On the 28th of June, an event on Communicating Disability Rights was hosted by the Study Group on Disability Rights of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The objective was to consider the role of the media in raising awareness of the rights of people with disabilities and how to provide a voice to those people with disabilities through the media.
Marie Zvolská, President of the Study Group on Disability Rights at EESC, opened the public hearing by inviting panelists to discuss options and good practices for ensuring that people with disabilities have the right to information and communication.
André Félix, External Communication Officer at EDF, identified the importance of the right to information which does not foster pity towards people with disabilities in storytelling. He highlighted that it is necessary to portray those people with disabilities as they truly are, focusing on their daily obstacles in a correct tone without exaggeration.
Andrew Stroehlein, European Media Director of Human Rights Watch, spoke about the other side of the media world. He emphasised the importance of understanding how the media works, how they convey a message and how to adapt accordingly and propose interesting topics to cover. He warned that even when stories about people with disabilities are chosen to be covered, most of the time only 90 seconds are allotted towards delivering a message which is passed on to the general public.
The focus of the discussion also covered the quality of journalism. Milica Pešić, Executive Director at Media Diversity Institute, advised that journalists should receive inclusive, interactive training so as to be able to put themselves in the shoes of persons with disabilities and understand the experience of disability from their perspective while delivering stories. This is how journalists progress and explore new ways of thinking.
Although legislation has evolved to better include people with disabilities, there are still people who do not know how to deal with the disabled. Adam Harris, founder and Chief Executive Officer of AsIAm.ie Association, believes that hiring more people with disabilities into the world of journalism can make a difference.
Participants had the opportunity to have an open discussion with the panelists before the end of the public hearing. EUD took the floor to remind the attendees that better representation of people with disabilities in the media is positive. However, we would be going one step even further if those people with disabilities had the possibility to express their views in areas that are not related to disability.