By: Dipo Djungdjungan Summa

On Tuesday, 19 September 2012, the AGENDA team gave a one-hour presentation at a workshop organized by GIZ (the German Agency for International Cooperation) for journalists from Southeast Asia. The workshop was attended by journalist from Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam, Myanmar, Timor Leste and Vietnam. AGENDA was invited by GIZ to present the project to the participants.

In addition to sharing information about AGENDA’s activities, the team also presented about the terminologies that should be used by media when covering news about disability and elections. Past findings from working with media have taught AGENDA that it is important that journalists are aware and understand about disability rights and use the correct terminology. AGENDA shared with the participants on the importance of using a rights-based model of disability and people’s first terminology in their reports and coverage.

The rights-based model of disability describes disability as a result of one’s interaction with the surrounding environment. On this model, disability results not only from the health condition of a person but arises from the person’s inability to participate fully as a member of a society because the existence of barriers, attitudinal and environmental, in the society.

“People’s first language” is a specific approach that should be used by the media, or other stakeholders, when talking about or to persons with disabilities. “People’s first language” requires the stakeholder to put the person first, not the disability (the disability is the adjective, not the noun). Labeling the person as their disability assumes their disability is their defining feature. Some examples of people’s first language are: “persons with disabilities” (instead of “handicapped”), “he uses wheelchair” (instead of “he is wheelchair bound”), and so on.

The AGENDA’s team expressed their hope that in the future media will put more emphasis in using “people’s first language” in their reporting. Also, no less important, AGENDA is hoping for the media to play an increased role in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. The media can increase the quality and quantity of news coverage related to persons with disabilities. By increased coverage, AGENDA hopes to improve the awareness of general public on the issue. Another role that the media can play is by providing information that can be accessible for persons with disabilities, especially for persons who have hearing or visual disabilities.