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Tom Dowling: Call for media and Government to monitor how they refer to disabled
Campaigners are calling on the Government and the media to mind their language in relation to disabled people.
The plea follows a survey which shows that more than 90% of disabled people believe negative coverage of disability in newspapers is directly linked to a rise in hostility and hate crimes.
And the UK’s leading disability organisation, Disability Rights UK, says most people believe it is the language the Government uses when referring to disabled people that results in negative press coverage.
The charity says: “We have attempted to tackle examples of unfortunate Government language which exacerbates negative press stereotyping.
“When the DWP Press Office referred to ending out-of-work benefit payments for about 280,000 disabled people who have worked as making ‘the benefit system fair to taxpayers’ we highlighted that the only people affected had worked and paid Income Tax and made National Insurance contributions.
“Disabled people are taxpayers and the system needs to be fair to all. Comments that make an unnecessary and inaccurate division between disabled people and taxpayers can feed misleading newspaper articles.”
The report proposes a successor to the Press Complaints Commission that can take swift action and demand corrections for inaccurate or misleading representations – and calls on the Government to take the lead, ensuring better communication of changes to welfare policy.
The findings showed that:
More than three quarters (77%) of those questioned could cite negative press articles about disabled people, while only a third (35%) a positive story.
Ninety four per cent suggested press portrayal of disability equality issues was “unfair” and 76% said the volume of negativity was “significantly increasing”.
Ninety one per cent said there was a link between negative press portrayal of disabled people and rising hostility/hate crime.
Nearly half (42%) suggested the Government was responsible for rising press negativity and hostility towards disabled people.
Neil Coyle, director campaigns at Disability Rights UK, said: “As we celebrate the greatest ever Paralympics, it is vital that we challenge negative stereotypes of disabled people in the media.”
Kevin Craig, head of Political Lobbying and Media Relations, co-sponsors of the report, said: “The way disabled people are referred to by Government and the media has a major effect on their lives. This report shows just how serious an issue this has become and the urgent need to address the problem.
“The Paralympics are all about showing that anybody has the ability to be extraordinary. Their legacy must be an end to the stigmatisation of disabled people once and for all.”