UNESCO Calls for More Inclusive, Accessible Media Coverage for Persons with Disabilities

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Audrey AzoulayDirector General of UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has called for more inclusive, relevant, and accessible media coverage, content production, and management practices for persons with disabilities.

UNESCO made the call during the commemoration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, saying media coverage has a huge impact on public perceptions, attitudes and behaviour of all citizens, including persons with disabilities. The organisation however noted that it is rare for the media to include disability issues in their overall coverage and to provide content and access to their platforms in full compliance with information and web accessibility standards.

It noted that when the media do, the focus is on specific disability-related events, initiatives or programmes in which case, accessible media features are provided on an exceptional rather than standard basis.

UNESCO said at present, there is no self-regulatory mechanism in place to monitor and promote the balanced and diverse representation of persons with disabilities in the media and to assess the accessibility standards of content and platforms.

It pointed out that the media see people with disabilities as “news figures” describing their situation, rather than as “information sources” who can provide timely information or expertise, contribute to the production of news stories and work in media institutions.

To support transformative changes in and within the media, UNESCO disclosed that it was preparing a Practical Manual on Disability Equality in the Media and a Master Class Video series, which aim to encourage the media to promote respect for inclusion, equality and meaningful engagement and participation of persons with disabilities.