Para-dressage rider seeks visibility of disabilities in the media

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Stinna Tange Kaastrup and her horse, Horsebo Smarties, compete in Grade II.
Stinna Tange Kaastrup and her horse, Horsebo Smarties, compete in Grade II. © FEI

Danish Para-dressage rider Stinna Tange has spoken out about the lack of representation in the media of people with disabilities.

In the latest edition of the FEI’s Para Equestrian Digest, Tange said the Paralympic Games are the only time where people with disabilities are, for the most part, represented positively and fairly in the media.

“The Paralympic Games are the only occasion where children with a disability can point to the television with pride and say, ‘She looks just like me!’

“As great as this is, it raises the question: Is it fair?” asks Tange, a double Paralympic bronze medalist and European and World Champion.

Tange said that people with disabilities make up 15% of the world’s population, but are almost non-existent in TV shows, movies, cartoons or literature.

An experience in a school play during her early schooling made her “aware that there were no roles for people who looked like me and it made me feel less of a person”.

“As author, activist, comedian, and distinguished Professor of Psychology Kevin Nadal noted, ‘Positive media representation can be helpful in increasing self-esteem for people of marginalised groups (especially youth)’.

“I agree with him. If only Disney had made a movie with a princess in a wheelchair, or there had existed a teen sitcom where the main character was a cool girl with a disability, I would have been able to identify with a positive role model,” Tange said.

Danish combination Stinna Tange Kaastrup and Horsebo Smarties in Grade II.
Stinna Tange Kaastrup and Horsebo Smarties. © FEI/Liz Gregg

“As I said, the Paralympics are great. But it would be nice if people with disabilities did not have to identify with two choices: being an athlete or being a ‘nobody’.

“It’s 2022. Let’s aspire to give more visibility to disability in television and cinema, as this will go a long way to making children, teenagers and adults feel valid, empowered, included and accepted.”

» Read more in the Para Equestrian Digest.

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