Invisibility of disabled people in the media

Is Frances Ryan’s article (Diversity is in Vogue, but not for Women with disabilities, 8 January) a call to arms addressed to directors of communications, or is it symptomatic of a wider problem to do with disability?

In 1995 the Disability Discrimination Act was passed after a lot of high-profile campaigning, some disabled people even being arrested for obstruction. You heard the shorthand “DDA” everywhere. But now that act, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976 have all been incorporated into the equality act 2010. It is widely believed that this has not done disabled people any favours – something a House of Lords committee reported on two years ago.

Those of us who are disabled women are slowly gaining a higher profile – more disabled actors, comedians and reporters – but perhaps the most positive news I’ve heard this Christmas is from a friend who said her granddaughters (no disability in their family) were keen to play “disability in schools”, with one child going to school on her rocking horse and the other being helped by her sister in her “wheelchair” (her buggy).
Celia Thomas
Liberal Democrat, House of Lords

Frances Ryan echoed my thoughts exactly. As a quadriplegic woman with cerebral palsy, I often feel completely invisible in the mainstream media. In the heartwarming film Paddington 2, the final scene features a diverse cast of gender, age and race. There is not one single character with any visible form of impairment. If this was a one-off, I would be irritated but resigned. It isn’t. It is largely systemic. How are children with disabilities, of whatever gender, to be expected to aspire to a career in the media or any career if they can’t see themselves represented? I was seven years old when I first saw a wheelchair on TV. I shouldn’t still be able to remember that. It was 28 years ago. It should have been normalised by now.
Dr Rebecca Butler

Your article (Educational support for deaf children ‘in disarray’, 8 January) reflects the emphasis on the shortage of teachers of deaf children in the 2017 survey in England by the excellent Consortium for Research in Deaf Education (Cride). The Deaf Ex- Mainstreamers Group is a deaf-led organisation of users of the deaf education system. Its findings since 1994 are that all children with hearing losses require British Sign Language (BSL) in addition to hearing aids and cochlear implants for their overall wellbeing. Cride reports a 9% decrease in the number of other specialist support staff working with deaf children in England in 251 mainstream resource provisions in local authorities.

In 2017 the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities said of the UK that it was concerned about the “insufficient resources for the education and training of sign language interpreters and the insufficient availability of and access to high-quality educated sign language interpreters” and the “lack of training and education for families, classmates and co-workers in high-quality sign language communication in order to better provide for the inclusion within the community of deaf persons and hard of hearing persons”.


Source: The Guardian

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