Strategies for Change

Independent Living Movement Ireland

Disability and the Media

Ellis Palmer, ILMI member and BBC journalist, spoke about his lived experiences of being a disabled person working in the area of journalism and the media. Some of the things that he told us included:

Language and its use is so important, those that work in the media have an unconscious bias towards disabled people and this can perpetuate negative representations of disabled people, inspirational porn is just one example. See: Stella Youngs TED x presentation Inspiration Porn: How “Feel-Good” Imagery Demeans the Disabled Community and Perpetuates Harmful Stereotypes

Disabled people’s perspectives are not being heard and more often than not use the wrong language to describe us – Ellis produced a video with activist Tanni Grey-Thompson and YouTuber Lucy Edwards on how to talk about disability without being awkward in 2019 – see: stop telling me im speeding in my wheelchair

He told us that some of the beliefs that society has about disability need to be challenged; we don’t suffer from being disabled rather we live with or have cerebral palsy.  Disabled people just need adjustments or the right support to be able to thrive.

We are not inspirational just because we get up in the morning or go to work or have children or are married. Society makes many disabled people’s life difficult e.g. steps, cobblestones, broken lifts, things out of reach, it is not our impairments.

Wheelchair users are NOT WHEELCHAIR BOUND, these people just use there wheelchairs to get around “wheels are essentially our legs”

Visually impaired people use guide gods to navigate their environment, so guide dogs are essentially our eye’s, they are working dogs, not dogs that the public can pet or touch.

Disabled people want to be respected – treat people the way you want to be treated. Ellis advised us about being careful when using any media platform to tell your story, making sure that we use social model language and share only what you what to say – researching journalists and/or presenters is a good way to know if they are respectful of their story tellers and portray them in a positive light.

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