Adam Dzialo

Adam Dzialo
Our son, Adam Dzialo, age 30

Saturday, August 4, 2012

My Descent Into Madness.....

     This life of care-giving, year upon year, takes the mind where minds don't usually go!  That's not an original phrase but robbed from the rock opera "Tommy'" by The Who.  Most readers are too young to have a clue about this rendition.  Anyway, psychic triggers abound after the years and issues which most people in the "real" world would ignore ignite atomic explosions in my soul.  Last week, the trigger was organized religion....'nough said!
      Today, alas, today, it was the use (abuse) and handicapped kids in fashion advertising to promote the delusion of inclusion.  It reminds me of the day when blacks were included in advertising as long as they were light skinned blacks.  Blacks who were really dark-skinned reminded the masses of the agony of the years of ignominious slavery...can't do that, can we?  So we carefully picked just the right shade of black and the right features so these folks who appeared with whites in fashion mags looked like darker skinned whites.  Triggered the ever loving crap out of me.
Delores Cortes, Spanish Designer

      So, now we enter the world of disability inclusion; just so that we are all marginally PC and we can get the disabled community off our backs.  I mean, really now, with ADA, IDEA and the like dribbles of legislation, what more do these folks want.
       I am watching fashionistas use handicapped disabled kids to promote their new lines of wear.  First, light skinned blacks, then plus size women, now disabled kids.  Is there no extreme that we will go to in order to make a buck?  Here's the rub which triggers ever frayed nerve in my jangled tangle of neurons which even a valium won't abate.
Our friends at Target

       First take the right kid...someone with Down Syndrome who is cuter, more adorable, more hugable than the highest angel in the heavens.  Then take said child and use them to promote swimwear, to promote inclusive clothing in a chain store striving to break the corporate delusions of a Chick-fil-A or a Wendy's or a Limbaugh sponsor.  The message is that we are so fuckin' good because we include the adorable disabled child.
       Now this child has none of the pronounced features of a moderately severely DS child and could easily be mistaken for Sally down the street.  The issue is not because of a commitment to disability awareness or the promotion of inclusion in society.  The message is not that the lives of the severely disabled are worthy of life in the fullest.  The message is we "luv" cute disabled kids and we want to to know this so you buy our product.  The same is true of the purveyors of adaptive and assistive equipment...cute, well-groomed, almost normal looking kids. I know, and if you follow me in this blog, that all disabled kids, even the most severe are beautiful...I somehow think that society does not subscribe to our definition of beauty.
And our friends at Nordstrom's

       Did you ever see an advertisement for a product which features a kid with a trach, with a g-tube, having a massive seizure?  How about spastic kid with contorted hands and feet?  How about a kid modeling an aeropostale shirt with severe scoliosis?  Better yet, how about a kid in a wheelchair with a urine collection bag attached to the side?  Now that's a pair of jeans that would sell and make the manufacturer a billion..
One cool dude...what's he selling?

       Why do I feel that a rampant hypocrisy underlies the depiction and the inclusion of adorable disabled kids in advertising?  Why do I feel that the really really severely disabled are unworthy of fashion modeling?  Why is that I feel severely disabled can't sell clothes, standers, wheelchairs or modified toilet seats?  Something is wrong and like I said my "mind goes places where minds don't usually go?"  Is this my descent into madness?

Not to be limited to cute, hugable kids

Like I said, the perfect kid in the perfect it sells......

    So tell me, have I descended into the eternal hell of madness?


  1. I cringed when I saw that ad posted on another blog and then felt bad for cringing. I think I agree with you for the most part, although perhaps not quite so vociferously, if that makes sense. I am at once warmed by the notion of using children with special needs in advertising and then repelled. But I'm repelled by advertising anyway, I think -- the ultimate lie.

    I'm glad that you wrote this, and I don't think you've descended into madness although being mad is not the worst thing -- at least if it's temporary.

    1. I don't understand why you cringed? Can you expand on that?

  2. Thanks, validated a part of my hyper-reactivity (must be the East Coast oppressive heat). It just reminded me of the severely disabled, disfigured and how people look away. In ads you have to draw attention and avoid the look-aways...sad!

  3. Thanks Phil for posting this. You're great in the way you speak up on these matters. Where I live there's a particular advertisement that comes on the TV quite regularly. It is promoting a 'sheltered workshop' that manufactures goods for local sales. It features a whole heap of disabled people saying 'thank you' for being included - because the general public are willing to tolerate their presence in some capacity and maybe buy their goods. I feel like throwing something at the TV every time I see it. Why do they have to say 'thank you' to the general public - it's demeaning. It makes me so mad.

    1. I get where your anger is coming from but the commercial you're describing is not the same thing as this girl being a model for the swim line. She was hired presumably because she's cute. Cute kids sell cute clothes. Modeling for able-bodied/non-disabled folks is based on looks. Why should it be different for those in the disabled community?? That would equal special treatment and I wouldn't want my kid to be picked just because she's in a wheelchair for anything.

  4. Phil, I don't think you're mad. The Advert from Target is purely making a buck, it's not for "real inclusion" it IS for making a buck, like you said with the skin colour. Even united colours of beneton did that and being dark skinned myself and seeing that when I was growing up made me annoyed as, it's like getting out a highlighter like "we are different skin colours" than me just being me and you just being you.

    I also agree with mhk, why SHOULD these people have to say THANK YOU for including me... they SHOULD be included. I don't taken an advert out in the press to say Thank you to the town who let me swim in the swimming pool...

    It to me looks like a huge next Fad, one year it was cute dogs, now it's disabled kids. And you're right, they are not the ones with urine bags or contorted limbs. I wonder if Oate could stand there with his hands in his pockets like that (target advert)

    I'm so glad that you've blogged about this, I don't think that you've over reacted either. It's not like that Target have given 10% of their profits to special needs kids/adults? they are just using a kid to make a shallow buck.

    1. In your first paragraph you say it's not real inclusion. In the second one you say they SHOULD be included. Well, how do you expect to achieve inclusion without including the person???
      Was including black women in fashion magazines a fad? As far as I can tell, it's still happening now, years after it was begun. Maybe not to the extent it should be but it's not a fad that has faded away.

  5. Totally agree with you Phil. Although we are not yet that inclusive here in Australia. Although, here in my town we have some really stupid ads for our Interchange program that they have some footy player on saying how awesome volunteering with disabled kids is. Yeah right. As if that guys has ever done it.
    Argh. So annoying.

  6. To answer your question, no – you haven’t descended into the eternal hell of madness but I think you may fall off the deep end soon if we don’t reel you in just a tad!
    Let me start off by saying that I have mixed feelings about advertising the fact that a kid with Down Syndrome (or any other disability) is the main attraction for a clothing line. There’s always gonna be people (like me) wondering if this kid was chosen as a PC move by the designer in order to ramp up media coverage thereby increasing sales. I hate the thought of my kid being used for someone’s bottom line. On the other hand, I would have loved for my daughter to have been considered beautiful enough to be a model if she didn’t have Cerebral Palsy so why should I feel differently since she does have it? Who am I to take away someone’s opportunity or blast them for choosing to go the modeling route just because they fill a niche – the disability niche. There’s nothing inherently wrong with choosing this as a career, disabled or not.
    Now, I want to address a couple of specific points you made. You said “the use (abuse) and handicapped kids in fashion advertising to promote the delusion of inclusion”. Why is that a delusion and why is it an abuse? Blacks were NOT included in fashion advertising in the past, least of all the front page but that has changed, to a degree. And why? Because people started doing it. Maybe initially it was for the wrong reason (sales) but today it is because it is quite obvious that people of any skin color can be beautiful. And yes, for sales. That’s what magazines & clothing designers need to do: sell. And they will pick the people that they think will do the best job for them. When we look through a regular ol’ catalog for women’s wear, for example, we are not going to see fat, hairy women with warts and greasy hair. We are going to see the beautiful women; the elite; the glamorous. That’s why they’re called models. They are the ones that will show off the clothing the best (in the eyes of the designer and of the general public).
    Which brings me to another point in your blog post. Why in the world would a magazine of any kind want to advertise a product featuring a kid having a massive seizure?? Or with a urine collection bag attached to the side? Would you want to see that (or show that if it were yours) in real life? No, of course not. Again, with able-bodied folks, designers want to pick the best of the best. Why should it be different for disabled folks? Should they get special treatment because they’re, well, special?
    I ask you these questions because these are the questions that roam in my head. The more I think about it the more I realize that I would much rather designers include these kids (or adults for that matter) even if it’s for the wrong reason because it gets wheelchairs, Down Syndrome, walkers, AFO’S, splints and hearing aids into the mouths of the general public. And like I said in my blog, I can't wait for the day when we as a society don't feel the need to announce the fact that a cover girl is someone who has a disability because then I will know that someone who is seen as "different" today is just another part of the crowd, like me. That’s only gonna happen by getting more people like our kids into these publications.


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