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Representation of Disability in Media
There is no longer any question about the reality that persons with disabilities live with much lower standards of life than those without disabilities. According to orthodox medical theories, people with impairments have such devastating bodily and psychological effects that they cannot lead comparable lifestyles. This viewpoint is rejected by disabled persons and their organizations as a viable framework for comprehending the issues related to disability.
Media Representation of Media
The persistence of long-held preconceptions about disability and those with disabilities are largely to blame. Stereotypical attitudes from previous, less enlightened eras form the foundation for preconceptions about persons with disabilities. They are ingrained in our society and endure partly due to the continual reproduction of these ideas through the channels of communication, including books, movies, television, newspapers, and advertisements. Negative preconceptions about individuals with disabilities are also learned through the "regular" learning process, just as implicit or explicit racist or sexist beliefs.
Even if the media cannot be held solely accountable for this worrying scenario, its influence cannot be disregarded. According to official statistics, 98% of British houses have televisions, and we watch them for at least 24 hours a week on average. Sixty-five percent of people read newspapers daily, 72 percent on Sunday, 9 percent read magazines, and 81 percent of the 26 percent of people who use public libraries borrow books. Few people contend that the mass media has no impact, even though there is significant disagreement over the degree of such power.
People with disabilities have identified ten persistently negative stereotypes in the media. The disabled person is portrayed as being miserable and pitiful, an object of curiosity or violence, as wicked or sinister, as the super cripple, as atmosphere, as humorous, as her/his own worst enemy, as a burden, as non-sexual, and as being unable to engage in daily life. These stereotypes are especially pronounced in television, the press, and advertising.
Disabled persons are frequently underrepresented on British television, except specialty shows like the BBC's "One in Four" and Channel 4's "Same Difference," and when they are, it is typically in the context of one of the stigmatizing stereotypes. Stories concerning disabled people are frequently related to medical care or the unique accomplishments of impaired persons, typically youngsters, in factual or current affairs programming. Disabled persons hardly ever feature in soap operas or game shows, with one or two notable exceptions. The common assumption that persons with disabilities are unwell and unable to engage in daily life is reinforced by their exclusion from popular programs and the connection between disability and medicine.
Disabled persons are frequently underrepresented on British television, except specialty shows like the BBC's "One in Four" and Channel 4's "Same Difference." When they are, it is typically in the context of one of the stigmatizing stereotypes. Stories concerning disabled people are frequently related to medical care or the unique accomplishments of impaired persons, typically youngsters, in factual or current affairs programming. Disabled persons hardly ever feature in soap operas or game shows, with one or two notable exceptions. The common assumption that persons with disabilities are unwell and unable to engage in daily life is reinforced by their exclusion from popular programs and the connection between disability and medicine.
The British press is subject to similar complaints. Disablist terminology is frequently used in newspapers, not just tabloids but even so-called "quality" media. Despite attempts by disability organizations to increase journalists' understanding, terms like "disabled" and "handicapped" frequently occur in news reports. Reports regarding persons with disabilities are frequently highlighted for their sensational value rather than their veracity. The sexual impotence of recently disabled men, people who "bravely manage" to achieve despite "handicap," and non-disabled celebrities who understand the "plight" of disabled people or who are willing to make unheard-of personal sacrifices to help a particular charity are examples of common topics. A sensation-seeking media that is looking for an easy story and is reluctant to consider the harm done to the public perception of disabled persons views people with disabilities as valid fodder.
The advertising sector contributes to prejudice in at least two ways. First, conventional advertisers and advertising firms exclude and, in some cases, purposefully disregard persons with disabilities. This is a blatant denial of the role of disabled persons as customers, in addition to concealing disability from the broader population. Second, to collect money, certain advertisements, particularly charities, portray a particularly false image of disabled and disabled people. People with disabilities lose in both situations. Disabled individuals and their organizations have strong feelings about how persons with disabilities are portrayed in charity advertising. In charity advertising, pictures of the disabled as pitiful and sad still dominate. Additionally, many charities continue to take advantage of disabled individuals despite loud objections from their groups.
Surprisingly little study has been done on how media portrays disability; this may be due to the diversity of impaired people. However, it is widely believed that the umbrella term "disability" actually empowers people who would otherwise run the risk of being viewed as isolated or exceptional cases and in danger of being completely excluded from media representation. Disability is a significant social construct in modern society.
Researchers reviewed six weeks of British television in 1988 and concluded that there was a glaring underrepresentation of disabled individuals on British TV. Only 1.4% of persons on television had a visible impairment, compared to an estimated 14.2% of people in the actual world (although the real-world ratio drops slightly to 7% when adjusted for age). Some impairments were more prevalent than others, including deformity and locomotor issues (requiring a wheelchair, cane, or crutches), as well as the category "behavior," which seems to be a bit of a catch-all and may include mental illness (a different field of research).
On the other hand, incontinence and communication issues were underrepresented—the latter possibly for obvious reasons! In light entertainment (such as comedies), disabled people were the least prevalent, and throughout the period under investigation, not a single competitor on a game show was disabled. The local news was most likely to have representations of disability, albeit usually, the articles' main focus was on medical advancements or health policy (in other words, the narrative was on the doctors or academics rather than the individuals with the disability).
Some of the preconceptions about people with disabilities that Balter (1999) created are echoed in the Cumberbatch research. The superhero is the least prevalent representation and often features a middle-aged guy in a wheelchair; the archetypal example is the 1970s television character Ironside. A child or adult is often the lovely innocent. The sage is a person whose impairment appears to be offset by an intuitive talent (e.g., solving crimes). The obsessed avenger is the last character who wants retribution against society for their incapacity.
A notable illustration of this type is Ken Harrison, played by Richard Dreyfuss, in Whose Life Is It Anyway? Harrison is a sculptor who suffers paralysis in a car accident, which prevents him from creating art. Harrison asks to be put to death while sequestered in his hospital bed. However, it has been assumed that the play and movie frame euthanasia-related concerns and highlight significant issues around disability and quality of life. Characters with disabilities who experience a profound feeling of loss and develop their handicap after birth are frequently depicted as "obsessive avengers" in the media. This idea has a major role in how Ken Harrison is portrayed. Comparing these numbers to those with congenital conditions is fascinating, especially considering how those individuals identify as people with disabilities.
Without the enactment of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that −
Provides a framework for policies that enable disabled people to fully integrate into the mainstream economic and social life of the community;
Sends a clear signal throughout British society that discrimination against disabled people is no longer acceptable, the impact of these initiatives is likely to be limited. The emotions in Paul Hunt's remarks will only lose importance after implementing these measures.
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