R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me
I got that warm inspirational glow when watching a video on Tim Harris, a young man affected by Down syndrome, running his own restaurant.
“Good for you,” I thought, “you’re living the dream!”
But I had this niggly sensation that something wasn’t right. I really didn’t like how the video was cut and edited. The more I thought about it, the more patronizing it felt to me. It was playing up the stereotype of people with Down syndrome as perma-positive, dancing, adorable-yet-inspirational, media darlings.
There’s too much emphasis on the fact that Tim has Down syndrome, likes to hug people, and dances to work. Not nearly enough on his extraordinary business acumen.
He’s created a strong brand, leveraging his friendly personality as a unique selling point. What’s even more worthy of respect is that he’s a successful small business owner in a competitive industry that is notorious for first year failure and an employer in a depressed economy. That’s no mean achievement!
I did find an interview in Tim’s own words on CNN.
It was great to hear his story, his way.
I am ambivalent about how the media has dressed up Tim’s story. In the long run I don’t think it does people with disabilities any favours. Yes, Tim is portrayed in a positive light and the video showcases many of Tim’s and his support circles achievements. However, there’s more to Tim than they’re sharing. What makes him amazing isn’t how he’s ‘overcoming’ his challenges. It is his talents and his support circles commitment to inclusion.
I think the media should dig deeper and see Tim as more than a human interest story. He’s an entrepreneur, an Olympian, and developing a groundbreaking model for how people with intellectual disabilities are employed and supported. I’d like to see them broadcast that with excellent supports it would be possible for Tim to be the norm as opposed to the exception in the disability community.
Wouldn’t it be incredible to wake up to a world where everyone is supported to follow their dream and plan out steps to actively achieve it? Perhaps by following trailblazers like Tim and increased funding more people could be independent in a way that makes them happy.
Bravo to Tim for his hard work, success, and achievement of his dream!
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