Diversity in Australia’s media has long been at crisis point.
A lack of women, culturally and linguistically diverse people, LGBTQI+ individuals and people living with disabilities sadly prevails and the consequence is that much of Australia’s reporting is often biased, one-dimensional and noninclusive.
In partnership with disability organisation Hireup, Griffith University and Getty, Media Diversity Australia (MDA) has worked to counter this in a small but meaningful way with the launch of its latest newsroom must-have: the Disability Reporting Handbook.
Designed to help journalists better reflect Australia’s true diversity, MDA pulled together a dedicated team of media professionals – all with lived experience of disability – to produce a practical guide on how to better represent people with disabilities.
Project lead, Briana Blackett, said the project required a range of input and expertise to pull together.
“From the very beginning, we were determined not to reinvent the wheel. We wanted to bring together all the existing advice and resources already created by people with disabilities and work directly with key organisations and advocates to gain as much input as possible.
“Then we set about collating all of this information in a way that could be easily, and quickly, accessed and understood,” she said.
“Today’s journalists are task rich and time-poor. While ideally the handbook should be read from cover to cover, we know the realities of a looming deadline. So, we designed it in a way that enables people in a hurry to jump to key sections – whether it be how to report on the Royal Commission, how to interview someone who is Deaf or how to make your studio wheelchair accessible.”
The Disability Reporting Handbook outlines key matters and concepts regarding disability, lays out the all-important Golden Rules for reporters, provides interview and accessibility tips and links through to organisations that can help journalists find out more information.
“Around 20 percent of Australians live with disability and yet these communities are hardly ever seen or heard in our media,” said MDA co-chair and co-founder, Antoinette Lattouf.
“We think this is because there’s still such a lack of understanding about disability, its many forms and how different communities such as Indigenous and refugee communities have unique challenges. This is why MDA partnered with disability experts to create a practical guide to help media professionals know and do better.”
MDA Disability Affairs Officer Lisa Cox, who joined Women’s Agenda last week for the Women’s Health @ Work Summit, also contributed to the resource, adding that “intersectionality” had been a core focus.
“We wanted to push beyond pitiful stereotypes or inspiration porn. The experiences of people with disabilities are so varied. This is why we also created sections on intersectionality – which is key for so many Australians,” she said.
“We know a person’s experience of disability is very much impacted by other aspects of their lives, such as whether they are female or Indigenous, or whether they come from a CALD community, or identify as LGBTQI+,” she added.
While the Disability Reporting Handbook has been the result of a broad collaboration from various parties, the project has always been very close to home for those who worked on it.
“I have two children with disabilities – so for me, this handbook is profoundly personal. I have watched people like my kids be constantly misrepresented and stigmatised in the media. This guide is a way to change that” said Blackett.