From ‘Some netizens slam new ad for social workers’, 28 Feb 2012, article in insing.com
Some netizens are outraged over an ad for social workers that appears to label the disabled as “Hopeless”. The ad features a social worker helping amputees to play ball, and is captioned with the word “Hopeless” in large font, followed by the words, “if not for Ruth Lim, a Professional Social Worker”.
The offending ad has since gone viral on the internet, with some slamming it for being “rude”, “thoughtless”, “distasteful”, “insensitive” and “downright insulting”, among other things. One outraged netizen, ‘Ingrid Wee’, said, “They could have put it in so many other angles but they chose the most juvenile and insensitive one. Shame on you MCYS!”
…Another netizen, ‘Lissa Johari’, found it to be condescending, and asked whether the ad meant that the disabled had no dignity.
…The ad is part of a campaign launched on 20 Feb by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), and was launched by its acting minister Mr Chan Chun Sing.
The other catchwords in the social worker series include ‘Ruined’, ‘Abandoned’ and ‘Future Destroyed’, pretty harsh words in this age of self-help and empowerment. ‘Hopeless’ in this context was intended to mean ‘without hope’, but the term is more commonly used to describe utter and complete ‘failure’ or ‘incompetence’, as in ‘hopeless case’ or ‘a hopeless state of affairs’. Hopelessness is a natural emotional phase that anyone afflicted with a sudden disability would experience, just that our social climate of political correctness has imbued the infirmed with the potential to overcome insurmountable odds and achieve extraordinary, unimaginable feats. We have removed words like ‘handicapped’, ‘cripple’, ‘blind’ and ‘vegetable’ from our vocabulary, while celebrating men and women without limbs or deficient in certain faculties who write bestselling books, swim across channels, cycle cross-country, climb mountains or pull heavy loads with their teeth. Most disabled, like the one featured in the help above, can barely juggle a ball with their remaining foot.
Awe and respect for the disabled as equals or beyond has undermined the traditional milk of human kindness, or worse, SYMPATHY, that we usually express when we encounter someone with a lifelong handicap who isn’t a Special Olympics gold medal champion . The stark truth is that most do need assistance getting a foothold (no pun intended) on society let alone just getting by, whether in terms of mobility, rehabilitation or counselling, otherwise there wouldn’t be a need to promote social work in the first place. This isn’t the first time that the MCYS has drawn flak of their ‘insensitive’ campaigns. The YOG committee had to resort to pulling heartstrings in collaborative promo with MCYS to launch the Games in 2010. In the eighties, ads created by the Community Chest to appeal for funds using real life examples of the handicapped were deemed as ‘wretched’, ‘gross and tantamount to begging’.Today, we have celebrities, not people in wheelchairs looking miserable, to do the ‘begging’ on their behalf.
Downplaying the dignity of the disabled and emotional manipulation aside, using the image of wheelchair confinement as a scare tactic to sell a vaccine has also been viewed as a cheap, below-the-belt shot, causing ‘unfair generalisation and stigmatisation of disabled people’, according to this forum writer in 2006 on a Wyeth campaign for a pneumococcal shot for children. The wheelchair is a marketing device to visually capture the consequences of preventable disease without boring consumers, in this case, parents, with a slew pneumococcal disease symptom jargon. Here, the writer, an executive director for the Society for the Physically Disabled, referred to this portrayal as a ‘very depressing and introverted’ view of disabled people, without realising that in his defence of the disabled he has inadvertently suggested that there’s something wrong with being ‘introverted’ as well, disabled or otherwise.
If I were to have my legs lopped off, aiming to slam dunk or race for charity would be one of the last things on my mind. I would naturally be depressed, needy, vulnerable and the only manual activity that I would consider doing with my still functioning arms is to dig a grave for myself if I didn’t have someone, be it a family member or social worker getting my act together and salvaging whatever dignity, or HOPE, I have remaining.