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Media and Disability


Our newest program, Media and Disability, was launched in 2008. The goal of the program is to change the focus from sensational, cloying and misinformed disability coverage that undermines the public policy and legal advances of the last 25 years to coverage that raises public awareness and helps to end disability discrimination.

Media images and stories influence thinking and establish social norms. People with disabilities have endured misrepresentation, defamation, and lack of representation in the media news and entertainment. While the disability rights movement has made enormous strides in the past 30 years using law and policy development and civil rights advocacy, our movement has not yet altered the hearts and minds of Americans who do not have personal experience with disability. Many still do not understand disability issues as rights issues.

Unfortunately, fear and stereotypes about disability are deeply ingrained in American culture and reflected in media coverage, and people with disabilities are seldom seen as individuals beyond the framework of their disabilities. Our nation's legacy of demeaning, isolating, and institutionalizing people with disabilities has left in its wake embedded negative and inaccurate beliefs and attitudes about what it means to live with a disability. These attitudes are embraced and reflected by media coverage, much of which regrettably relies on old stereotypes and misinformation.

More in-depth and thoughtful attention to disability is needed for a number of reasons. But most importantly, we know that the media is a potent force in countering stigma and misinformation and a powerful ally in changing perceptions, eliminating discrimination, and raising public awareness.

Our Media and Disability Program will establish a mechanism for monitoring and informing disability coverage in news reports, dramatic representations, and reporting on the Internet with the goal to advance accurate reporting of disability issues and promote positive images of people with disabilities.

DREDF has recruited Simon Minty of Minty and Friend in London to lead our media work. Simon is an associate of the Broadcasting and Creative Industries Disability Network and is an advisor to British media companies on employment and portrayal of people with disabilities.

The DREDF Media and Disability Project has three goals in its first year:

  • Form a Media Advisory Committee of journalists, media scholars, and media activists.

  • Initiate solid relationships with the media industry to begin engagement on disability issues.

  • Build capacity to inform media disability coverage through research, monitoring, and evaluation.

Longer term, we will tackle two other issues as well:

  • Expand employment for people with disabilities in the media industry.

  • Expand accessibility of all types of media for people with disabilities.