Portraying People with Disabilities in the Media - Easter Seals
Portraying People with Disabilities in the Media
Fear of the unknown. Inadequate experience. Incorrect or distorted information. Lack of knowledge. These shape some of the attitudinal barriers that people with disabilities face as they become involved in their communities.
People working in the media exert a powerful influence over the way people with disabilities are perceived. It's important to the 54 million Americans with disabilities that they be portrayed realistically and that their disabilities are explained accurately.
Awareness is the first step toward change.
Tips for Reporting on People with Disabilities
- When referring to individuals with disabilities use "disability," not "handicapped."
- Emphasize the person, not the disability or condition. Use "people with disabilities" rather than "disabled persons," and "people with epilepsy" rather than "epileptics."
- Omit mention of an individual's disability unless it is pertinent to the story.
- Depict the typical achiever with a disability, not just the superachiever.
- Choose words that are accurate descriptions and have non-judgemental connotations.
People with disabilities live everyday lives and should be portrayed as contributing members of the community. These portrayals should:
- Depict people with disabilities experiencing the same pain/pleasure that others derive
from everyday life, e.g., work, parenting, education, sports and community involvement.
- Feature a variety of people with disabilities when possible, not just someone easily
recognized by the general public.
- Depict employees/employers with disabilities working together.
Ask people with disabilities to provide correct information and assistance to avoid stereotypes in the media.
Portray people with disabilities as people, with both strengths and weaknesses.
VICTIM – use: person who has/experienced/with.
[THE] CRIPPLE[D] – use: person with a disability.
AFFLICTED BY/WITH – use: person has.
INVALID – use: a person with a disability.
NORMAL – most people, including people with disabilities, think they are.
PATIENT – connotes sickness. Use person with a disability.
WHEELCHAIR BOUND/CONFINED – use: uses a wheelchair or wheelchair user.
HOMEBOUND EMPLOYMENT – use: employed in the home.
Use with Care…
COURAGEOUS, BRAVE, INSPIRATIONAL and similar words routinely used to describe persons with disabilities. Adapting to a disability does not necessarily mean someone acquires these traits.