A journalist of Portal o invalidnosti, Marijana Canak, spoke at the expert meeting Persons with Disabilities and Media – Strengthening Capacities of Local Media for Reporting about Persons with Disabilities. Radio Futog – Native Association Futog organized the meeting in the Historical Archive of Novi Sad on November 18, 2021.
The meeting rounded up journalists, editors, media owners, representatives of institutions, organizations and individuals that report on issues important for persons with disabilities. The aim was to exchange knowledge and experience for creating and publishing information from the disability area.
Marijana Canak presented Portal o invalidnosti, internet media of the Organization …IZ KRUGA – VOJVODINA. She spoke about different practices in reporting about persons with disabilities, especially about women with disabilities, using respectful disability language in creating media content and presenting women with disabilities in media. She highlighted that women with disabilities are multiply discriminated against (gender-based discrimination, disability and sexual orientation) and that they are denied numerous rights (right to marriage, partner, and sexual life, employment, independent living, dignity). She emphasized that media reports about women with disabilities mustn’t exploit their life stories, nor do they have to thematize disability at all.
– I still notice inadequate terms like „invalid“, „invalid person”, “immobile person“, „wheelchair-bound“ etc. In the background is a degrading attitude towards persons with disabilities and a misconception of their position. There are frequent dramatizations, pathetic elements in media reports, equating disability with illness, an incurable disease, which is absolutely not true. One needs to know that disability is a condition, one of many human experiences, which in itself is neither positive nor negative, but is neutral and thus should be presented in the media as such – said Marijana Canak.
Next to Marijana Canak, Marija Vrebalov Djordjevic, counselor for accessibility, Tatajna Stojsic Petkovic, a psychologist, Natasa Knezevic, editor-in-chief of Radio Futog and Dane Omcikus, author of documentaries about disabilities talked at the meeting. The leader of the expert meeting was Aleksandra Dobrin.
Some of the recommendations about media reporting about persons with disabilities are: using terminology directed to a person, not a disability (person with a disability in the place of invalid), using terms that confer positive message and emphasize capabilities and not restrictions (wheelchair user instead of wheelchair-bound), avoiding narratives that paint persons with disabilities as heroes (in the background of admiration is a mere pity) or victims (poor girl, unfortunate girl, completely powerless), no matter how inspiring this approach might seem and eluding of stereotyped and sensationalistic reporting about persons with disabilities.