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Call for journalists to improve disability knowledge

7 August 2013
Call for journalists to improve disability knowledge!
A report being launched today says that the lack of disability awareness and responsiveness within the New Zealand media is huge. This lack of awareness contributes to journalists, more often than not, seeking out the voices of organisations run for, and not by, disabled people and also the voices of family/whanau members rather than of the disabled people themselves, according to the report - which investigates how disabled New Zealanders are portrayed by the media. The report will be launched this evening, by the Minister for Disability Issues: Hon Tariana Turia, at a function in the Beehive.

This report is the work of a group of disabled people’s organisations, led by disabled people and known as the NZ Convention Coalition Monitoring Group. “The project team and all those associated with the work are themselves disabled people” said Rachel Noble, chair of the NZConvention Coalition Monitoring Group.

The report provides an analysis of the portrayal of disabled people by the major print, television and radio media in 2012.
Rachel Noble said that “The New Zealand media performs well when it comes to reporting disability-related matters in some areas, such as the breadth of issues covered. Looking at the analysis of 2012 media items highlighted in the report, the outlets surveyed carried coverage about accessibility, reasonable accommodations, the abuse and neglect of disabled people, income support and the social and political participation of disabled people. By covering such stories, the media enabled New Zealanders to gain a better understanding of some of the key issues faced by their fellow disabled citizens.”

However, it’s not all good news. Rachel Noble said “the media personalities who were interviewed for the report, demonstrated a generally confused attitude to impairment and disability issues. In holding and conveying these attitudes, media personalities are by no means alone. These attitudes are a reflection of those held by the general population and unfortunately the media tend to reinforce these.

She also points out that the disability community would welcome the retirement by the media of terms such as ‘crippled’, ‘wheelchair bound’, ‘handicapped’, ‘mad’ and ‘senile’, in stories about people with impairments.”

The report notes that language does have a bearing on how societal groups are perceived and treated. “While the right of journalists and commentators to espouse their views is recognised, they should appreciate that impairment could either affect them or a family member or friend at any time” Rachel Noble said today.

The report will be submitted to the New Zealand Government.


Brief fact sheet – about the monitoring process

New Zealand ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) in September 2008.

Article 33 of the convention relates to the national implementation and monitoring of the Convention.

Article 33.1 provides that Government establish a focal point "for matters relating to the implementation of the present Convention". That focal point is the Office for Disability Issues in the Ministry of Social Development.

Article 33.2 provides for the establishment of the Independent Monitoring Mechanism for the monitoring of the implementation of the Convention. Government has designated three organisations to jointly perform this function - the Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsmen and the Convention Coalition.
Article 33.3 says that disabled people, through their representative organisations, must be involved in monitoring the Convention's implementation.

To this end, eight disabled people's organisations (DPOs) formed the Convention Coalition at the beginning of 2010. The Convention Coalition provides the civil society component of the obligations for national implementation and monitoring of the Convention under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by its member organisations. The eight national DPOs are:
• Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand Inc.
• Balance New Zealand
• Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand
• Deafblind (NZ) Incorporated
• Disabled Persons Assembly (NZ) Inc. (DPA)
• Nga Hau E Wha
• Ngāti Kāpō O Aotearoa
• People First New Zealand Inc.
In particular, the Convention Coalition provides an ethical mechanism for disabled people's input into the monitoring of their rights, as stated in the Convention. Through its links to Disability Rights Promotion International, based at York University, Toronto, Canada, the Convention Coalition ensures a sustainable process for this input into the future.

Target group

The Convention Coalition involves the widest group of disabled people possible in any or all of the elements of monitoring. Disabled people are defined (in consistency with the Convention's understanding of disability as an evolving concept) as including those who have long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments. Every effort is made to ensure the monitoring activities cover people with all types of impairment, drawn from rural and urban areas in the North and South Islands including Maori and Pasefika.

Long term goals of the Convention Coalition

New Zealand is obligated to monitor the implementation of the Convention. By supporting disabled people's organisations to be an equal partner in the monitoring framework, and to link with a reputable international project supporting disabled people to monitor the experience of their rights, the Convention Coalition can ensure it honours the spirit of the Convention and develop a sustainable process. The Convention Coalition anticipates this will help to further the implementation of the Convention in New Zealand and of outcomes for disabled people.

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