I’ve recently read several news articles about people with disabilities, and it made me question the motivations of media coverage and how people with disabilities are portrayed.
Headlines that caught my eye were…
As well as this one…
These stories make me wonder if the person in these stories didn’t have a disability, would they even make the news? How often do you read about a person without a disability making prom court or getting a touchdown? Yes, you might read about it in your local newspaper, but would it make national news? If the person didn’t have a disability, would these stories even be stories?
Another headline that caught my eye was…
My husband recently had his laptop stolen. I know we didn’t get this type of media coverage to find the person who stole it.
The media – television, radio, newspapers and the Internet – play an important role in influencing public opinion and attitudes. The choice of words, messages and images they use can determine perception and attitudes of others. It can also define what does or does not matter to individuals and the world around them.
How people with disabilities are portrayed and how frequently they appear in the media has an enormous impact on how they are regarded in society.
It seems to me when people with disabilities appear in the media, they are often stigmatized or stereotyped. They appear as either objects of pity or as someone with super heroic accomplishments and endurance. Often the disability itself is used as a hook by writers to draw audiences to the story.
Media coverage frequently focuses on heartwarming inspirational stories about people with disabilities that patronize and underestimate individual capabilities.
It is true to say that the media is an extremely important part of our everyday life, and as an industry has been critical in the dissemination of information to the mass population. But should media be focusing on heartwarming inspirational and heroic stories about people that wouldn’t make the news if the person didn’t have a disability?
I would much rather like to see the media focus more attention on tough issues that affect the person’s quality of life, such as accessible transportation, affordable health care, housing, and employment opportunities.
What do you think?