KAMPALA. A new baseline survey on state of media coverage on disability issues in Uganda has scoffed at the media for using words that are offensive and caused stigmatisation among the people with disability.
The report says as a result PWDs have been unable to get access to services like education, health and livelihood opportunities and have spent isolated and miserable lives among the communities they belong to.
A study commissioned by East Africa Centre for Disability Law and Policy (CDLP), an East African think-tank, and conducted on its behalf by Motivate Africa Initiative, also faulted the use of the words disabled, lame, dumb, handicapped as old fashioned words that are offensive.
Mr Jonathan Tusubira, the principal investigator, said: “The media must stop use of old-fashioned words like dumb, lame, handicapped and the disabled because the words are considered offensive and evoke stigmatization.”
The1995 Constitution of Uganda Article 21 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.
But the base-line survey report says use of old fashioned words indicates that Uganda media is ignorant on how to portray PWDs in terms of pictures and stories that touch them
The Report says although the Uganda media is critical in the dissemination of information to the mass population, the influence it holds over society has not been used to society’s benefit, particularly in relation to disability, where the media has continued to add to the discrimination of disabled people.
While releasing the results of the base-line study done on September 12, 2017 to stakeholders at Esella Hotel in Kampala, Mr Tusubira said the media had contributed to the disabled people’s discrimination by way of reinforcing impairment.
Mr Meddie Ssengoba, the Disability Rights Fund programme officer, explained that the use of images, language and terminology related to disability and the under-representation of disabled people in the media has discriminated the PWDs more.
Mr Ssengoba identified some stereotypes that the media use to portray disabled people like the disabled person as pitiable or pathetic, the super cripple, unable to participate in daily life, his/her own worst enemy and headlines like ‘cripple marries, stuns village’.
“But much as we accuse the media, how have we positioned ourselves to gain good coverage in the media? We need to work with the media to enable them portray us in a positive way, we need to hold forums that will inform journalists about what we want, true many of them don’t know but how will they know?” Mr Ssengoba asked.
The researchers proposed that the media should stop use of words that make the PWDS lead isolated and miserable lives but make the physical environment more accessible, providing information in a variety of formats, and challenging attitudes and mistaken assumptions about PWDs.
Ms Catherine Kobusinge, the coordinator of Hoima Network of Child rights and clubs, said there was need for productive and decent media write ups to enables PWDs realise their aspirations, transform their lives and participate more actively in society.
“The media has laws and regulations that empower them to write without discrimination, to treat all people equal and effective implementation and enforcement of existing disability laws and policies and providing for equal representation will change the situation,” Ms Kobusinge said.
According to the 2014 Population and Housing Census, at least 4 out of every 25, or 16 per cent of the population, are disabled. Applying this estimate to today’s Ugandan population (approximately 34.6 million) would indicate that about 5.7 million disabled people are in Uganda.