Journalists urged to reconsider their reporting on stories of persons with disability

Journalists have been urged to reconsider and change how they report on stories of persons with disability. [iStockphoto]

Journalists have been urged to reconsider how they report on stories of persons with disability.

On various occasions, the media has been blamed for focusing on a person's disability instead of their achievements.

This was said during the ongoing three days media training workshop by Internews in Nairobi on disability reporting.

Wheelchair users are the most underreported group of PWDs.

Jackie Lidubwi, project manager at Internews said, ''emphasize on their abilities, not their limitation. For instance, use a person who uses a wheelchair and not a wheelchair-bound person. In a story, you can use their names without mentioning their disability."

''On various occasions also when editors want to save space, they have ended up using short words such as disabled, autistic and deaf person hence stigmatising people with disability. Instead, they should start with the person as a noun followed by the adjective like a person who is blind, with autism and a person who is deaf," she added.

Isaac Mwaura, a former nominated senator and a champion for people with disability, said that many of the success stories about people with disability have been told by the media and therefore, they should exercise the above style of writing stories on persons with disability.

''Any person in the public eye is more of a product of the media. Many of the stories that have transformed the lives of persons with disability have been told by journalists which have broken the misconception and prejudices, ''said Mwaura

He said that when journalists use derogatory words to refer to people with disabilities, it leads to stereotyping which affects 10 per cent (5 million) of the country's 55 million population.

Speaking at the event, Dr John Ndavula, a senior lecturer Murang'a University of Technology, said the language used and the choice of words is important when reporting a story.

''Language can exclude people and therefore journalists should adopt person-first language than disability first. Use descriptive words and portray people in good light, journalists should avoid emotional words such as 'unfortunate' 'pitiful', sad music, or melodramatic introductions while reporting on disability," said Ndavula.

He also said feel-good stories about PWDs are sometimes an over-emphasis and may raise unrealistic expectations that all PWDs should achieve that level.

Ndavula said, "experience shows that when a person with disability speaks with confidence and authority about a particular situation, non-disabled audiences are more likely to believe that people with disability are knowledgeable."

The lecturer also said that the hurdles presented around our environment are what create disability and that society should aim to be inclusive, acknowledge and accept differences.