THE Deaf Zimbabwe Trust (DZT) says it is concerned with the lack of appreciation by Journalists as well as the under-reportage of issues effecting People With Disabilities (PWDs) especially issues to do with their Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR).
By Patricia Mashiri
Speaking at a Disability Management Training for SRHR programme Implementers, Tinotenda Chikunya, the DZT Communications Officer challenged the media to raise awareness on SRHR issues in a disability inclusive way as well as play its part in disability friendly information dissemination.
The media can be a vital instrument in raising awareness, countering stigma and misinformation. It can be a powerful force to change societal misconceptions on SRHR and present persons with disabilities as individuals that are a part of human diversity. Lack of access to information in accessible formats for girls and women with disabilities, has resulted in many of them being totally unaware of their rights.
“Issues on disability in the media are often treated as objects of pity, charity or medical treatment that have to overcome a tragic and disabling condition. One way to show respect is simply to put the person before the disability. Include people with disabilities in stories that aren’t explicitly about disability,” said Chikunya.
She also added that when publishing articles dealing with PWDs it is wise to just ask how the persons would like to be characterized and avoid the use of offensive language. Examples of offensive language include freak, retard, lame, imbecile, vegetable, cripple, crazy, or psycho. Chikunya emphasised that disability is not an illness and people with disabilities were not patients.
Paidamoyo Chimhini, the DZT Programs Manager defined disability as impairment plus barrier and impairment plus accessible environment makes inclusion therefore people should work together to bring inclusion.
“There are different types of barriers which exclude PWDs from accessing SRHR information. These barriers include environmental barriers, these are barriers which are physical in nature for instance infrastructure. We can also talk of meetings, trainings without sign language interpreters to accommodate people with a hearing impairment. At the end of the day they have been excluded from getting information.
“We also have attitudinal barriers. These are negative perceptions, misconceptions, beliefs, myths about persons with disabilities by non-disabled people. Attitudinal barriers take centre stage when it comes to exclusionary practices by society,” Chimhini said.
A current research also shows that both the media and some of the PWDs do not know the disability framework and there is need to teach and guide them along those lines. These include the National Disability policy of 2021 which seeks to address the marginalisation and discrimination of Persons with Disabilities in Zimbabwe and empower them to improve their quality of life.