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Importance of the chosen topic in sociology

Present applied sociology on the group of people referred to as "People with Disabilities", making reference to the mass media and how the media portrays this group pf people in the society. Think about your understanding of mass media, ownership and control as well as representation and stereotyping. How has this impacted on People with Disabilities in various communities, for example within an African, Asian, European or American community setting? 

The mass media is a very significant element of everyday life and has been vital in the distribution of valuable information to the society. Nevertheless, the impact of the mass media on society is sometimes not beneficial to the society, specifically in relation to disability, where the media continues to add to the inequity and injustice done to disabled people. This present report is on the topic of how the media portrays people with disabilities in the society. The report is based on the understanding of mass media, control, and ownership as well as stereotyping and representation, as well as how it has impacted such people in different communities. It outlines the strategies required to address the scenario and bring changes and future implications and hope. 

Particular attitudes, misconceptions, and beliefs are forms of major concern in the society that that compel certain groups of people to be secluded from the major section of the society. These factors attribute for significant barriers for the people to lead a normal life and become a part of the society.  One such section of the society is the disabled people. Negative attitude as reflected by reduced awareness, reduced contact and reduced meaningful communication between disabled and non-disabled people is, therefore, topic of debate at all times (Zhang and Haller 2013). According to van Deursen and Van Dijk (2014) the mass media has always been the most suitable medium for assigning the personal experience of the common people. This implies that the mass media is an efficient vehicle for bringing about the greater understanding of the views of the disabled people. Mass media holds the potential to bring changes in the perceptions of the people about the disabled people. Images and stories shared by the mass media impact on the thinking of common people and thereby establish social norms. People with disabilities have faced issues due to misrepresentation, defamation, and lack of representation in the mass media (Briant, Watson and Philo 2013).  This is the reason the topic of how the media portrays disabled people finds an important place in the society.

How this group has been represented in the media

Some commonly recurring stereotypes have been identified in the mass media by the disabled people. These are: the disabled people as an object of violence or curiosity, as pathetic and pitiable people, as evil or sinister, as laughable, as negative atmosphere, as the super cripple, as his enemy, as a burden and as being unable to take part in the daily life. The stereotypes are mainly evident on television, advertising and press. Disabled people have been under-represented on television. Disabled people rarely appear in quiz shows and soaps. In current affairs programs, stories about these people are usually linked to medical treatment and special achievements (Ellis et al. 2014). As opined by Devotta, Wilton and Yiannakoulias (2013), in fictional programs, disabled characters are seen in thriller and crime film genres as criminals or powerless victims. In the majority of cases, disabled characters are placed not because they are ordinary people but to indicate specifically the opposite. The use of disablist language is common in many of the leading newspapers, and another significant aspect is that news about disabled people is usually featured for their sensation value instead of their precision. There are two main ways in which the advertising industry takes part in discrimination. Firstly, disabled people are many times excluded and purposefully ignored by mainstream advertising agencies. Secondly, some advertisers use a particularly distorted view of disabled people for raising money.

The under-presentation of disabled people within the media has understandable implications for the power of the disabled people to impact how it is portrayed in the media. This has the influence on the community at large. Under-presentation of the disabled people has huge social implications (disabilityplanet.co.uk, 2016). The absence of disabled people from mainstream programming along with the connection between disability and medicine underpins the misconception that disabled people are ill and unable to take part in everyday life. These people, therefore, suffer from low self-esteem and confidence. The motivation to become an active part of the society is lost, and the battle with the society continues for ever. In all communities, the unlimited losers are these people who need much console and pacification. It adds to the plight of the people who need to battle against the discrimination to get into the mainstream society. Participation in daily activities of life along with the ordinary people is difficult in terms of getting equal rights and justice. In a society where people from different backgrounds live together, the scenario is the same (disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk, 2016).

Implications and effect on this group in various communities

According to Happer and Philo (2013) the main issue with mass media and disabled people is that disabled people have no say in how the television, advertising and the press represent them. There is a requirement to set up different policy initiatives emerging from the disability rights movements for rectifying this situation. This includes more involvement of the media personnel, especially those who are in the higher authority positions. Recruitment of disabled people with greater efforts to work in the media would be a desirable approach. One method of making corporate awareness of disability related issues somewhat less problematic is by integrating such people at different levels of the media organizations. Research needs to be conducted for producing a set of guidelines for enabling advertisers and media personnel avoid discrimination in the future. McCombs (2013) states that a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation has to be put in place for providing a framework for effective policies that can ensure disabled people integrate completely in the mainstream social and economic life of the society. The framework also would send a clear signal throughout the society that discrimination against such people is not acceptable in today’s time. This framework of legislation would make sure that the different initiatives are effectively practiced. 

Several programs have to be put in place for changing the focus from misinformed, cloying and sensational disability coverage undermining legal advances and public policy towards coverage that leads to the end of disability discrimination by raising public awareness.  Such programs would establish a mechanism for monitoring and informing coverage of disability in dramatic representations, news report, and internet report. The goal would be to advance accurate identification of disability issues. Such measures would help in promoting positive images of people having disabilities among the society. The development will be a step in the right direction with the aim of achieving many heights. The discrimination encountered by the disabled people is an individual prejudice, and therefore, attitudes and policies are to be made for providing equal opportunities to such people.  Though the media is beginning to change, it is obvious that much more work is required by the disabled community and the media industry, where both learn from each other (Wolbring et al. 2013).

Conclusion

In the background of the rising awareness of the impact of mass media on lives of people with disability, it is desirable that changes are brought in the minds of people and their attitude towards these people. Stereotypes about disabled people are ingrained in the society and reflected in coverage of the mass media. More attention has to be given to ensure that the mass media is used as a positive force in eliminating stigma and discrimination against the disabled people. The legacy of demeaning, institutionalizing and isolating disabled people needs to be stopped and raising public awareness would be a good approach in this regard.

References

Briant, E., Watson, N. and Philo, G., 2013. Reporting disability in the age of austerity: the changing face of media representation of disability and disabled people in the United Kingdom and the creation of new ‘folk devils’.Disability & Society, 28(6), pp.874-889.

Devotta, K., Wilton, R. and Yiannakoulias, N., 2013. Representations of disability in the Canadian news media: a decade of change?. Disability and rehabilitation, 35(22), pp.1859-1868.

Disabilityplanet.co.uk. (2016). Media Representation of Disabled People: A Critical Analysis. [online] Available at: https://www.disabilityplanet.co.uk/critical-analysis.html [Accessed 7 Apr. 2016].

disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk. (2016). [online] Available at: https://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/Barnes-Media.pdf [Accessed 7 Apr. 2016].

Ellis, K., Goggin, G., Huntsinger, J. and Senft, T., 2014. Disability and social media. The Social Media Handbook, pp.126-143.

Happer, C. and Philo, G., 2013. The role of the media in the construction of public belief and social change. Journal of Social and Political Psychology,1(1), pp.321-336.

McCombs, M., 2013. Setting the agenda: The mass media and public opinion. John Wiley & Sons.

van Deursen, A.J. and Van Dijk, J.A., 2014. The digital divide shifts to differences in usage. New media & society, 16(3), pp.507-526.

Wolbring, G., Mackay, R., Rybchinski, T. and Noga, J., 2013. Disabled people and the Post-2015 development goal agenda through a disability studies lens. Sustainability, 5(10), pp.4152-4182.

Zhang, L. and Haller, B., 2013. Consuming image: How mass media impact the identity of people with disabilities. Communication Quarterly, 61(3), pp.319-334.

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