Access Press, Minnesota’s disability community newspaper, released the documentary The Real Story in October after a year of production. It examines media coverage of disability issues in Minnesota and nationally and examines the role of mainstream media in reporting on issues important to all people with disabilities.
It documents how people with disabilities have found their own voices, through their own grassroots media outlets and have spoken out to make their own changes. The Real Story shows how people with disabilities and their allies have fought to break down barriers created through pity, misunderstanding and fear as well as the physical barriers, with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Real Story explores the biases, stereotypes and misperceptions about people with disabilities in the media. The time span covered is the last 20 to 30 years. The documentary shows how misperceptions and stereotypes perpetuated by the mainstream media are far too often to the detriment of people with disabilities. But it also shows how many journalists now working in the mainstream media recognize past biases. The documentary explains how journalists wanting to understand and explain the real issues, need to go directly to the source: people with disabilities.
The Real Story gives a brief history that offers everyone a sufficient understanding of the past to continue to stomp out the untruths and encourage equal rights; in where they live, in their educational opportunities, in their job opportunities, in their medical supports, in their communities and in their lives.
“Our initial goal in creating the documentary that ended up being The Real Story was to tell people about the founder of Access Press, Charlie Smith, and his accomplishments. Each year at the Access Press annual award banquet we give an award of recognition for activism in his name,” said Access Press Executive Director Tim Benjamin. “Some attendees of the banquet, even a few of the winners, were beginning to ask who Charlie Smith was. Charlie passed away in 2001 and we didn’t want anyone to forget his efforts and legacy on behalf of Minnesotans with disabilities.”
Smith and his family founded Access Press as an information vehicle for people with disabilities to learn about the new opportunities that the disability rights movement was creating. The Smiths recognized the need for a news source for people with disabilities to gather information, to recognize there is a disability community and to build stronger advocacy and lobbying efforts at the state and federal level of government. In building public awareness of disability issues, Smith became a major player in Minnesota’s disability rights movement.
After several years of discussions about making this documentary, Access Press staff, board members and community members realized the best way to acknowledge Smith’s accomplishments was to explain how in the last 20 or 30 years how the media has perpetuated old stereotypes, created new stereotypes and transformed, in positive and negative ways, the entire disability community. That is what The Real Story does.
Copies of The Real Story DVD (closed captioned) for individual use can be ordered by sending a request to [email protected] The cost is $25 plus tax, shipping and handling. For organizations, the cost is $85 plus tax, shipping and handling and includes permission to use for presentations and hosted screenings. Access Press is willing to have staff and volunteers attend screenings. Call 651-644-2133 for details.