Disability issues and the media

As someone with a disability who has to deal with the media on a regular basis, I found the latest report by the  Convention Coalition Monitoring Group very interesting. The time period the report covered was 2012.

Note: The full report is available by clicking here:

It looks at how the media in New Zealand portrays disabled people and disability issues and includes an in-depth analysis of media coverage of both the Paralympics games and of the funding issue for electronic notetakers for me

The report is important because media coverage of disability issues can be a powerful tool for advocating for the rights of disabled people and influencing public attitudes towards disability in general.

There were several key findings. On the positive side, the report found that the NZ media does well in covering a wide breadth of disability issues, assisting New Zealanders to get a better understanding of some of the key issues facing their fellow disabled citizens.

However there was significant frustration expressed by participants that some journalists still demonstrated a general lack of disability awareness, failing to ensure that disabled people voices were directly represented in mainstream stories and using negative language in stories about disability issues. Analysis of the stories showed that disabled people are often portrayed as either pitiful victims or super-beings.

A major recommendation was for media organisations to develop clear policies around reporting disability issues, provide better disability training to all staff, and to employ more disabled people within all levels of their organisations.

I strongly endorse all of these recommendations.

3 Comments Posted

  1. Further to my comment just made:

    Highly suspicious are also presentations by the strangely hardline, pushy and seemingly biased Principal Health Advisor for the Ministry of Social Development and WINZ, Dr David Bratt, who compares benefit dependence to “drug dependence”:


    Sick and disabled deserve respect, fairness and inclusiveness, when being assessed, talked with and supported into work, not pressures, the use of “pseudo scientific” arguments and privatised outsourcing of services on a fee bonus agenda, designed to just get rid of “costly” beneficiaries, into whatever casual and un-fulfilling jobs they may end up in.

    I am sure that this is not going to be achieved under the present government.

  2. Disabilities and serious illness have come to the attention of a growing number of people, especially since the recent welfare reforms that were brought in under the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Act. The media reported only too little on all this, and one should really think, they would also pay more attention to what disability means, how affected try to cope with it, and what hurdles there still are, for disabled and incapacitated to be accepted and be enabled to participate in society.

    There were many submissions made during the Select Committee process, but while the vast majority were highly critical of the reforms that are now being implemented, the government again bluntly ignored them.

    Disability organisations and advocacy groups raised immense concerns how the government is planning to “assist” disabled and incapacitated into forms of work. There was much talk about “new findings” coming from the UK, and a Professor Mansel Aylward, from a controversial research unit at Cardiff University was mentioned. Paula Bennett did indicate that the UK findings (often a bit misleadingly referred to as “international” findings) would be applied here.

    Mansel Aylward has been to New Zealand repeatedly, and he has lobbied for his version of the “bio psycho-social model” for assessments, treatments and rehabilitation of sick and disabled.

    While a fair number of medical practitioners do tend to adopt that philosophy without much scrutiny, that model is not as widely accepted and shared as some do think.

    The following analysis found on ACC Forum sheds more light on what is behind it all, and what needs to be considered, before going ahead with the “welfare reforms” that Paula Bennett now praises as such a success, while not much has been proved or tested at all. Here is a link to that revealing analysis:


    Just putting on the pressure, paying outsourced providers to “usher” sick and disabled into any kinds of supposedly “suitable” jobs, that will lead to little, unless disabled are involved and treated fairly, equally and respectfully. That is not happening under this government, I sincerely feel!

  3. I personally will easily fall into the ignorance trap as I don’t know many people with disabilities…
    From your article i feel the media (therefore the public too)need to be educated and well informed of this unfamiliar world.
    Some kind of regular newsletter covering this area with informing/educational purpose will be helpful. There are too many publications for all kinds of disabilities from each organisation, but we need a more general (maybe less in depth or extremely detailed ) one…or have we got it somewhere already?

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