What It’s Really like to Be a Disabled Teen Today
And how one teen is giving the disabled community of Gen Z a voice.
Ever wondered what the life of a disabled teenager is really like today? As portrayals of disability in the media is quite rare, the TV shows that do depict disability oftentimes paint a picture in which disabled people are misrepresented—as if their disability is their only trait—or are seen as visual inspiration for the able bodied community. Pair this with the fact that roughly 95% of the time, able bodied actors play character with disabilities, the question must be raised: what is the life of a disabled teenager really like? And where can one turn to see this community portrayed in an accurate light?
15-year-old Emily Flores decided to provide her community with a solution. In June 2018, Emily launched Cripple Magazine, an online and print magazine that is curated and run by young disabled creatives where all the stories are told through the lens of the disabled community. “I created this platform in order to accurately portray young disabled people, and give the disabled community of Gen Z a voice,” she says.
We chatted with Emily to learn about the why behind Cripple Magazine, her identity and what the media is lacking when it comes to telling the stories of the disabled community.
Tell us the why behind Cripple Magazine.
I brought Cripple Magazine to life because I wanted disabled youth to have proper representation. Growing up, I felt disconnected from almost anything in media, seeing only characters with disabilities that were not played by disabled actors, or seeing characters with stereotypical tropes. I created this platform in order to accurately portray young disabled people, and give the disabled community of Gen Z a voice.
What do you hope people take away from your work with Cripple Magazine?
I hope when reading Cripple Magazine, people are totally unexpected in what they read. Most of the time, people’s understanding of disability, and especially children with disability is really narrow! And I hope that with some of our articles and media we break those stereotypes.
How do you identify and what does your identity mean to you?
My disability was somewhat hard to accept growing up. What frustrated me most about being in a wheelchair was not being in a wheelchair, but the people around me, haha! After years of working through it and standing up for myself, I began to love my identity, and really become close with the term, “disabled.”
“What frustrated me most about being in a wheelchair was not being in a wheelchair, but the people around me, haha!”
What do you believe is missing from the media regarding the stories of disabled youth?
I think what’s missing is honesty and truth. Most of the media you see today of disabled children is just inspiration porn, meaning that videos and photos exist for them so that the able bodied audience can have their heart melted. I think that is really aggravation for most disabled children, because I think only existing in that way in the media feels like you’re not represented at all.
What has been the hardest part about launching this platform?
The hardest part of launching it is probably getting people to understand our message. We are very honest about who we are, and what we want to do. And I think able bodied people, who haven’t seen these ideas before, don’t understand.
Why is Cripple Magazine relevant today?
It’s relevant today because of Gen Z taking over the world. I’m so proud of my generation, and everything they’re doing! They’ve partly been my inspiration to launch Cripple Magazine. I want to take this moment, and take advantage to make people see a side of disabled people as well in Gen Z.
What is your positive message for the remainder of 2018?
Without us, you can’t be us.