Monday, March 19, 2012

Media has a larger role in breaking disability stereotypes

Dear Colleagues,

Here is an article on a workshop conducted by DLU (North East), Shishu Saroti, Guwahati
 on the role of Media vis-a-vis the Disability Sector"  published in The Sentinel. Several such initiatives are needed for most sectors since it is the wrong portrayal of persons with disabilities that reinforces the  age old prejudices and biases. 

Not because it is done intentionally but there is lack of awareness among the masses, the society, the media, the judiciary, the government babus, the medical and para-medical fraternity and above all the  family members of persons with disabilities and worst - persons with disabilities themselves!. Such eye-opening sessions are needed for every one and should be conducted more often in schools & colleges too!  

Media should adopt a rights-based approach rather than a charity approach while reporting about persons with disabilities. — Arman Ali

By our Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, March 17: “People with disabilities are often perceived as different by normal people. They are also discriminated against. This is unfortunate and should not happen. Disabled people too have hopes and aspirations like normal people. They should not be made to feel as if they are different and should be given equal opportunity to move forward in life, like the rest,” said Shishu Sarothi executive director Arman Ali while addressing an orientation programme held in Guwahati today on the topic ‘Role of Media vis-a-vis the Disability Sector’. The programme was organized for mediapersons by the Disability Law Unit- Northeast, Shishu Sarothi.

Ali further said, “The families of disabled persons should accept them with their weaknesses and strengths. A proper environment should be created at home so that they can feel encouraged to pursue their dreams.” He added, “Unfortunately, the government is also not doing enough for the disabled people. It should make provisions for such persons.”
He called upon the media to adopt a rights-based approach rather than a charity approach while reporting about persons with disabilities.

Speaking at the programme, senior journalist Prabal Das said, “In India, even though social and humanitarian issues get written about in newspapers and magazines, the disability issue has not been highlighted much. Media should portray disability in such a way so as to help increase awareness throughout society about the realities faced by disabled persons, reduce stereotypes, prejudices and harmful practices. Shishu Sarothi, which is building hope among the disabled people, should guide the media on how to portray the disability issue.”
Das lamented the fact that the Indian media usually highlights the disability issue during the Para Olympics.

Disability Law Unit-Northeast assistant project coordinator Amvalika Senapati said that as per the 2001 census, there were 5,30,300 disabled persons in Assam. As per the WHO report, 2011, there are 31,16,927 persons with disabilities in Assam.

She said, “Disability, whether mental or physical, does not disable a person. Discrimination, social stigma and poverty does. The media exerts a powerful influence on the way people with disabilities are perceived. It is important that persons with disabilities that they are portray realistically and that their disabilities are explained accurately.”

Examples of denial of right to education in respect of children with disability in the various districts of Assam, inaccessible public places and empathy of various authorities in implementing the laws and schemes in respect of persons with disabilities was highlighted by her. She highlighted how there were no provisions for disabled persons in railways stations and the ISBT.

During the programme, many points were highlighted. The media, it was said, should raise awareness about the challenges faced by persons with disabilities, bring discussion of disability into the public arena to challenge the idea of it as a taboo subject, promote policies, products and services that support full participation and development of disabled persons, avoid labels like ‘disability’ or ‘mental’ which have negative stereotypes or myths associated with them, allow persons with disabilities to speak for themselves, encourage and to expose common myths about disability.

Source: The Sentinel

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