Outrage as reality-TV project stoops to mocking disabled

The Australian Catholic Disability Council is outtraged by a reality TV-style program which mocks and ridicules people with intellectual disabillities.

The Council said that the research project involving the production entitled Laughing with the Disabled; Creating Comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains, is unethical and degrading, The Catholic Weekly reported, despite the Queensland University of Technology granted it ethics appproval.

The work of PhD candidate Michael Noonan, the project features two men with intellectual disabilities who are put in a situation where they are mocked and ridiculed.

Mr Noonon said the film is a study in the sometimes uncomfortable art of negotiating the line between laughing with people with a disability and laughing at them.

However Australian Catholic Disability Council chair Michele Castagna has called on the university to rethink its approval of the project.

"The title of the research project, which one would assume accurately, describes its content, demeans and devalues the individual with disability and families living with disability," Ms Castagna wrote in a letter addressed to Vice-Chancellor of the university.

"The title is degrading in terms of respect for human dignity and can, by its very nature, exclude participation and inclusion of people with disability within community life.

"Considerations of the inherent human dignity of each person must be paramount in approaching the ethical dimensions of the project.

"A just resolution will be best achieved through dialogue with the broader disability community, and rigorous and ongoing attention to developing ethical research practices that protect and uphold the dignity of people with disability," she said.

Carol Dickenson, university registrar, replied to the letter, defending the university's ethical approval of the project, but said that following complaints, an audit panel had been established to review the ethics approval process.

The panel found that the decision to grant approval was appropriate.

Ms Castagna said the university's response was disappointing and the Catholic Disability Council would continue to monitor the project and to promote the need to treat all people with respect and dignity.

Degrading' reality TV project mocks disabled (The Catholic Weekly, 21/10/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australian Catholic Disability Council
Queensland University of Technology

Current flows at first Disability Council event (CathNews, 26/02/07)

19 Oct 2007