Understanding Disability through Mass Media

DisabilityRights equal

Understanding Disability Through Mass Media
5-7:40  p.m. Thursdays. Live lectures will be synchronous online (not required) and Blackboard discussions will be asynchronous online.

Fall 2021

Instructor: Prof. Beth Haller, Ph.D.
E-mail: bhaller@towson.edu
Web page: https://bethhaller.wordpress.com/

Office Hours: Online via Zoom or by phone. Feel free to send me an E-mail messages if you want to talk on the phone or via video chat.

Course Description: An overview of how mass media frames disability for the general public. This course focuses on issues related to disability and mass media representation, including journalism, TV, film, advertising, photography, documentary, comic art and the Internet. This is a combined course that includes students going into health professions, mass communication students, and AADS minors.

Course Objectives:
1. Examine and expand understanding of media impact on the historical, cultural, medical, and social issues related to disability;
2. Differentiate between the various disability models, as well as specific models of media representation of disability;
3. Introduction to disability media, i.e. content created by and for people with disabilities;
4. Compare and contrast the lived experiences of disabled people against mass mediated representations;
5. Look at news about disability rights in U.S. society, what is and isn’t covered;
6. Use various analysis techniques to research the prevalence and meaning of mediated disability representations.

Statement on political aspects of AADS 310/MCOM 310:

The goal of this course is to explore how the media represents the lived experiences of individuals with disabilities, as well as how disability issues are presented to the public. To this end, we highlight ableism – discrimination against citizens with disabilities — and the social model, which explains that society disables people with disabilities through its lack of access/social support, negative attitudes, and barriers to participation that nondisabled people enjoy. Students will learn about the possible sources or origins of this discrimination, as well as steps that might remedy disparities in education, healthcare, and community life. As part of the learning process, students are exposed to many viewpoints, including viewpoints that traditionally do not receive equivalent attention and may be unfamiliar. While drawing their own conclusions about disability and diversity issues, students are expected to approach the subject matter in a spirit of open inquiry and to demonstrate a willingness to examine disability and diversity issues through a social justice lens.

Nature of Course Content:

This course requires students to consider society’s views on disability, which are often negative and ableist. Students are asked to examine and discuss their own biases, assumptions, evolution in thinking, and experiences. This type of analysis and self-reflection can at times be uncomfortable or emotionally intense. Media content and discussion in the course will introduce students to a wide range of opinions and lifestyles, much of which you may never have considered. The rewards of this learning are many, in terms of academic knowledge, personal growth, and preparation for adult life in a pluralistic democracy – a democracy that includes citizens with disabilities. Students who have concerns about their readiness for exposure to course content should carefully consider their registration in the course. Students may contact Professor Haller with any questions at bhaller@towson.edu.

Online Conduct:
The discussion board should be viewed as a course forum to discuss the readings, videos, and other course-related content. Your participation in the discussions counts as attendance in this synchronous online course. The tone of all posts should be respectful and professional in nature.

Treat the other students and your faculty member the same online as you would in person.
• Engage with others in a respectful manner.
• Keep in mind that written communication lacks the non-verbal cues we use to understand each other. It may be helpful to review what you write to ensure the message reads the same way you are intending it to.

It is not appropriate to post statements of a personal or political nature, or statements criticizing classmates or faculty. Inappropriate statements/language will be deleted by the course faculty.

Students in this online course are expected to observe common rules of netiquette (or Internet etiquette). Those rules include but are not limited to:

1. Proofread your message before you hit send.

2. ALL CAPITALS is the same as shouting your message, check your caps’ lock button.

3. Don’t flame—everyone is entitled to the right to speak their opinion. Respect the opinions of others.

4. Make meaningful replies. Don’t just agree—say why you agree! Or disagree, as the case may
be—just do so respectfully.

5. Follow the Towson Academic Integrity policies here: http://towson.edu/studentaffairs/policies/.

6. Know that students who do not follow basic netiquette rules may be suspended from
discussion board use.

Online Course: This course depends upon synchronous online meetings and you are expected to be “virtually” present for these just as if you were meeting in a regular classroom. You must have a working computer, microphone, webcam, and internet connection.

  • In the event of technical difficulty for the student, email your professor immediately. Do your best to resolve the issue before class.
  • In the event the instructor has technical difficulty: If the instructor disappears and doesn’t return in 3 minutes, please wait an additional ten minutes before logging off. The instructor will be trying to reestablish the connection and/or may be trying to reach an alternate internet connection. If the professor does not return within those 10-15 minutes, see Blackboard for instructions which will be posted as soon as possible. You are not expected to wait longer than 20 minutes.
  • In the event of a snowstorm, hurricane, or any widespread loss of power and/or internet connections which disrupts many participants, alternate materials will be posted on Blackboard. Make sure to check as soon as you are able to connect to the internet.
  • Attendance. For this class, attendance will be taken based on Blackboard discussion participation, not Zoom lectures/class meetings. Zoom lectures will be recorded and posted on Blackboard if a student has to be absent from a live lecture or wants to listen to the lecture again. 

Required/recommended Books and Course Materials:

  • Rental or purchase of a disabled person’s memoir if you cannot get it free as an e-book or via curbside from a library.
  • “When Billy Broke His Head and Other Tales of Wonder” documentary, $3.99 streaming online:  https://vimeo.com/ondemand/wbbhh
  • Other readings posted on Blackboard or available online

Note: All papers should use the American Psychological Association (APA) style. For examples of types of APA references, visit             http://www.apastyle.org/learn/index.aspx?tab=2

1. Discussion Posts are attendance (15%): This class is designed with live online lectures and video lectures and numerous discussions online. The discussion board should be viewed as a course forum to discuss the readings, videos, and other course-related content. Your participation in the discussions counts as attendance in this asynchronous course. It is acceptable to expand on something you said in a discussion in your Reading Response papers.

The tone of all posts should be respectful and professional in nature. Treat the other students and your faculty member the same online as you would in person. • Engage with others in a respectful manner. • Keep in mind that written communication lacks the non-verbal cues we use to understand each other. It may be helpful to review what you write to ensure the message reads the same way you intend it.

There are 35 discussions worth 2.8 points each (out of 100%).


2. Reading Responses: (20%) You are welcome to expand on something you said in a Blackboard discussion in your Reading Response papers. Reading responses allow you to engage with the assigned material and develop critical reading and writing skills. You will be asked to complete three responses (2½- 3 pages -750-1,000 words – double-spaced, 12 pt. font). Responses 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 responses will develop an interesting argument, put multiple readings in discussion with each other, and effectively integrate at least three direct 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 reading responses:

GradeQualityRelevanceGrammar/Spelling/APA Style
90 – 100


(“A” & “A-”)

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. APA reference list required.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


(“B+”,”B”, & “B-”)

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 APA style. Assignment checklist is not followed.
70 – 79


(“C+” & “C”)

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, APA 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


(“D+” & “D”)

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.  

3. Disability blog analysis PowerPoint/reaction statement: (15%)

Disability blogs for each student

Blog nameStudent assigned
Autistic Future, http://autisticfuture.com/ 
Autistic Hoya, http://www.autistichoya.com/ 
Brainless Blogger, https://brainlessblogger.net/ (Canada) 
CanCanOnWheelz, https://www.candiswelch.com/blog 
Chavisory Notebook, https://chavisory.wordpress.com/ 
Chronic Babe, https://www.chronicbabe.com/blog/ 
Claiming Crip, http://www.claimingcrip.blogspot.com/ 
Confessions of the Chromosomally Enhanced, http://www.confessionsofthechromosomallyenhanced.com/?wref=bif 
Crutches & Spice, https://crutchesandspice.com/ 
Curb Free with Cory Lee, https://www.curbfreewithcorylee.com/ 
Despite Lupus, http://despitelupus.blogspot.com/ 
The Geeky Gimp, https://geekygimp.com/ 
Gin & Lemonade, https://ginlemonade.com/category/disability-2/ 
Intersected, http://intersecteddisability.blogspot.com/ 
Kathie Comments, https://kathiecomments.wordpress.com/ 
Life of a Blind Girl (UK), https://lifeofablindgirl.com/ 
Little Miss Turtle, http://www.littlemissturtle.com/blog/ 
Meriah Nichols, http://www.meriahnichols.com/ 
Oh, Twist, http://ohtwist.com/blog 
So About What I Said, https://www.melissablakeblog.com/ 
Picnic with Ants, https://picnicwithants.com/ 
Rooted in Rights blog, https://rootedinrights.org/category/posts/ 
Shona Louise (UK), http://www.shonalouise.com/ 
Slow Walkers See More, https://slowwalkersseemore.wordpress.com/ 
Spaced Out & Smiling (UK), https://spacedoutandsmiling.com/ 
The Active Amputee, https://www.theactiveamputee.org/blog/ 
The Squeaky Wheelchair, http://thesqueakywheelchair.blogspot.com/ 
That Crazy Crippled Chick, http://thatcrazycrippledchick.com/ 
Where’s Waldman, https://whereswaldman.wordpress.com/ 
Words I Wheel By, http://wordsiwheelby.com/blog/ 
Yes, That Too, http://yesthattoo.blogspot.com/ 

Read all the articles from this special issue of Disability Studies Quarterly on Disability Blogging and incorporate at least 2 of them into your final PowerPoint. Also read Haller’s chapter 1 in Representing Disability in an Ableist World and incorporate its information into your PowerPoint.

DSQ Special Issue on Disability Blogging, http://dsq-sds.org/issue/view/1:

 ·         “Editor’s Introduction,” by Stephen Kuusisto·         “Performance and digital communication,” by Scott Rains


·         “Blogging brings more of us to the table,” by The Goldfish

·         “Wheelie Catholic,” by Ruth Harrigan

·         “Get Around Guide,” by Darren Hillock

·         “Making Connections: Linkages Through Disability Blogging,” by Kay Olson/ Blue

·         “In Other Words: The radical nature of telling stories through blogging,” by Alicia “Kestrell” Verlager

·         “A Dialog,” by Wheelchair Dancer

·         “Wheelchair Princess,” by Emma Crees

·         “Say it Ain’t So,” by Stephen Kuusisto

The final PowerPoint analysis should cover the following concepts/questions:

— Explain what model(s) or perspectives on disability the blog posts appear to operate under. Cite and reference your slides/reference page.

— What seems to be the bloggers’ perspectives toward disability, toward people with disabilities? How do you know?

— Be sure to support your argument with specific references to individual blog posts and the date of entries.

— Who are the sites’ intended audience? Who are they seeking to reach?

— Based on the blogger biography, what is his/her background and how does that seem to influence blog content?

— How do the blog posts you analyzed (analyze 4-5 posts with post dates on the slides and each blog post a separate line in the references) reflect the perspectives in the DSQ essays about disability blogging? (Include references to at least 2 DSQ articles about disability blogging)

Your PowerPoint should include a 10+ slide PowerPoint with screen grabs from each blog post discussed. The last slide should be a reference list of all the posts, DSQ articles and Haller chapter. (Cite each blog post separately.)

Reaction statement: Discuss the possible larger societal impact of the blog. What are your reactions and reflections on the blog? Put this in a 250+ word separate statement that will be posted with your Powerpoint.


4. Audio description script/discussion (15 percent)

Your audio description script should follow this example of a timed script:  http://www.adlabproject.eu/Docs/adlab%20book/index.html#example-ad

1. Watch the Smith-Kettlewell video description tutorials 1-7:

2. Read at least 3 of these articles about audio description. You will need to incorporate 3 direct quotes from these articles in your 300-word discussion paper.

3. Select your 3-minute clip of a fictional TV show or film from YouTube. Do not audio describe a movie trailer (too much going on). I recommend finding a scene in the middle of the TV show or film that has both action and dialogue. Remember you are writing this script so a blind person knows what is going on when there is no dialogue.

4. I highly recommend looking at multiple clips before you select the one you will describe. The best thing to do is listen to the clip with your eyes closed. That way you can judge if there is too much dialogue so no space for audio description or too little dialogue so you have to describe everything. Here are the two audio described clips we watched in class to remind you of about no dialogue audio description:

5. You will need to play your 3-minute clip over and over to figure out where there is no dialogue so you can describe what is happening between the dialogue. You will also need to write down the dialogue for your script as well.

6. Write your audio description (AD) script with the times each dialogue and AD happens. The script should include the verbal dialogue between the audio description. For example, if you only have 3 seconds between dialogue, there is no time to audio describe but if there is 10 seconds, you have time to describe something important in the scene.

7. Write your 300-word discussion/reaction paper with 3 direct quotes from the readings and a reference list. Mostly this will be your reaction to this assignment. Audio description is an important access tool for people who are blind or visually impaired, who want to enjoy TV and films just like everyone else.  Discuss what you learned, the challenge of creating the script, new ways you may think about accessible media now, etc.

Do you need another example of audio description to get you started? Here’s an audio-described scene from the original “Lion King:”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jT5AsjzgIC4

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


5. Lived Disability Experience vs. the Media Paper (35%)

  • You will read one of the memoirs of a disabled person listed below and write a paper that compares and contrasts the person’s actual experience with that disability versus the representation of that disability in the news and entertainment media.
  • Using the memoir as a foundational text, you will be expected to find at least 9 additional sources to inform the paper. These include: scholarly disability studies essays from Disability Studies Quarterly; materials from an activist disability blog or alternative disability media source; popular cultural representations; and news stories about a related disability topic (You may use up to 5 readings from the course readings).
  • You should have at least 5-6 direct quotes from the memoir and your sources.
  • This paper will have 10 sources total in an APA-style reference list at the end of the paper.
  • Drawing upon all these readings, you should develop a coherent analysis of the media presentation of disability, as it does or does not reflect a person’s lived experience with a disability as discussed in the memoir.
  • This 1,000-1,200+ word paper should use the memoir as a lens from which to compare and contrast popular cultural representations of disability in news, TV, film, etc.
Disability Memoir & Student assigned
Zach Anner, If at Birth You Don’t Succeed (Henry Holt, 2016). http://ifatbirthyoudontsucceed.com/ (audiobook available)
E-book through Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?pcampaignid=books_read_action&id=d95fCgAAQBAJ($9.99)
Maryland Digital Library: https://maryland.overdrive.com/media/2356101?utm_campaign=searchfeed&utm_source=google(free but need a library card)  

Student Name:
Keah Brown, The Pretty One (Atria Books, 2019).   https://keahbrown.com/pretty-one/ (audiobook available)
E-book through Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?pcampaignid=books_read_action&id=g1mBDwAAQBAJ ($12.99)  

Student Name:
John Callahan, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot: The Autobiography of a Dangerous Man. (Vintage Books, 1989).  http://www.graphicmedicine.org/comic-reviews/dont-worry-he-wont-get-far-on-foot/ (audiobook available)
E-book through Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=039bDwAAQBAJ&rdid=book-039bDwAAQBAJ&rdot=1&source=gbs_atb&pcampaignid=books_booksearch_atb ($9.99)  

Student Name:
Kevin Michael Connolly, Double Take (HarperCollins, 2009).   http://kevinmichaelconnolly.com/double-take/ (audiobook available)
E-book through Rakuten https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/double-take-8 ($14.99)  

Student Name:
Ellen Forney, Marbles (Avery, 2012). http://marblesbyellenforney.com/
E-book available through Google Play (https://play.google.com/store/books/details?pcampaignid=books_read_action&id=r1zZRbBumtIC) ($9.99)  

Student Name:
Matt Freedman, Relatively Indolent but Relentless (Seven Stories, 2014).  http://www.graphicmedicine.org/comic-reviews/relatively-indolent-but-relentless-a-cancer-treatment-journal/
E-book available through Rakuten https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/relatively-indolent-but-relentless($14.99)  

Student Name:
Kenny Fries, Body, Remember (Dutton, 1997).   http://www.kennyfries.com/works/bodyremember.html
E-book available through Cook Library http://proxy-tu.researchport.umd.edu/login?ins=tu&url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=333029&site=eds-live&scope=site
E-book available through Google Play https://play.google.com/store/books/details?pcampaignid=books_read_action&id=wSR4aw-UPcsC($9.99)  

Student Name:
Terry Galloway, Mean Little Deaf Queer (Beacon Press, 2009).  http://www.beacon.org/Mean-Little-deaf-Queer-P817.aspx (in Cook Library & audiobook available)  
Available online through Cook Library: http://proxy-tu.researchport.umd.edu/login?ins=tu&url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat06501a&AN=tow.EBC3118055&site=eds-live&scope=site(in the middle of the page is the link to the full text)
E-book available through Rakuten: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/mean-little-deaf-queer ($15.99)  

Student Name:
Haben Girma, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law. (Twelve, 2019). https://habengirma.com/book/ (in Cook Library & audiobook available)
Baltimore County Public Library has an E-book: https://ebook.yourcloudlibrary.com/library/BCPL/Search/Haben  

Student Name:
Lucy Grealy, Autobiography of a Face (Houghton Mifflin, 1994).  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/autobiography-of-a-face-lucy-grealy/1100623299#/ (audiobook available)  
E-book available through Maryland Digital Library https://maryland.overdrive.com/media/573158?utm_campaign=searchfeed&utm_source=google(anyone with a library card in Maryland can borrow)
Ebook available through Rakutenhttps://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/autobiography-of-a-face ($9.99)

Student Name:
Naoki Higashida, The Reason I Jump (Random House, 2013) (in Cook Library) http://thereasonijump.com/ (audiobook available)  
E-book available from Google Play https://play.google.com/store/books/details?pcampaignid=books_read_action&id=YFpmvYl6PwMC($8.99)
E-book available through Maryland Digital Library https://maryland.overdrive.com/media/1263916?utm_campaign=searchfeed&utm_source=google(anyone with a library card in Maryland can borrow)  

Student Name:
Judith Heumann, Being Heumann, An unrepentant memoir of a disability rights activist (Beacon, 2020) https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/621090/being-heumann-by-judith-heumann/

Student Name:
Robert Hoge, Ugly (Hatchette Australia, 2015).

Ebook available through Google Playhttps://play.google.com/store/books/details/Robert_Hoge_Ugly?id=8PwlCwAAQBA

Student Name:
Nadina LaSpina,  Such a Pretty Girl (NYU Press, 2019). https://nyupress.org/9781613320990/such-a-pretty-girl/
Kindle edition available through Amazon

Student Name:
Riva Lehrer, Golem Girl (Penguin Random House, 2020). (out Oct. 6). https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/605368/golem-girl-by-riva-lehrer/

Student Name:
Harriet McBryde Johnson, Too Late To Die Young (Picador, 2006). https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780312425715
E-book available from Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Harriet_McBryde_Johnson_Too_Late_to_Die_Young?id=n1F5ehsrdToC

Student Name:
Stephen Kuusisto, Planet of the Blind (Dial Press, 1997).  https://stephenkuusisto.com/planet-of-the-blind/ (audiobook available)   
E-book available through Rakuten https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/planet-of-the-blind

Student Name:
Simi Linton, My Body Politic (University of Michigan Press, 2006). http://www.similinton.com/mbp.htm.
E-book available through Rakuten https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/my-body-politic
Kindle edition available through Amazon

Student Name:
Jonathan Mooney, The Short Bus. A journey beyond normal (Holt, 2008). https://www.jonathanmooney.com/team-member/shortbus
​Kindle edition available through Amazon.
E-book available through Rakuten https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-short-bus

Student Name:
Martin Pistorius, Ghost Boy (Thomas Nelson, 2013) http://www.ghostboybook.com/ (audiobook available)      E-book available through Rakuten  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/ghost-boy-3   Kindle edition available through Amazon

Student Name:
Sarah Reinertsen, In a Single Bound: Losing My Leg, Finding Myself, and Training for Life (Lyons Press, 2010) https://www.alwaystri.com/my-book/
Ebook available from Google Play   https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Sarah_Reinertsen_In_a_Single_Bound?id=mg7wgWMjtSgC

Student Name:
Harilyn Russo, Don’t Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back (Temple University Press, 2013). http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/2235_reg.html Kindle edition available through Amazon E-book available through Rakuten  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/don-t-call-me-inspirational

Student Name:
Elyn Saks, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness (Hyperion, 2007). http://hyperionbooks.com/book/the-center-cannot-hold-my-journey-through-madness/ (audiobook available)
E-book available through Rakuten  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/audiobook/the-center-cannot-hold-5
Kindle edition available through Amazon

Student Name:

Rebekak Taussig, Sitting Pretty, The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body (HarperOne, 2020). https://rebekahtaussig.com/portfolio/sitting-pretty/
Student Name:


  • Attendance/posts in Discussion Forums: 15%
  • Reading Responses: 20%
  • Audio description assignment: 15%
  • Disability blogging PowerPoint: 15%
  • Disability Experience vs. the Media Paper: 35%

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” & “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 assignments, and have good questions and discussion in class.

80 – 89 (“B+”, “B” & “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+” & “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 assignments, 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 assignments, and have not participated in class discussions. If you are caught cheating in any way, you will automatically receive an F in the course.

(“FX”)* This is an administrative failure for non-attendance or failure to withdraw. If you do not withdraw from the course by Towson’s preset deadlines for the semester and stop attending the class, this is the grade you will receive.

(“I”) Incomplete. At Towson University, students may only receive an Incomplete with “verifiable circumstances” and “where students have completed most of the term” (Towson University Undergraduate Catalog). I recommend a medical withdrawal over an incomplete.

* If you receive an F or FX, you may only repeat the course once. After repeating the course, students will only receive credit for the course once and the highest of the grades will be calculated. The lower grade will remain on the transcript with an “R” before it to indicate the course was repeated. For the transcript to reflect the repeated course, students MUST submit a Repeated Course Form to the Records Office. Transcript adjustments are NOT automatic (Towson University Undergraduate Catalog).

Guidelines for all assignments
* No late papers will be accepted after the last day of the semester’s classes.
* Any late papers will lose points for each day they are late.
* 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.

Academic Dishonesty:
I do not tolerate plagiarism or fabrication of any kind. You should adhere to the University’s policy on cheating and plagiarism. 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.

  • All assignments must be created in the form requested and should contain your name, the date, and the assignment topic in the upper left-hand corner.
  • Follow the rubrics for each assignment carefully.
  • Proofread and correctly edit your papers!

AssignmentDue Date
Reading Response 1 on Modules 1-5 (750-1,000 words)Oct. 7
Disability Blog Analysis Powerpoint & reaction paperOct. 28
Audio description script for 3-minute clip from an entertainment TV or film video/reflection paperNov. 11
Reading Response 2 on Modules 6-8, 10, 12 (750-1,000 words)Dec. 2
Disability memoir/lived experience/media paper (1,000-1,200 words)Dec. 16
crippen barriers cartoon

Readings and assignment schedule
(Note 2: If there is no link for a reading, it will be posted on Blackboard.)


MODULE 1 – September 2 live lecture: Models of representation & disability/ableism

Last day of add/drops is Sept. 8


Discussions on Blackboard:

  • Introduce yourself to the class
  • A brief history of disability rights in the USA
  • What does ableism mean to you
  • Actors with disabilities confront ableism


MODULE 2 -September 9 live lecture: Supercrips, inspiration


Discussions on Blackboard:

  • “Code of the Freaks”
  • Inspiration porn
  • Supercrips in the media


MODULE 3 -September 16 live lecture: The Paralympics

Readings for the Paralympics:

Discussions on Blackboard:

  • Paralympics history and competition
  • Media representation of the Paralympics
  • Promotion of disability sports
  • Profile of Paralympics archer Matt Stutzman


MODULE 4 – September 23 live lecture: The power of online media to frame physical disabilities & hidden disabilities/chronic illnesses

You should select your blog choice for the PowerPoint assignment by today; (Email me your choice and I will update the list. It is first come, first served and there are enough disability blogs for each student.) 


Discussions on Blackboard:

  • Empowerment through new media forms
  • Despicable memes
  • Society’s reaction to invisible disabilities
  • “Guest Room” short film


MODULE 5 – September 30 live lecture: Representations of autism/neurodiversity

You should select your memoir for the final paper by today; (Email me your choice and I will update the list.) 


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

Discussions on Blackboard:

  • “No Pity” documentary
  • Nothing about us, without us
  • The forgotten history of autism
  • Autism representation in the media


MODULE 6 – Oct. 7 live lecture: Analyzing news about disability

Reading Response 1 for Modules 1-5 due (You should have completed all your discussion posts for Modules 1-5 by today. Discussions from Modules 1-5 will no longer be available for posting after Oct. 15.)


Discussions on Blackboard:

  • “The Men of Atalissa”
  • “When Billy Broke His Head and Other Tales of Wonder” – You can watch it for free if you have Amazon Prime and use a free subscription to Fandor, or you can rent it here for $3.99: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/wbbhh


MODULE 7 – October 14 live lecture: Authentic media vs. disability mimicry


Discussions on Blackboard:

  • The problem with disability mimicry
  • New Mobility magazine
  • “My Gimpy Life” web series


MODULE 8 – October 21 live lecture: Imagery


Discussions on Blackboard:

  • Hip Hop and documentaries
  • “My Dad Matthew” short film
  • “Born This Way” reality show


MODULE 9 – Disability Blogs – October 28: Individual disability blog Powerpoint/reaction statement are due. 


MODULE 10 – November 4 video lecture: Advertising


Discussions on Blackboard:

  • Ads featuring physically disabled people
  • Guinness wheelchair basketball ad
  • Deaf people in ads
  • Emily’s OZ
  • Milk-Bone service dog partnership


MODULE 11 Creating accessible media

Note: November 8 is the last day to withdraw from the full semester with a W.

Audio description script/paper due November 11


MODULE 12 – November 18 video lecture: Entertainment TV and humor


Discussions on Blackboard:

  • How Special came to Netflix with Ryan O’Connell
  • Josh Blue comedy (2006 winner of Last Comic Standing)
  • Lost Voice Guy comedy


November 24-28: Thanksgiving Week


December 2: Reading Response 2 for modules 6-8, 10, 12 due

(Discussions from Modules 6-8, 10, 12 will no longer be available for posting after December 9.)


December 16: Final papers due 


Academic Integrity Policy

All student work including assignments, presentations, and tests must adhere to the university’s Student Academic Integrity Policy http://towson.edu/studentaffairs/policies/. The policy addresses such academic integrity issues as plagiarism, fabrication, falsification, cheating, complicity in dishonesty, abuse of academic materials, and multiple submissions. See the last page of this syllabus for the department’s policy concerning plagiarism and cheating. Penalties to violation of academic integrity ranges from F for the assignment to F for the course, in addition to a report filed in the Office of Student Conduct and Civility Education.

Liability Statement

In all assignments, students must comply with all laws and the legal rights of others (e.g. copyright, obscenity, privacy and defamation) and with all Towson University policies (e.g. academic dishonesty). Towson University is not liable or responsible for the content of any student assignments, regardless of where they are posted.

Students with Disabilities Policy

This course is in compliance with Towson University policies for students with disabilities as described at https://www.towson.edu/accessibility-disability-services/.

If you are a student with a disability and believe you may need accommodations for this course, please notify me with an emailed memo from Accessibility and Disability Support Services (ADS).  Since accommodations are not retroactive, it is strongly recommended that you provide me with notification as early as possible in the term.  To register with ADS, or if you have questions about disability accommodations, contact Disability Support Services at 410-704-2638.

Students who suspect that they have a disability but do not have documentation are encouraged to contact ADS for advice on how to obtain appropriate evaluation. A memo from ADS authorizing your accommodation is needed before any accommodation can be made: https://www.towson.edu/provost/academicresources/documents/syllabus_guidelines_best_practices_4-18-16upload.pdf

Veterans Support and Services

For all student veterans (regardless of discharge status or last time of service), Towson University is committed to providing services and support through the Military & Veterans Center (MVC). The MVC can assist with educational benefits claims, military-related matters (call-ups for deployment, residency issues), veteran issues (VA healthcare and mental healthcare support), and other unique needs that might arise. The MVC can be found in the Psychology Building, Room 107. More information can be found at towson.edu/veterans, by calling (410) 704-2992, or by emailing tuvetcenter@towson.edu.

Copyright statement

My lectures and course materials, including, but not limited to recorded content, Powerpoint presentations, outlines, and similar materials, are protected by copyright. I am the exclusive owner of copyright for those materials. You may take notes and make copies of course materials for your own use; however, you may not, nor may you allow others to, reproduce or distribute lecture notes and course materials publicly whether or not a fee is charged without my express written consent. Similarly, you own the copyright of your original papers and exam essays. I cannot post or use your papers without your written permission.


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 course. Here are some policies and behaviors that I require you to follow:

  • In all online interactions, you will show respect to your fellow classmates and your professor. You will not belittle others’ ideas in the discussion forums.
  • Any UMS-recognized religious holiday is an excused absence, and the live lectures/discussion board posts missed can be made up. However, please inform your professor that you will be delaying work because of a religious holiday.
  • It is your responsibility to make up any missed online work.
  • You, not the professor, are responsible for your grade. If you do not complete an assignment, you will receive a zero.
  • Never lie, cheat, plagiarize, or fabricate. A mature person asks for help, rather than taking these unethical “shortcuts.” If your professor cannot give you the help you need, then she will refer you to the numerous on-campus resources, such as tutoring services or the Writing Center. 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 another semester.
  • Respect yourself enough to try your best, and the professor will respect you, too.


College of Fine Arts and Communication
Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies
Towson, MD 21252
TO: All Students in the Department Of Mass Communication and Communication Studies
FROM: Department Faculty

The Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies adheres to the following policy regarding plagiarism:

  1. Any words or images taken directly from another source (including the Internet) must be footnoted or cited and in quotation marks. Similarly, in oral presentations, attributions must be clear.
  2. Any ideas derived from a source not in the public domain or of general knowledge must be clearly attributed.
  3. Any paraphrased material must be footnoted or cited. In oral presentations, attributions must be clear.
  4. All papers and presentations must be the student’s own work. Submission of papers or presentations authored by others, even with their consent, constitutes plagiarism.

Any student found plagiarizing in any of the above ways will receive an automatic “F” for the assignment and may receive an “F” for the course. Documented evidence of the plagiarism will be kept in the department office, and will be reported to the Office of Judicial Affairs.

Any student discovered soliciting others to write a paper, speech, test, or other assignment for that student will receive an automatic “F” for the course.

There are ambiguities in concepts of plagiarism. Faculty will be available for consultation regarding any confusion a student may have.

Most students are careful to avoid blatant plagiarism, the unacknowledged copying of exact words of the source. However, students must also be aware that the concept of plagiarism extends not only to wording but to patterns or sequences of ideas. If you paraphrase without acknowledgement, using the same sequence or structure as the original author, then you are plagiarizing.

Students have the right to appeal a charge of plagiarism. An appeal starts with the chairperson of the department.

The Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies has adopted the following policy regarding cheating: