Mrs Vivian Ama Aubyn, a mental rights advocate, has urged journalists to promote positive words of description when reporting on Persons with Disability (PWDs) and Persons with Mental Health Conditions (PMHCs).
“This is a step towards changing the narrative of derogation, stigmatisation and discrimination against PWDs and PMHCs,” Mrs Aubyn, a Board Member of PsyKforum, a non-governmental organisation that promotes mental well-being, said on Saturday.
Mrs Aubyn gave the advice at a workshop in Cape Coast to train journalists on the need to end derogatory languages against PWDs.
It formed part of the ‘Social and Behavioural Change Communication and Stigma Reduction’ for Mental Health and Disability inclusion under the Ghana Somubi Dwumadzi Project.
It was funded by the UKAID with Hope for Future Generations as its implementing partner.
Ms Aubyn said language, religion and culture remained the topmost factors influencing stigmatisation and discrimination, which had huge impact on self-esteem, adding that the media had a major role to play in those areas.
“Sometimes disability is a perspective, let’s address them by their personality and not by their condition, our reportage can help break the barrier and build an all-inclusive system.”
Journalists must be the ‘agenda setters’ ensuring that laws around disability were functioning as stated in the Constitution, she said.
Ms Aubyn urged the media to charge duty bearers, conscientise the people, and commend those doing well to indirectly create the needed awareness to put everyone on his or her toes.
Mr David Yarboi Tetteh, the Central Regional Vice Chairman of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), said many great stories about disability were left unpublished, adding that the challenges, woes and stories of PWDs needed to be heard.
PWDs must be given the opportunity to express their thoughts and emotions and be given fair and equal opportunity in the media, he said.
“Let’s allow them to speak for themselves other than allowing their guardians to speak for them, they have a story to tell, some of the stories are very revealing,” Mr Tetteh said.
“Treat adult PWDs as adults, ask them how they want to communicate, don’t just assume. Be patient with them and understand their position as PWDs, don’t even offer to help when they have not asked for it.”
Words like; confined in a wheelchair, handicap, afflicted, abnormal, and deformed were all derogatory languages that made them feel less of themselves and must never be included in media reportage, he said.
Mr George Frimpong, the President of the Ghana Federation for Disability Organisations, said the media must be the “unheard voice of PWDs, projecting the essence of positive languages.”
“We will get to the place where everybody sees us as part of the society when the media expose us positively; we don’t need pity. We need respect.”