University of California Los Angeles Disability and The Media Discussion

Read “Disability and the Media: Prescriptions for Change” by Charles Riley III. Discuss 3 of the tips shared by Riley. Your comments can include general reactions or questions the tips raised for you. Try to draw a connections to other readings or content we’ve engaged in class. As always, you can earn additional participation points by commenting on your peers’ posts.

disability and
the media
Prescriptions for Change
charles a. riley ii
university press of new england
hanover and london
Appendix A
Guidelines for Portraying People with Disabilities
in the Media
Fear of the unknown. Inadequate experience. Incorrect or distorted information. Lack of knowledge. These shape some of the attitudinal barriers that people with disabilities face as they become involved in their
People working in the media exert a powerful influence over the way
people with disabilities are perceived. It’s important to the 54 million
Americans with disabilities that they be portrayed realistically and that
their disabilities are explained accurately.
Awareness is the first step toward change.
Tips for Reporting on People with Disabilities
• When referring to individuals with disabilities use “disability,” not
• Emphasize the person, not the disability or condition. Use “people
with disabilities” rather than “disabled persons,” and “people with
epilepsy” rather than “epileptics.”
• Omit mention of an individual’s disability unless it is pertinent to the
• Depict the typical achiever with a disability, not just the superachiever.
• Choose words that are accurate descriptions and have non-judgemental connotations.
These guidelines are used by permission. Copyright © 2002, National Center on Disability and Journalism.
Appendix A
• People with disabilities live everyday lives and should be portrayed
as contributing members of the community. These portrayals should:
Depict people with disabilities experiencing the same pain/pleasure
that others derive from everyday life, e.g., work, parenting, education, sports and community involvement.
Feature a variety of people with disabilities when possible, not
just someone easily recognized by the general public.
Depict employees/employers with disabilities working together.
• Ask people with disabilities to provide correct information and assistance to avoid stereotypes in the media.
• Portray people with disabilities as people, with both strengths and
Appropriate Words when Portraying People with Disabilities
Never Use
victim—use: person who has/experienced/with.
[the] cripple[d]—use: person with a disability.
afflicted by/with—use: person has.
invalid—use: a person with a disability.
normal—most people, including people with disabilities, think they are.
patient—connotes sickness. Use person with a disability.
Avoid Using
wheelchair bound/confined—use: uses a wheelchair or wheelchair user.
homebound employment—use: employed in the home.
Use with Care
courageous, brave, inspirational and similar words routinely used to describe persons with disabilities. Adapting to a disability does not necessarily mean someone acquires these traits.
Interviewing People with Disabilities
When interviewing a person with a disability, relax! Conduct your interview as you would with anyone. Be clear and candid in your questioning
Appendix A
and ask for clarification of terms or issues when necessary. Be upfront
about deadlines, the focus of your story, and when and where it will appear.
Interviewing Etiquette
• Shake hands when introduced to someone with a disability. People
with limited hand use or artificial limbs do shake hands.
• Speak directly to people with disabilities, not through their companions.
• Don’t be embarrassed using such phrases as “See you soon,” “Walk
this way” or “Got to run.” These are common expressions, and are
unlikely to offend.
• If you offer to help, wait until the offer is accepted.
• Consider the needs of people with d isabilities when planning events.
• Conduct interviews in a manner that emphasizes abilities, achievements and individual qualities.
• Don’t emphasize differences by putting people with disabilities on a
When Interviewing People with Hearing Disabilities
• Attract the person’s attention by tapping on his or her shoulder or
• If you are interviewing someone with a partial hearing loss, ask
where it would be most comfortable for you to sit.
• If the person is lip-reading, look directly at him/her and speak slowly
and clearly. Do not exaggerate lip movements or shout. Do speak
expressively, as facial expressions, gestures and body movements
will help him/her understand you.
• Position yourself facing the light source and keep hands and food
away from your mouth when speaking.
When Interviewing People with Vision Disabilities
• Always identify yourself and anyone else who might be present.
• When offering a handshake, say, “Shall we shake hands?”
• When offering seating, place the person’s hand on the back or arm
of the seat.
• Let the person know if you move or need to end the conversation.
Appendix A
When Interviewing People with Speech Disabilities
• Ask short questions that require short answers when possible.
• Do not feign understanding. Try rephrasing your questions, if necessary.
When Interviewing People Using a Wheelchair or Crutches
• Do not lean on a person’s wheelchair. The chair is a part of his/her
body space.
• Sit or kneel to place yourself at eye level with the person you are
• Make sure the interview site is accessible. Check for:
Reserved parking for people with disabilities
A ramp or step-free entrance
Accessible restrooms
An elevator if the interview is not on the first floor
Water fountains and telephones low enough for wheelchair use
Be sure to notify the interviewee if there are problems with the location.
Discuss what to do and make alternate plans.
Writing About Disability
One of the first and most significant steps to changing negative stereotypes and attitudes toward people with disabilities begins when we rethink the way written and spoken images are used to portray people with
disabilities. The following is a brief, but important, list of suggestions for
portraying people with disabilities in the media.
People with disabilities are not “handicapped,” unless there are physical or attitudinal barriers that make it difficult for them to participate in
everyday activities. An office building with steps and no entry ramp creates a “handicapping” barrier for people who use wheelchairs. In the same
way, a hotel that does not have a TTY/telephone (teletypewriter) creates
a barrier for someone who is hearing disabled. It is important to focus on
the person, not necessarily the disability. In writing, name the person first
and then, if necessary, explain his or her disability. The same rule applies
when speaking. Don’t focus on someone’s disability unless it’s crucial to
the point being made.
In long, written materials, when many references have been made to
Appendix A
persons with disabilities or someone who is disabled, it is acceptable for
later references to refer to “disabled persons” or “disabled individuals.”
Because a person is not a condition or a disease, avoid referring to
someone with a disability by his or her disability alone. For example,
don’t say someone is a “post-polio” or a “C.P.” or an “epileptic.” Refer
instead to someone who has post-polio syndrome, or has cerebral palsy,
or has epilepsy.
Don’t use “disabled” as a noun because it implies a state of separateness. “The disabled” are not a group apart from the rest of society. When
writing or speaking about people with disabilities, choose descriptive
words and portray people in a positive light.
Avoid words with negative connotations:
• Avoid calling someone a “victim.”
• Avoid referring to people with disabilities as “cripples” or “crippled.” This is negative and demeaning language.
• Don’t write or say that someone is “afflicted.”
• Avoid the word “invalid” as it means, quite literally, “not valid.”
• Write or speak about people who use wheelchairs. Wheelchair users
are not “wheelchair-bound.”
• Refer to people who are not disabled as “nondisabled” or “ablebodied.” When you call non-disabled people “normal,” the implication is that people with disabilities are not normal.
• Someone who is disabled is only a patient to his or her physician or
in a reference to medical treatment.
• Avoid cliches. Don’t use “unfortunate,” “pitiful,” “poor,” “dumb,”
“crip,” “deformed,” “retard,” “blind as a bat” or other patronizing
and demeaning words.
• In the same vein, don’t glamorize or make heroes of people with disabilities simply because they have adapted to their disabilities.
Your concerted efforts to use positive, non-judgmental respectful language
when referring to people with disabilities in writing and in everyday speaking can go a long way toward helping to change negative stereotypes.
Appendix B
Guidelines for Web Accessibility
This document provides a list of all checkpoints from the Web Content
Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, organized by concept, as a checklist for Web
content developers. Please refer to the Guidelines document for introductory information, information about related documents, a glossary of
terms, and more.
This list may be used to review a page or site for accessibility. For each
checkpoint, indicate whether the checkpoint has been satisfied, has not
been satisfied, or is not applicable. A list of current W3C Recommendations and other technical documents can be found at
TR. This document has been produced as part of the Web Accessibility
Each checkpoint has a priority level assigned by the Working Group based
on the checkpoint’s impact on accessibility.
Priority 1. A Web content developer must satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it impossible to access information
in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint is a basic requirement for
some groups to be able to use Web documents.
Priority 2. A Web content developer should satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it difficult to access information in
the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will remove significant barriers to accessing Web documents.
Priority 3. A Web content developer may address this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it somewhat difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will improve access to Web documents.
These guidelines are used by permission. Copyright © 2005 World Wide Web Consortium (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics, Keio University). All Rights Reserved.
Appendix B
Some checkpoints specify a priority level that may change under certain
(indicated) conditions.
Priority 1 checkpoints
In general:
1.1 Provide a text equivalent for every non-text element (e.g., via “alt,”
“longdesc,” or in element content). This includes: images, graphical
representations of text (including symbols), image map regions, animations (e.g., animated GIFs), applets and programmatic objects,
ASCII art, frames, scripts, images used as list bullets, spacers, graphical buttons, sounds (played with or without user interaction), standalone audio files, audio tracks of video, and video.
2.1 Ensure that all information conveyed with color is also available
without color, for example from context or markup.
4.1 Clearly identify changes in the natural language of a document’s text
and any text equivalents (e.g., captions).
6.1 Organize documents so they may be read without style sheets. For
example, when an HTML document is rendered without associated
style sheets, it must still be possible to read the document.
6.2 Ensure that equivalents for dynamic content are updated when the
dynamic content changes.
7.1 Until user agents allow users to control flickering, avoid causing the
screen to flicker.
14.1 Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a site’s content.
And if you use images and image maps:
1.2 Provide redundant text links for each active region of a server-side
image map.
9.1 Provide client-side image maps instead of server-side image maps except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric
And if you use tables:
5.1 For data tables, identify row and column headers.
5.2 For data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column
headers, use markup to associate data cells and header cells.
Appendix B
And if you use frames:
12.1 Title each frame to facilitate frame identification and navigation.
And if you use applets and scripts:
6.3 Ensure that pages are usable when scripts, applets, or other programmatic objects are turned off or not supported. If this is not possible, provide equivalent information on an alternative accessible page.
And if you use multimedia:
1.3 Until user agents can automatically read aloud the text equivalent of
a visual track, provide an auditory description of the important information of the visual track of a multimedia presentation.
1.4 For any time-based multimedia presentation (e.g., a movie or animation), synchronize equivalent alternatives (e.g., captions or auditory
descriptions of the visual track) with the presentation.
And if all else fails:
11.4 If, after best efforts, you cannot create an accessible page, provide a
link to an alternative page that uses W3C technologies, is accessible,
has equivalent information (or functionality), and is updated as often
as the inaccessible (original) page.
Priority 2 checkpoints
In general:
2.2 Ensure that foreground and background color combinations provide
sufficient contrast when viewed by someone having color deficits or
when viewed on a black and white screen. [Priority 2 for images, Priority 3 for text.]
3.1 When an appropriate markup language exists, use markup rather
than images to convey information.
3.2 Create documents that validate to published formal grammars.
3.3 Use style sheets to control layout and presentation.
3.4 Use relative rather than absolute units in markup language attribute
values and style sheet property values.
3.5 Use header elements to convey document structure and use them according to specification.
Appendix B
3.6 Mark up lists and list items properly.
3.7 Mark up quotations. Do not use quotation markup for formatting effects such as indentation.
6.5 Ensure that dynamic content is accessible or provide an alternative
presentation or page.
7.2 Until user agents allow users to control blinking, avoid causing content to blink (i.e., change presentation at a regular rate, such as turning on and off).
7.4 Until user agents provide the ability to stop the refresh, do not create
periodically auto-refreshing pages.
7.5 Until user agents provide the ability to stop auto-redirect, do not use
markup to redirect pages automatically. Instead, configure the server
to perform redirects.
10.1 Until user agents allow users to turn off spawned windows, do not
cause pop-ups or other windows to appear and do not change the current window without informing the user.
11.1 Use W3C technologies when they are available and appropriate for
a task and use the latest versions when supported.
11.2 Avoid deprecated features of W3C technologies.
12.3 Divide large blocks of information into more manageable groups
where natural and appropriate.
13.1 Clearly identify the target of each link.
13.2 Provide metadata to add semantic information to pages and sites.
13.3 Provide information about the general layout of a site (e.g., a site
map or table of contents).
13.4 Use navigation mechanisms in a consistent manner.
And if you use tables:
5.3 Do not use tables for layout unless the table makes sense when linearized. Otherwise, if the table does not make sense, provide an alternative equivalent (which may be a linearized version).
5.4 If a table is used for layout, do not use any structural markup for the
purpose of visual formatting.
And if you use frames:
12.2 Describe the purpose of frames and how frames relate to each other
if it is not obvious by frame titles alone.
Appendix B
And if you use forms:
10.2 Until user agents support explicit associations between labels and
form controls, for all form controls with implicitly associated labels,
ensure that the label is properly positioned.
12.4 Associate labels explicitly with their controls.
And if you use applets and scripts:
6.4 For scripts and applets, ensure that event handlers are input deviceindependent.
7.3 Until user agents allow users to freeze moving content, avoid movement in pages.
8.1 Make programmatic elements such as scripts and applets directly accessible or compatible with assistive technologies [Priority 1 if functionality is important and not presented elsewhere, otherwise Priority 2.]
9.2 Ensure that any element that has its own interface can be operated in
a device-independent manner.
9.3 For scripts, specify logical event handlers rather than device-dependent
event handlers.
Priority 3 checkpoints
In general:
4.2 Specify the expansion of each abbreviation or acronym in a document where it first occurs.
4.3 Identify the primary natural language of a document.
9.4 Create a logical tab order through links, form controls, and objects.
9.5 Provide keyboard shortcuts to important links (including those in
client-side image maps), form controls, and groups of form controls.
10.5 Until user agents (including assistive technologies) render adjacent
links distinctly, include non-link, printable characters (surrounded by
spaces) between adjacent links.
11.3 Provide information so that users may receive documents according
to their preferences (e.g., language, content type, etc.).
Appendix B
13.5 Provide navigation bars to highlight and give access to the navigation mechanism.
13.6 Group related links, identify the group (for user agents), and, until
user agents do so, provide a way to bypass the group.
13.7 If search functions are provided, enable different types of searches
for different skill levels and preferences.
13.8 Place distinguishing information at the beginning of headings, paragraphs, lists, etc.
13.9 Provide information about document collections (i.e., documents
comprising multiple pages.).
13.10 Provide a means to skip over multi-line ASCII art.
14.2 Supplement text with graphic or auditory presentations where they
will facilitate comprehension of the page.
14.3 Create a style of presentation that is consistent across pages.
And if you use images and image maps:
1.5 Until user agents render text equivalents for client-side image map
links, provide redundant text links for each active region of a clientside image map.
And if you use tables:
5.5 Provide summaries for tables.
5.6 Provide abbreviations for header labels.
10.3 Until user agents (including assistive technologies) render side-byside text correctly, provide a linear text alternative (on the current page
or some other) for all tables that lay out text in parallel, word-wrapped
And if you use forms:
10.4 Until user agents handle empty controls correctly, include default,
place-holding characters in edit boxes and text areas.

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