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Local News

Area teen launches 'Project Media Equality'

DOWNERS GROVE – Downers Grove teenager Dayna Dobias hopes her new YouTube video can be the first step in a social media campaign that looks to change the way people with disabilities are portrayed in media.

As a girl growing up watching television and movies, she said the lack of characters with physical limitations made her feel like an outsider.

"Never once was there anybody who was like me," she said. "I was always curious, 'Why isn't there anyone like me on these shows that I like.'"

Dobias has cerebral palsy, which causes tightness in her legs, making it difficult for her to walk. She graduated from Downers Grove North High School in June and plans to go to Dominican University in the fall, she said.

The 11-minute video begins with her walking towards the camera, wearing a wide grin and using her walker, and then speaking directly to the viewer about "Project Media Equality."

"Cerebral palsy is not who I am, it's just something I have," she says in the video.

Now, when she does see a character on TV with a physical limitation, too often the disability is the character's sole dimension, she said. Rarely did she see someone in a wheelchair or with a walker written to have depth, emotion or problems to overcome other than their disability.

She said there was no specific show or movie that became a tipping point for her efforts to bring the conversation into the media narrative.

"I have always loved TV shows and movies, and I've always had an interest in acting," she said. "And I kind of came to the realization that there aren't many people with disabilities that are in many movies and TV shows, and it kind of frustrated me. And when they are in movies or TV shows, they aren't portrayed correctly."

Dobias explained that she is hoping to get as many eyes as possible on the video, and then reach out through other platforms – blogs, Op Eds, whatever it takes to keep the conversation going, and hopefully change the media landscape.

Dobias also takes issue with the fact that often able bodied actors are hired to play the role of those with disabilities.

"When you are disabled, there are such a limited amount of roles," she said. "There are people who aren't disabled who have so any roles they can get. I know (show biz) is tough for everyone, but it's especially tough for those with disabilities."

If mainstream movies and television featured more physically limited characters, she thinks people would be less rude in everyday life, too.

"I do walk with a different gait; I previously had leg braces," she said. "I have had lot of people stare, point and ask questions that are somewhat derogatory. People don't see that in TV and movies so when they see me in public, they stare because it's not something they're used to seeing. Media has such a huge influence on people."

ABOUT Dayna Dobias

AGE: 18

SCHOOL: Downers Grove North Graduate; incoming Dominican University freshman

TOWN: Downers Grove


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