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Disabled Representation in the Media is Lacking in Europe and China

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

© Gauthier Delecroix / CC BY 2.0 / FlickR

How and what broadcasters communicate about relies on the existing culture of how cultures talk about disability.

In the modern world, it is easier than ever for governments to connect with citizens through the internet, most notably through social media. Government agencies around the world are increasingly turning to social media to relate messages they deem important to the masses. This can range from public safety announcements – from reminding citizens to wash their hands, to highlighting the political priorities of the government of the day.

As social media communication becomes a vital part of a government’s and a politician’s output, many interesting questions are raised, often pertaining to the role of traditional media. News organisations are now often overlooked for friendly media types, and are bypassed. Social media has become the ‘go-to’ place for international political discourse, with politicians using their own accounts as the first port of call for statements, interviews, and content.

Disability issues are an important part of government policymaking. As nations say they support the weakest and most vulnerable in society, disabled people often continue to be marginalised and impoverished.

Social media often enables a wider conversation about a wide variety of issues that cannot fit into a 30-minute news show. Disability issues can be included in this list. Research has found that new media can foster public opinion exchanges and ultimately promote positive citizenship.

There has been limited academic study on disability issues being present on social media. However, in traditional media disability representation has traditionally been lacking globally. In China, there has been evidence of disability organisations using social media to advance the social rights of people with disability. This is in line with the emerging disability rights movement in China. Although Chinese representations are not identical to those in Europe, as it in many ways remains a developing country, representation on traditional and new media is increasing. In Europe there are already long-time coordinated disability rights organisations, as well as academic studies on social media through the eyes of disability representation.