The Special Needs Gang

Who doesn’t enjoy Snoopy and Woodstock or the Family Circus gang? Because our current class discussions have concerned disability recognition in the arts, I set out to determine whether this expression extends to the realm of comic strips. Behold…disability is represented! A Google search (“comics about disabilities”) generated several related results. I studied a handful and read through their corresponding articles. Each author seems to have taken a slightly different approach to representing disability:

The Special Needs Gang:…..Vast Horizons, Inc. published this strip in February 2012. Each of its lead characters has a disability, a first for newspapers in the United States. “Following the current trend of bringing developmental disabilities into the public spotlight, VHIconnect wants to introduce children (and adults) to this previously hidden world of special needs in a fun, lighthearted way, while also making them aware of the adversity these individuals face.” The comic shown on this page is about two individuals discussing disability. According to their conversation, God REALLY loves disabled people and “took away their abilities” so that they could help others to learn about “kindness and charity.”

DitzAbled Princess:…Jewel Michelle Kats is the author of this comical diary. (Katarina Andriopoulus creates the illustrations and overall design.) Because Kats has a physical disability, the strip is inspired by her real life experiences: “It’s the first mainstream comic strip about a woman who works as an author, shops like crazy, bugs her frugal husband 24/7, lives with her parents and sister, has a dog in diapers, and has physical disabilities all at the same time.” The main character, Jewel, sports a pink elbow crutch and is quite witty. Kats has created a character who recognizes her disability, but doesn’t allow it to hold her back.

Obsessive Compulsive Cartooning:…A man by the name of Dan Piraro likes to call himself “Bizarro.” Unlike VHIconnect and Kats, Bizarro makes fun of people with disabilities. His cartoons involve taking a controversially humorous approach to disability; one is “about a band called the “A.D.D.s” in which all of the teenage musicians were scattered about the stage, busy doing something other than playing music.” The cartoon displayed on the page I viewed depicted a band called “OCDC,” with a lead singer who could not get past his initial testing of the microphone. Because Bizarro claims to have a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder, he feels as though this particular comic was a “safer” piece.

Brief Euthanasia Article

This article in The Atlantic takes on an issue that Paul Longmore addressed, showing that the able-bodied — perhaps most importantly, medical professionals — regularly underestimate the “quality of life” of disabled people. It has implications for questions of assisted suicide, of advance directives, and of medical education: maybe we need more disabled physicians!

Ethical Dilemma



I think it’s a little ironic considering that the “head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center” approves of the decision. No where in the article was it stated that the parents had gotten the consent of Kade before doing surgery on him. The decision may be “reversible,” but that does not excuse the fact that Kade may or may not have agreed. The comments of the editorial are also unsettling. One of the commenters works with Autistic children and agreed with the parents’ decision. Sickening.

Sexy Calendars

With the turn of the new year, the British disability advocacy group, Enhance the UK, is selling calendars featuring scantily-clad models with disabilities. Their goal is to break down the misconstrued ideas of disability and prove that disabled people are sexual beings – just like everyone else. Sporting little more than lingerie or swimsuits, the models are featured posing in London taxis and and in front of British landmarks like Big Ben and the Tower Bridge. They are hoping to turn a few heads. The CEO of Enhance the UK and one of the models for the calendar, Jennie Williams, stated that “all too often disabled people get ignored and desexualized, even ‘babied,’ being seen as people who just need looking after and not wanting or capable of having an active, healthy sex life and loving relationship.” Her group wants to “change the way society views sex and disability.”

The calendar is available for free, but a donation is requested. All funds raised goes towards the Undressing Disability campaign to “ensure better, inclusive sex and relationships education for disabled, young people.”

It says on their site that “if you’re hoping to make someone’s Christmas extra special this year then you’re in the right place.” However, I am not quite sure how many non disabled people would purchase one of these calendars as a Christmas gift. So I guess I am just curious as to how effective these calendars actually are. Furthermore, does “sexy” really need to be reduced to this? Just wanted to hear/read all of your thoughts!

Here’s the link if you want to take a look around:

Where Mental Asylums Live On


In America, asylums are not as common as they once were because they’ve been cleared out in favor of community-based care for the disabled. However, internationally, it appears that asylums are a very common way of dealing with disabled people. Asylums are written off as dark places of abuse and neglect and have a terrible reputation because they are not very well maintained. The community based care systems in America, though, have not developed quickly enough to keep mentally disabled people off the streets and out of jail. It makes one wonder what should be done in order to regulate the mentally disabled and give them an equal opportunity to experience life. In Guatemala, where asylums are common, the government is working on legislature that will assist the disabled in living in community based care facilities and have more patient support in hospitals in order to encourage positive treatment of these people. If this succeeds, hopefully, more nations will follow their lead and realize that the asylum isn’t the only way to deal with mentally disabled people.

Because Who is Perfect?


This article talks about a new campaign called “Because Who is Perfect? Come Closer” by the Swiss charity Pro Infirmis. Their purpose for this new campaign was to expose to the public a wide range of body types through clothing store mannequins. They wanted to go against traditional beauty and show how beautiful other body types are. The campaign made five mannequins that were based off models with disabilities. The first mannequin was based off a women with severe scoliosis, the second was based off a model with a deformed spin, the third was based off an athlete with one leg, the fourth was based off a model with brittle bone diseases, and the fifth was based off a model with shortened limbs. Director Alain Gsponer made a short film about the project. In the video, the mannequins were placed in a busy street and the reaction of by passers ranged from “wonder to disdain”. I think this campaign is a positive step forward for the disability community. These mannequins illustrates the different kinds of bodies and shows that they’re still beautiful regardless of the traditional beauty norm.

Anne Finger

Anne Finger reads “Walking to Abbasanta” and “Helen and Frida.” Her pronunciation of Italian names is scary, but otherwise she reads well.

Accessibility for Disabled on a Global Scale

This article expresses the ongoing progress to increase accessibility for the disabled, not just on a local scale, but also on a global level. Not only will disabled people in other countries be able to gain easier access to places, but the treaty will benefit disabled Americans as well. More disabled students would be able to study abroad and travel with the implement of accommodations for the disabled. I did find it ridiculous that the reason the treaty to execute these beneficial changes was put down before was due to the thought of America losing its power and that disabled children would not be returned to their parents. If anything, it would increase America’s power with more people being able to study abroad and building relationships with other nations, along with the invaluable experiences and exposure to different cultures gained.

Disability Access in China


This article describes the limited opportunities for disabled people in China. It begins with the story of Ni Zhen, a blind man who was told that he could only become a masseuse or musician because those were the occupations his culture deemed appropriate for people with visual impairment. Also, in order to move on to higher education, students need to take an exam that is not even offered to disabled students, further limiting their job potential. Ni, however, went on to obtain a master’s in education by going to university in Britain and is working on a degree in law.

Not everyone in China is as fortunate at Ni, though. The articles cites that “gaining access to treatment and jobs is a challenge”, so poverty is common among disabled Chinese. This is mainly due to the fact that professions dealing with rehabilitation for disabled people are held in very low regard. In order for disabled Chinese to get more attention, the government may need to encourage medical students to see the value in helping the disabled. It is interesting to see how this profession is not as highly regarded as it is in America and to see how a different culture perceives a disability as only leading to a certain occupation. We are very lucky in America, where the government has made legislature protecting disabled people, but even the disabled community here doesn’t consider it enough.