This post is part of a group effort.
Jerry Lewis, comedian, actor and longtime fund raiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), held a press conference today too apologize for years of insulting people with disabilities during his MDA telethon. The long-running telethon has been criticized for years by the disability community for portraying people with disabilities as pathetic and half human. Today Lewis apologized for what he termed, "My enduring ignorance and insensitivity to people with disabilities. I want to stand up and be counted among the enlightened." When asked about the sudden change of heart, Lewis said that, "I was blind but now I can see." Additionally, he regretted the years of "turning a deaf ear and a blind eye" to the disability community's protests.
Lewis has decided to start a new telethon that will work with disability activists to raise money for organizations deemed worthy by the disability community rather than himself- a non-disabled person. Lewis commented, "It's time I took a stand alongside all of my wheel-chair using and otherwise disabled friends to fight against the medical model of disability." He added he "had been paralyzed with fear for years" by the possibility of becoming disabled but has come to realize that disability is natural. Additionally he noted that he looked forward to "opening the ears" of the non-disabled to community to his new understanding of disability.
Lewis said will omit any use of disability simulations on his telethon because many people with disabilities object to them on the grounds that one cannot simulate disability anymore than one can simulate being black or gay. Instead Lewis pledges to show videos such as "Talk" by the Disability Rights Commission in the United Kingdom which portrays the discrimination faced by people with disabilities in social situations such as dining out, professional ones such as applying for a new job and even within metropolitan infrastructure such as inaccessible public transit.
The MDA responded to Lewis' press conference by issuing the following statement: "Wanted: One famous person to run a telethon in order to raise money for a group of people by insulting them in order to pursue ends they largely do not support. Qualifications: Know little to nothing about disability but have a great many opinions about it. Position open immediately."
Lewis directed his final words during the press conference to the people he has offended in the past with his telethon: "No longer will I portray people with disabilities as pathetic because that's a really retarded thing to do. It's crazy to think that disability is anything other than a social construction. I know that may leave some of you speechless but I believe that all of us normal people will come to see the light and stop being so lame."