Disability activist Melissa Blake speaks after the Tickcock Challenge Jokes with people with disabilities

To kick off the start of the school year, the “New Teacher Challenge” took flight on platforms such as TickTalk and Twitter.

Parents tape themselves showing their children the image of their new teacher – but in fact, the viral prank blows people up with physical differences. Some of these videos featured photos Melissa BlakeA disability worker, who was born with a rare genetic bone and muscle disorder known as Freeman-Sheldon syndrome.

Melissa Blake speaks with us about the “New Teacher Challenge” on Ticketok (Photo courtesy of Melissa Blake)

Since he is not a Tiktok user himself, Blake came to know about the so-called prank from people following him on other social media networks. His followers asked him to say that he saw her photos in these videos and reported accounts, she says.

It is not new for Blake to treat people who make fun of her appearance, but she says that online bullying is getting worse. She fights back by sharing her story and shows up on social media despite the bullying she experiences.

When people use photographs of people with physical differences in this way, she says, it demonstrates how society has not normalized people with disabilities or who look different.

“I think like every time, you know, I post a selfie or I share something about my life as a disabled woman, I feel like this is the representation that really makes this Competition is going to counter competence, ”she says.

Outspoken online activists like Blake use social media to normalize people who become part of everyday life through high performance and understanding.

Now 39, Blake has had 26 surgeries from the age of 10 weeks to the age of 16. With limited mobility, she can walk short distances but uses a wheelchair most of the time.

Many who have reacted to this trend on social media have expressed their displeasure over what these parents are teaching their children by changing the appearance of people in jokes. Blake says she could understand something else if the teenager was running this prank – but this parents are choosing the photos.

“When I found out that it was the parents who were doing this, I thought they would be the ones who are teaching their children that this kind of thing is not right,” she says. “The thing I was most surprised about was that it’s really fun for adults.”

When people report these types of videos, social media platforms need to take them down, she says. Blake supports zero-tolerance policies for bullying on social networking services.

While Ticktock has since pounced on the removal of videos that broke his community guidelines, Blake says several people reported videos showing his face showing screenshots of the platform saying that any post Do not violate the rule.

She says, “People with disabilities like us can speak as they wish. “But if these social media platforms are not playing an active role to watch these videos, then I only have to be so vocal.”

Some parents, who never participated in the challenge, told Blake that they used their story as an opportunity to talk about physical differences with their children. She says parents can turn this “terrible prank” into something positive by using it as a vehicle to teach children with disabilities to frighten them.

“I think if we have these open conversations about disabilities and what disabled people like about it and people with disabilities are not so different,” she says, “I think that for the next generation, they are a Can grow in a world where they are not afraid of people with disabilities. “

Marcel Hutchins produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Alison Hagen adapted it for the web.