The more people with disabilities are seen on mainstream media, the more attitudes will change about accessibility and inclusion in the world. This perspective expressed by Australian lawyer, Meg Dalling, in an article for ANZ Bluenotes. Dalling says the media industry is slow to catch on to the fact that employing people with disabilities can benefit their organization by both reflecting the society it operates in as well making good business sense.
In Australia, the Attitude Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, is leading the charge towards a more diversified media industry. Established in 2014 by people who are passionate about inclusion, the foundation wants to give people with disabilities a voice and empower them to participate in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life. In the U.S., the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, and the U.K.’s Creative Diversity Network (CDN) are similar bodies which have established a foothold towards greater inclusion for those with disabilities. Dalling thinks the Australian media can learn from work already completed by CDN which has collaborated with the main U.K. media companies such as the BBC, ITV, Sky, Channel 4 and BAFTA. The network unveiled the first industry-wide diversity monitoring system this year called Diamond, (Diversity Analysis Monitoring Data), which will collect data about diversity in U.K. media. It has already revealed some success stories including the doubling of the number of people with disabilities appearing in its biggest programs last year.
But, casting people with disabilities means much more than storylines portraying them as victims of circumstance or overcoming adversity, as Amy Conochan, star of the British soap Hollyoaks explains, It’s important for society in general to see a disabled person just living their life like they would normally,” says Conochan. “ I’d like to play parts that are much more about the character, casting me as an actor rather than the fact I’m in a wheelchair.”
Back in Australia, The Attitude Foundation thinks the U.K.’s experience with inclusion of people with disabilities on TV can have a powerful impact on mainstream attitudes. The foundation aims to increase the depiction of people with disabilities by launching a new TV series, where Australians with disabilities can tell their stories. It also hopes to follow CDN’s lead by collaborating with Australian industry bodies.
For more information about the importance of Media Diversity, click here.