It is my privilege to have Beth A. Haller, Ph.D take the time to answer some exclusive questions about what she has done to increase awareness and establish equal rights for the disability community in the USA through her research, writing, and teaching. Make sure you check out her blog over at http://media-dis-n-dat.blogspot.com/.
1. Beth, can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to where you are today?
While in a science journalism master’s program at the University of Maryland, I got interested in writing about the Deaf community, which was nearby at Gallaudet, and then I looked to see if there was research about media images of the Deaf community and found little. It was about a year or two after the Deaf President Now movement when I started my research. And I expanded on that when I went into a Ph.D. program and my dissertation looked at how the news media covered the Americans with Disabilities Act.
2. How you first got involved with blogging personally?
Just a whim in 2008. I wanted to create a place where all the disability news I found could be in one place.
3. What do you find most challenging about blogging on disability issues?
I don’t really consider Media dis&dat a blog as much as a database. I rarely write anything myself. So many online news media sources block their content after a week or so and I wanted there to be a place where everyone could still access stories about disability topics.
4. Tell me about some fascinating people you’ve interacted or met because of this blog?
I interviewed Kjell Stjernholm, the artistic director of the Mooms Teatern in Malmö, Sweden, for a post in 2010. It was about a theater of actors with intellectual disabilities. Very ground-breaking and it has changed theater culture in Sweden and actors from Mooms are accepted as the equals of all other professional actors in Sweden.
5. How do you keep coming up with material/content for your blog? Many people struggle with coming up with different articles/posts and they only have one blog. I see you’re involved with numerous ones.
I have about 40-50 Google alerts on disability terms so those feed me much more news that I can ever post.
6. Where do you see this blog going 2 years from now, what type of change will it help to create in society?
Blogging seems to be receding in the wake of social media. Lots of spam hitting the comment sections of blogs, so I post much more on social media because that way I am targeting people who have already shown interest in the links I post by following me on Twitter or liking my Facebook page for my book, Representing Disability in an Ableist World: Essays on Mass Media.
7. What’s the best thing you can give to your readers?
A database of news about disability topics.
8. Everyone has a favorite/least favorite post. What is yours Beth & why?
I recently covered World Down Syndrome Day at the United Nations. A wonderful event! Several hundred people there and every presentation included self advocates. http://media-dis-n-dat.blogspot.com/2012/03/self-advocates-with-down-syndrome-tell.html
9. Are there some bloggers you regularly read or look up to? Why?
Bad Cripple is a great one. Disability and representation is a new one that I find very relevant. The Temple U disability studies blog is an important resource in itself and to find other blogs through its disability blogroll.
10. How do you choose what to post on your twitter account at https://twitter.com/#!/Mediadisdat? What impact do you think your twitter feed has in bringing awareness to our society?
I think Twitter is more immediate. It can be like your own personal news feed about disability topics. That is the way I use it and others are beginning to use it in the same way.
11. How has publishing the book “Representing Disability in an Ableist World: Essays on Mass Media” impacted your personal life and career?
It has been very positive. I have given talks about the book in NY City, Toronto, Syracuse, NY, and Sydney, Australia, and have met hundreds of people interested in media and disability topics. The book is being used in about a dozen college classes in the USA and Canada. I wanted it to be a book that students, activists and scholars could use, and I think I have succeeded in that goal, so that is gratifying.
12. What change do you hope to bring to the disability community & society through your efforts over the next 10 years?
I think media are important to all disability rights efforts because if the media are misrepresenting the disability community, then the general public has wrong information and may not support rights efforts. I hope my research, my writing and my teaching will continue to build awareness of how important the media are in our efforts to establish equal rights for the disability community in the USA.