The purpose of this study is to explore the way in which music portrays people with disabilities. Specifically, the aim of this paper is to answer the following questions: a) are all types of disabilities equally represented in music; b) how are people with disabilities referred to in music; c) is the terminology in the music related to the type and/or cause of disability; and d) are the two primary models of disability (i.e. medical and social) equally illustrated in music. A content analysis of songs randomly selected from the Billboard HOT 100 Year-End Chart for the years 1987, 1997, and 2007 was carried out. Songs were included in the sample if the music lyrics or title contained content on specific disabilities, disabilities in general or chronic conditions that could lead to disability. The data showed that the presence of disability within songs increased over the years analyzed. Terminology used to refer to people with disabilities was most often insensitive which reflects disabling language rather than sensitive, people-first language. Similarly, the majority of songs had a traditional, medical focus rather than a progressive, social focus. Together, findings indicated that, within the mainstream music industry, the depiction and attitudes toward people with disabilities has not substantially improved over time. Further work needs to be conducted by social movements to promote awareness and reduce social stigma.
|Keywords:||Disability, Music, Media, Language, United States|
Doctoral Student, Department of Sociology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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