disability representation

Disability representation in the media

We’ve all seen on TV at one point or another a disabled person, be represented in a comedy, drama, or movie

But do those people who make the TV shows or movies or for that matter reporters know what is the appropriate language to use when dealing with someone’s disability? 

Well today’s your lucky day! For today FreeTV Australia has issued a list of guidelines for commercial Free to Air networks to follow when referring to people with a disability.

FreeTV have put together a four page report which is titled “THE PORTRAYAL OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES” which you can read here http://www.freetv.com.au/Media/Advisory_Notes/FINAL_Amended_Advisory_Note_Portrayal_of_people_with_disabilities_12_June.pdf

An over view of the report reads like this; 

This Advisory Note is intended to help and encourage reporters and program producers to produce programs which treat people with disabilities fairly and realistically as individuals, and as an integral part of the general community (bearing in mind that as many as 18% of the population fall within this broad category).

It also suggests ways to change the emphasis from the disability itself to the individual or
individuals concerned, from unduly emotional coverage to normal human empathy and interest, and from a focus on personal suffering to include the community’s response to the needs of people with disabilities. As such, it will also be of assistance to programmers, program promotion producers and program classifiers.

General Approach

1. Try to depict people with disabilities in ways which do not stereotype them, or stigmatise
them as quite different from the community at large. Common stereotypes to avoid
include:
 Disability is a monumental tragedy
 People with a disability are objects of pity or charity
 If they do things like getting married and having children they are extraordinary
 They lead boring, uneventful lives
 Families of people with a disability are exceptionally heroic.

2. Choose phrases and words that individuals with disabilities will not find demeaning. 

3. Present people with disabilities as individuals, not just as the sum of their disabilities, nor as necessarily representative of all people with disabilities.

4. Recognise that disabilities affect people in different ways, depending on a host of different factors. Having a disability is for many an unavoidable fact of life, not something to be dramatised.

5. Only draw attention to a person’s disability when it is relevant.

6. When a person with disabilities is featured in a story, the human-interest angle of the individual overcoming overwhelming odds may sometimes be the appropriate one, but don’t automatically choose it.

7. Don’t overlook the views of people with disabilities in stories dealing with general interest issues such as public transport, the environment and child care.

8. Introduce people with disabilities by their titles and full names, if this is done for other people in the program or item.

9. Whenever Auslan interpreters are present at a broadcast event, consider whether it is
practicable to clearly include them within the frame.

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