2019 UTA summer course, Disability in Mass Media

Actor Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, left, stars on the CBS TV show “NCIS: New Orleans.” Katherine Beattie, a wheelchair user, writes for the show and wrote an episode in April 2019 featuring multiple disabled characters played by disabled actors.

Disability in Mass Media

COMM 4393-001 / DS 3321-001

July 9-August 12

1-3 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays

Fine Arts Room 327A

Beth Haller, Ph.D., bhaller@towson.edu




Course Description: The course explores how mass media frames disability and neurodiversity for the general public. This course focuses on issues related to disability and mass media representation, including journalism, TV, film, advertising, photography, documentary, video games and the Internet. Topics will include media models of representation, inspiration porn, disability blogs, accessible media, advertising and photography, disabled mimicry in TV and film, video gaming, etc.

Course Objectives:
1. Increase understanding of media impact on the cultural and social issues related to disability;
2. Differentiate between the various disability justice terminology and disability models, as well as specific models of media representation of disability;
3. Introduction to accessible media and disability media, i.e. content created by and for people with disabilities.

Required Books and Course Materials:


* You must complete all assignments to pass this class.

* All papers should use a recognized academic reference style.

* Attach the paper checklist to each assignment

Active Class Discussion/Attendance/In-Class Screening Responses (20%)

This class is designed with some lecture, lots of media screenings, and a good deal of class discussion, so your active participation is crucial. In order to be prepared, take time to read closely, and come to class with questions and comments about the material. Please make every effort to attend class and arrive on time because you will be required to provide written responses to all in-class screenings. Contact me in advance if you MUST miss class.

Engaged Participation: Good participation means reading the assignments readings before the class, contributing thoughtfully to discussions and in-class activities and demonstrating careful consideration of the readings. It also means asking good questions just as much as knowing how to answer a question. During discussions, please keep in mind that the goal is balanced participation. If you find yourself dominating the discussion, please yield it.  If you find yourself being to silent, please speak up.

Reaction Papers: (30%)

Reaction papers allow you to engage with the assigned material, develop critical reading and writing skills, and prepare for discussions. You will be asked to complete three responses (2½- 3 pages -750-1,000 words – double-spaced, 12 pt. font). Papers should address a key issue or theme developed in the readings from that section. I will distribute prompts, but you are encouraged to create your own topic. Exceptional papers will develop an interesting argument, put multiple readings in discussion with each other, and effectively integrate at least three quotes cited from at least three course materials; include a reference list of all sources, both readings and screenings used. Due dates are listed in the syllabus.

Rubric for all papers:

Grade Quality Relevance Grammar/Spelling
90 – 100


The paper represents a thoughtful reflection on disability and media. It is creative and substantive and demonstrates excellence in its discussion of the topic. The paper illustrates new ways of thinking about disability and the media and used 3 or more direct quotes from 3+ reading materials/screenings to support that content. The paper clearly demonstrates a deep understanding of disability and media content and relevance to Disability Studies. The paper is interesting, compelling and well organized. It has no spelling or grammatical errors. The work displayed is interesting and varied, incorporating the required number of examples from course readings/screenings. Assignment checklist is followed and attached.
80 – 89


The paper demonstrates a thoughtful response; however, required examples from readings/screenings are missing or inaccurate. Personal reflections are not as compelling or interesting as they could be. Only 1-2 direct quotes from less than 3 readings/screenings are used. The paper demonstrates a somewhat superficial connection between disability and the media. The paper is well organized, but has minor errors in grammar, spelling, required format, or academic style. Assignment checklist is not followed.
70 – 79


The paper does not clearly demonstrate a connection between disability and the media or to Disability Studies. Personal reflections are missing or superficial. No direct quotes from readings/screenings are used. The paper’s content is not relevant to the topic of disability and the media. Content is unclear or not well developed. The paper is disorganized, has serious errors in grammar, spelling, academic style, or required format. It is not compelling to the reader and does not have required examples or references. Assignment checklist is not followed or attached.
60 – 69


The paper is off topic and not connected to disability and the media. No quotes or paraphrases from readings/screenings are used. The paper uses no relevant course readings or screenings. The paper meets few of the requirements for the assignment. Assignment checklist is not followed or attached.
Below 60 (“F”) Sections are missing, or issues of academic honesty or integrity are involved.

Audio description script/discussion paper (25 percent)

Example of audio description timed script here:  http://www.adlabproject.eu/Docs/adlab%20book/index.html#example-ad

After watching Smith-Kettlewell Video Description Research and Development Center’s video description tutorials 1-7, you will create an audio description script for a 3-minute segment of a fictional movie or TV show found on YouTube that is not already described. You will also write a 300+-word reflection paper on the experience, i.e. what you learned, challenges, new ways you think about accessible media, etc. Your reflection paper should mention at least 3 articles you read below. You are only required to create the script; it is your choice whether you want to record your audio to sync with a video.

Smith-Kettlewell Video Description Research and Development Center’s video description tutorials 1-7:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24Pmmo9wKik
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6n5IGnuadhM
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l766llLRxps
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kckxSsCiaB4
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEDrAOt0er8
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vz3zueYyac8
  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgNgscHJh6I

Video Description Guidelines: “How to Know What to Say” by Rick Boggs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZlNVajYx9s

Examples of audio description:

(Note: Please let me know if you have a visual impairment that prevents you from doing this assignment. You will be assigned a reflective essay on AD instead.)

Final paper: Disability blogging/social media analysis paper and presentation: (25%)

  • Readings for this assignment: Disability Studies Quarterly special issue: Disability Blogging, http://dsq-sds.org/issue/view/1(9 articles) and Haller, B. (2010). “The changing landscape of disability ‘news’: Blogging and social media lead to more diverse sources of information.”
  • Email me with your selection of a blog AND social media site and I will post the list. Choices are first-come, first-served. (Note: Students should select a blog/Facebook page not selected by another student. Once all are selected, then two students may select the same blog/social media site.)

What the analysis should include:
• Write at least a 1200-word paper in which you carefully analyze a number of posts (at least 6-8) on the disability-related blog and at least 2-3 days of the social media posts. In your analysis, explain what model(s) or perspectives on disability the blog/social media posts appear to reflect. What seems to be the blogger’s and social media site’s perspective toward disability, toward people with disabilities? How do you know? Be sure to support your argument with specific references to the blogs/FB wall posts and the date of entries. As part of your analysis, try to figure out who the site’s intended audience is. Who are they seeking to reach? Based on the blogger bio/FB profile, what are their backgrounds and how does that seem to influence the blog/social media content?
• Your paper must reference at least 3 of the 9 articles from the Disability Studies Quarterly article on blogging.

  • Your paper should reference chapter 1 of Representing Disability in an Ableist World.
  • Write about your reaction and reflection on the blogs/social media. How do or don’t they fit the disability models discussed? How do they reflect the perspectives in the DSQ essays about disability blogging? How do the FB posts reflect the perspectives in the course readings? Please include your personal commentary about what you think the impact of the blog/Facebook posts are. (Note: Please focus on the blog posts more than social media in the paper. They are original and connect to the DSQ articles on blogging.)
    • You will make a short presentation about the sites you analyzed (from your seat; no presentation materials needed; I will project the blog while you speak) discussing some of the answers you had to the above questions.

Blog/social media choices:

Blog name
A Typical Son, http://atypicalson.com/
Autistic Hoya, http://www.autistichoya.com/
CanCanOnWheelz by Candis Welch, https://www.candiswelch.com/blog

Carly Findlay, http://carlyfindlay.com.au/ (Australia)

Claiming Crip, http://www.claimingcrip.blogspot.com/
Cracked Mirror in Shalott, https://crackedmirrorinshalott.wordpress.com/
Crippled Scholar, https://crippledscholar.com/ (Canada)
Curb Free with Cory Lee, https://www.curbfreewithcorylee.com/

Disability blog of The Body Is Not An Apology, https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/category/posts/disability/

Disability Thinking, http://disabilitythinking.com/disabilitythinking/
The Geeky Gimp, https://geekygimp.com/
Kathie Comments, https://kathiecomments.wordpress.com/
Left Brain/Right Brain, http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/ (UK)
Legally Blind Bagged, https://legallyblindbagged.wordpress.com/

Life After Paralysis, http://www.spinalcordinjury-paralysis.org/blogs/20

The Malleable Mom, http://themalleablemom.com/blog/
Meriah Nichols, http://www.meriahnichols.com/
Of Battered Aspect, http://davehingsburger.blogspot.com/ (Canada)
Oh, Twist, http://ohtwist.com/blog
On the Blink, https://emilykmichael.com/
Ouch: Disability Talk, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/ (UK)
Rooted in Rights, http://www.rootedinrights.org/blog/
Ruderman Family Foundation blog, http://www.rudermanfoundation.org/rudermanblog
Slow Walkers See More, https://slowwalkersseemore.wordpress.com/
The Squeaky Wheelchair, http://thesqueakywheelchair.blogspot.com/
Starting with Julius, http://www.startingwithjulius.org.au/category/blog/ (Australia)
Tales from the Crip, https://talesfromthecrip.org/
That Crazy Crippled Chick, http://thatcrazycrippledchick.com/
Time to Change personal stories, https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/personal-stories (UK)
Where’s Waldman, https://whereswaldman.wordpress.com/
Words I Wheel By, http://wordsiwheelby.com/blog/

Facebook pages:

American Association of People with Disabilities: https://www.facebook.com/DisabilityPowered
Autistic Self Advocacy Network, https://www.facebook.com/AutisticAdvocacy/timeline
Center for Leadership in Disability: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Center-for-Leadership-in-Disability/256231957394
Deaf News Today: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Deaf-News-Today/211140915575836?ref=ts
Disability and Media: Representation Matters, https://www.facebook.com/groups/1005168392890694/
Public Disability History, https://www.facebook.com/publicdisabilityhistory/
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund: https://www.facebook.com/DREDF.org
Disability Scoop: https://www.facebook.com/disabilityscoop
Down syndrome in arts and media: https://www.facebook.com/ActorswithDownSyndrome
International Paralympic Committee: https://www.facebook.com/ParalympicGames
National ADAPT (USA): https://www.facebook.com/NationalAdapt
National Disability Rights Network: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-National-Disability-Rights-Network/109074605801200
New Mobility magazine: https://www.facebook.com/newmobility
The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, https://www.facebook.com/thinkingpersonsguidetoautism/
Two Thirds of the Planet, https://www.facebook.com/twothirdsoftheplanet/
World Institute on Disability: https://www.facebook.com/WorldInstituteonDisability
Yo! Disabled and Proud: https://www.facebook.com/pages/YO-Disabled-Proud/190827107620280
Assignment Date Due
Reaction Paper 1 July 18
Email me your blog/social media  choice by this date (First come, first served) July 18
Audio Description paper & script July 24
Reaction Paper 2 July 29
Reaction Paper 3 August 5
Blog/social media paper due August 12


  • Class Discussion/Attendance/Participation/Screening Reports: 20%
  • Reaction Papers: 30%
  • Audio description assignment: 25%
  • Disability blogging/social media analysis paper: 25%

Grading criteria for written assignments and course in general: (Whenever written assignments are given, I expect you all to produce the best written work of which you are capable.)

90 – 100 (“A”) On the written assignments, this means the paper is clear, organized coherently, and well-written. It is an effective discussion of the topic. It has no spelling, grammar, format, or accuracy errors. In terms of the course, this means you have almost perfect attendance, scores in this range on the tests, and have good questions and discussion in class.

80 – 89 (“B”) On the written assignments, the paper is cohesive and well organized, although it may have some minor spelling or grammatical errors. The discussion covers almost all of the important information and follows proper format. In terms of the course, this means you have good attendance, scores in this range on assignments, and have good questions and discussion in class.

70 – 79 (“C”) On the written assignments, the paper is disorganized and contains many minor errors. The discussion missed some pertinent information or does not follow proper format. In terms of the course, this means you have poor attendance, scored in this range on assignments, and have not participated in class discussions.

60 – 69 (“D”) On the written assignments, the paper ineffectively discusses the topic; it is not coherent or understandable. It contains an unacceptable number of spelling, grammar errors and/or inaccurate information or does not follow proper format. In terms of the course, this means you have missed more classes than you have attended, scored in this range on the tests, and have not participated in class discussions.

Below 60 (“F”)* The paper contains major factual error(s) related to the topic. The information presented is completely incorrect. The paper does not meet the requirements in page length, focus, or format. In terms of the course, this means you have missed more classes than you have attended, scored in this range on the tests, and have not participated in class discussions. If you are caught cheating in any way, you will automatically receive an F in the course.

Guidelines for all assignments:

  • You should do college-level work in all written assignments.  You will receive specific and detailed instructions for all assignments within this course; follow them.
  • No late papers will be accepted after the last day of Summer Session II.
  • Any late papers will lose grade percentage points for each day they are late. (Please contact me if an emergency arises that affects you turning in a paper on time.)
  • Turn in all papers in person unless otherwise requested.
  • All assignments must be typed in the form requested and should contain your name, the date, and the assignment topic in the upper left-hand corner. (No folders or binders are necessary for assignments. Just staple the pages together.)
  • Proofread, run spellcheck and grammar check, and correctly edit your papers. (Turning in sloppy work with many grammatical errors is not college level work – if you have problems with writing on a college level, utilize the services of the UTA Writing Center, http://www.uta.edu/owl/).
Academic Dishonesty:
I do not tolerate plagiarism or fabrication of any kind. You should adhere to the UTA policy on cheating and plagiarism (See below). If you are caught breaking this policy, you will be prosecuted to the full extent that the policy allows. You should adhere to the highest possible standards of ethical behavior for this class.Do not plagiarize, fabricate, or submit work you have done for another class. Cite all sources in your paper correctly. If you cut and paste material from the Internet without quote marks or a citation, that is plagiarism. If you paraphrase another’s material, make sure to properly cite the source.


Readings and assignment schedule

(Note: We will screen most video content in class so no need to watch them beforehand. However, you have the links if you want to reference them in your papers.)

July 9-10: Models of representation & disability/ableism

Go over syllabus and assignments



July 11, 15: Supercrips, inspiration, Paralympics representation



July 16: The power of media to frame disability & emerging media forms




July 17-18: Representations of autism/neurodiversity

Reaction Paper 1 Due 


Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, http://www.autisticadvocacy.org/
WrongPlanet.net, www.wrongplanet.net


July 22: Analyzing news about disability



  • “When Billy Broke His Head”

July 23, 25 : Authentic media vs. disability mimicry



July 24: Creating accessible media

Audio description paper due

Discussion of audio description assignment

Guest audience for audio description: Donna Mack, Disability Diplomat consultant.

July 29: Imagery

Reaction Paper 2 Due



July 30: Advertising



July 31: Entertainment TV and humor




August 1, 5: Video games: Access and representation

Reaction Paper 3 Due

Readings (Access):

Readings (Representation):



August 6-8: Individual meetings about final blog paper; work on final paper 

August 12:  Final blog/social media papers due in class; discussion of final papers.



Earning a college degree is an endeavor that is preparing you for a future in a professional workplace. I expect you to display those qualities of professionalism in my classroom. Here are some policies and behaviors that I require you to follow:

  • Because this is a 5-week summer class, attendance is expected and represents 20% of your participation grade. If something unforeseen happens and you need to miss a class, please contact me as soon as you know. If you are able, provide documentation (doctor’s note, car repair bill, etc.)
  • You will be counted absent if you are more than 15 minutes late for class. You will be counted absent if you sleep in class, or leave class and don’t return.
  •  It is your responsibility to make up any missed work due to an absence. Please get to know your classmates and ask them first.
  • You should participate fully by attending class and being prepared for discussions and other assignments.  Being prepared means doing your reading assignment or other class prep before the class session.
  • You, not the professor, are responsible for your grade. If you do not turn in an assignment, you will receive a zero.
  • You will show respect to your fellow classmates and your professor. You will not belittle or laugh at others’ ideas or dominate discussions. The professor may eject you from class for any inappropriate or disruptive behavior.
  • If you are regularly absent, routinely arrive late or leave the room during the middle of class, use your laptop for anything other than taking notes, play on your phone, send or read texts, read non-course materials during class, engage in chitchat during class, or otherwise neglect to participate, I will not give you the benefit of the doubt if your final grade is on the border between two grades. If you have a legitimate reason for leaving class early, please tell me before class and sit near the door.
  • Never lie, cheat, plagiarize, collude, fabricate or commit other acts of academic dishonesty. A mature person asks for help, rather than taking these unethical “shortcuts.” Please make an appointment, so we can discuss the help you need. If the class is still too difficult for you, become self-aware enough to understand when or if you should drop or withdraw from the class. There is no shame in withdrawing from a class and taking it at another time.
  • Respect yourself enough to try your best, and the professor will respect you, too.


The UT Arlington Syllabus Institutional Policies

UTA students are encouraged to review these institutional policies and informational sections and reach out to the specific office with any questions.

Drop Policy

Students may drop or swap (adding and dropping a class concurrently) classes through self-service in MyMav from the beginning of the registration period through the late registration period. After the late registration period, students must see their academic advisor to drop a class or withdraw. Undeclared students must see an advisor in the University Advising Center. Drops can continue through a point two-thirds of the way through the term or session. It is the student’s responsibility to officially withdraw if they do not plan to attend after registering. Students will not be automatically dropped for non-attendance. Repayment of certain types of financial aid administered through the University may be required as the result of dropping classes or withdrawing. For more information, contact the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Disability Accommodations

UT Arlington is on record as being committed to both the spirit and letter of all federal equal opportunity legislation, including The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. All instructors at UT Arlington are required by law to provide “reasonable accommodations” to students with disabilities, so as not to discriminate on the basis of disability. Students are responsible for providing the instructor with official notification in the form of a letter certified by the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD).  Only those students who have officially documented a need for an accommodation will have their request honored. Students experiencing a range of conditions (Physical, Learning, Chronic Health, Mental Health, and Sensory) that may cause diminished academic performance or other barriers to learning may seek services and/or accommodations by contacting: The Office for Students with Disabilities, (OSD) or calling 817-272-3364. Information regarding diagnostic criteria and policies for obtaining disability-based academic accommodations can be found at the OSD website.

Non-Discrimination Policy

The University of Texas at Arlington does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, genetic information, and/or veteran status in its educational programs or activities it operates. For more information, visit Equal Opportunity Services.

Title IX Policy

The University of Texas at Arlington (“University”) is committed to maintaining a learning and working environment that is free from discrimination based on sex in accordance with Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs or activities; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits sex discrimination in employment; and the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SaVE Act). Sexual misconduct is a form of sex discrimination and will not be tolerated. For information regarding Title IX, visit the Title IX website or contact Ms. Michelle Willbanks, Title IX Coordinator at (817) 272-4585 or titleix@uta.edu.

Academic Integrity

Students enrolled all UT Arlington courses are expected to adhere to the UT Arlington Honor Code:

I pledge, on my honor, to uphold UT Arlington’s tradition of academic integrity, a tradition that values hard work and honest effort in the pursuit of academic excellence.

I promise that I will submit only work that I personally create or contribute to group collaborations, and I will appropriately reference any work from other sources. I will follow the highest standards of integrity and uphold the spirit of the Honor Code.

UT Arlington faculty members may employ the Honor Code in their courses by having students acknowledge the honor code as part of an examination or requiring students to incorporate the honor code into any work submitted. Per UT System Regents’ Rule 50101, §2.2, suspected violations of university’s standards for academic integrity (including the Honor Code) will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. Violators will be disciplined in accordance with University policy, which may result in the student’s suspension or expulsion from the University. Additional information is available at Student Conduct.  Faculty are encouraged to discuss plagiarism and share the following library tutorials Copyright & Fair Use: Plagiarism and Acknowledging Sources.

Electronic Communication

UT Arlington has adopted MavMail as its official means to communicate with students about important deadlines and events, as well as to transact university-related business regarding financial aid, tuition, grades, graduation, etc. All students are assigned a MavMail account and are responsible for checking the inbox regularly. There is no additional charge to students for using this account, which remains active even after graduation. Information about activating and using MavMail is available at OIT: Student MavMail.

Campus Carry

Effective August 1, 2016, the Campus Carry law (Senate Bill 11) allows those licensed individuals to carry a concealed handgun in buildings on public university campuses, except in locations the University establishes as prohibited. Under the new law, openly carrying handguns is not allowed on college campuses. For more information, visit News Center: Campus Carry.

Final Review Week

Final Review Week for semester-long courses, a period of five class days prior to the first day of final examinations in the long sessions shall be designated as Final Review Week. The purpose of this week is to allow students sufficient time to prepare for final examinations. During this week, there shall be no scheduled activities such as required field trips or performances; and no instructor shall assign any themes, research problems or exercises of similar scope that have a completion date during or following this week unless specified in the class syllabus. During Final Review Week, an instructor shall not give any examinations constituting 10% or more of the final grade, except makeup tests and laboratory examinations. In addition, no instructor shall give any portion of the final examination during Final Review Week. During this week, classes are held as scheduled. In addition, instructors are not required to limit content to topics that have been previously covered; they may introduce new concepts as appropriate.

Student Feedback Survey

At the end of each term, students enrolled in face-to-face and online classes categorized as “lecture,” “seminar,” or “laboratory” are directed to complete an online Student Feedback Survey (SFS). Instructions on how to access the SFS for this course will be sent directly to each student through MavMail approximately 10 days before the end of the term. Each student’s feedback via the SFS database is aggregated with that of other students enrolled in the course.  Students’ anonymity will be protected to the extent that the law allows. UT Arlington’s effort to solicit, gather, tabulate, and publish student feedback is required by state law and aggregate results are posted online. Data from SFS is also used for faculty and program evaluations. For more information, visit Student Feedback Survey.

Active Shooter

The safety and security of our campus is the responsibility of everyone in our community. Each of us has an obligation to be prepared to appropriately respond to threats to our campus, such as an active aggressor. Please review the information provided by UTA Police regarding the options and strategies we can all use to stay safe during difficult situations. For more information, visit Crime Prevention: Active Shooter.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

CAPS is available to all students to help increase their understanding of personal issues, address mental and behavioral health problems and make positive changes in their lives. Visit Counseling and Psychological Services or call 817-272-3671.

Student Support Services

UT Arlington provides a variety of resources and programs designed to help students develop academic skills, deal with personal situations, and better understand concepts and information related to their courses. Resources include tutoring by appointment, drop-in tutoring, mentoring (time management, study skills, etc.),  major-based learning centers, counseling, and federally funded programs. For individualized referrals, students may call the Maverick Resource Hotline at 817-272-6107, send a message to resources@uta.edu, or view the information at Resource Hotline.