You may have noticed lately that a new hashtag phrase, #heardwhilstdisabled, has been making the rounds on social media. People have taken to Twitter and Instagram to share some of the more appalling things that have been said to them about their disabilities. I have to admit that I was pretty shocked to hear some of the things that people have no problem saying out loud. Apparently, it doesn’t even occur to them that their words could be offensive. Just as more awareness is being raised about society’s insensitivity to those with disabilities, comes another story in the news about a minor celebrity whose offensive tweet completely reinforces the importance of the #heardwhilstdisabled campaign.
Ken Jennings, former Jeopardy champ, sent out this tweet on Monday:
“Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair.”
The tweet was so blatantly offensive that many people gave him the benefit of the doubt and waited to see if his account had been hacked. Not the case. A lot of followers also expected him to take down the tweet in response the negative reaction of fans. The Tweet is still published on his account and it appears that he has no plans to address the concerns of those who found his “joke” offensive.
Others have come out in defense of Jennings, making the argument that is he had made the same comment as a comedian on stage, he would have gotten laughs. Perhaps this is true, but doesn’t context, audience, and purpose come into play at all?
What do you think? Do you find his comment offensive? Do you think he has a responsibility to respond?