Disability and Inclusion in the Media

The media play a central role in society as agents in the formation of public opinion. In a democracy, this power carries with it the responsibility to communicate to promote inclusion and non-discrimination of people with disabilities.

The relevance of inclusion in the media is that they are a way to make visible and normalize the social participation of people with disabilities. The challenge is to do so with respect for human rights and the dignity of the person.

With journalistic coverage, the media can promote the political agenda of people with disabilities. Make visible the issues that concern them in terms of social and labor inclusion and respect for their rights. They are able to highlight that inclusion is a matter of public concern and to sensitize and promote the action of society.

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Media and inclusion

The media and social networks run the risk of misusing language that stereotypes and stigmatizes. Out of ignorance or lack of preparation, he communicates with euphemisms, banality, or wrong approaches; it is a mistake that creates barriers instead of inclusion.

That same lack of preparation and ignorance to know how to refer and treat people with disabilities, can lead to the invisibility of the issue. It is a form of discrimination that must be avoided.

Indifference towards issues that concern people with disabilities can lead to their total absence from the media. The decision not to include them could be based on thinking that they are controversial issues or that the audience is not interested.

It is a wrong thought because they exist in the world more than one billion people with disabilities, according to the World Health Organization. In addition, the media cannot lack the perspective of solidarity and support for the causes that fight for the rights of excluded people.

Looking for the necessary balance

Myths and prejudices must be set aside for communication to effectively influence a change in public attitude. To contribute to education and knowledge of the rights of all people equally, and promote and value inclusion. Non-discrimination means recognize the other as equal, respect their diversity and value it as an enriching factor in society.

Journalistic rigor must be present in the coverage of the media. It is important to handle figures and data, and basic training in human rights, including the rights of people with disabilities.

In general programming, the natural presence of people with disabilities should prevail. Avoid engaging in stereotyped, simplistic and banal approaches, or that provoke pity and shame.

Giving relevance to inclusion does not mean that the media, in their eagerness not to discriminate, fall into a excessive positive discrimination. Far from including and integrating, this behavior further fosters differences. People with disabilities should not be treated condescendingly, but attached to their rights.

Separating the news from people with disabilities using a special section or segment in the middle does not help inclusion either. The treatment should be the same as for the rest of the news.

A perspective of inclusion in the media you have to take into account the following aspects:

  • Starting from the premise that the medium has great power to bring the public closer to disability to break with prejudices and stereotypes.
  • Regular presence of news about people with disabilities in all sections of the media.
  • Include the issue of disability in cultural and scientific programs, social gatherings, children’s and youth series as avenues for education and public awareness.
  • Participation of people with disabilities in advertisements and programs in general as actors, entertainers and conductors.
  • Use language and images free from discriminatory stereotypes and that they respect the privacy of the person.
  • The human being must be the protagonist of the news, not the disability.
  • Show as much as possible the context of the information and people with disabilities immersed in their daily lives.
  • Avoid giving the information a melodramatic treatment or that generates compassion or paternalistic feelings.
  • Do not ridicule people with disabilities for their differences and do not underestimate what they are capable of. In the same way, the achievements they obtain should not be exaggerated, only give them the fair and equal treatment of all people.
  • Avoid treating disability as an exceptional event that affects few people.

Language and inclusion in the media

The use of language it is essential to communicate with inclusion in the media. It is the people with disabilities themselves, from their organizations, who express the words with which they want to be represented.

The terms that should preferably be used are:

  • Person with intellectual disability. It is a term accepted by international organizations.
  • Person with Disability. The term highlights the person over the disability, and is broad enough to define people with physical, hearing and sensory disabilities.
  • Deaf person or person with Down syndrome are two examples of recommended terms to make more specific references in information.

Terms to avoid are: handicapped, handicapped, handicapped, invalid, mentally retarded, subnormal.

Another challenge of technology and the media in terms of inclusion is to provide their accessibility people with disabilities. The use of interpretation in sign language is one of the mechanisms used in the audiovisual media. There are also subtitling and audio description. Much remains to be done in this area to achieve true inclusion in accessibility to the media.

The media as public opinion makers play a relevant role in the inclusion of people with disabilities. They help the public to form a more accurate opinion about disability, and to make the rights and demands of people with disabilities visible.

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