stop my martial arts training precisely because of my disability. The art I had learned had next to no practitioners in my area, and those that were there didn't have the ability to teach me how to modify the stances and practices to work with my disability.

There is the issue, however, of falling into supercrip territory. Dawson Ko could easily be construed as such, and the commercial does have a little undercurrent of supercrip, much as it is empowering. It seems as if he's almost reclaimign the supercrip-ness for himself.
I'd like to ask others opinion on this; how can you, as a disabled person, do something extraordinary without it being overshadowed by your disability? In the case of many crips, keeping their impairment hidden is not an option. Other of us crips who do have an "invisible" impairment will keep it hidden in many situations. How can you reclaim yourself from supercripdom? Look at Itzhak Perlman--he is an amazing violinist, but for many years he was the "crippled jewish boy violinist" who was also extraordinary.