What image of people with disabilities is conveyed in the media?? Still a much too one-sided and cliche-laden, finds the activist for disability rights, Raul Krauthausen. He demands more courage from those responsible.
CBA: What upsets you most when it comes to the media and disabled people??
Raul Krauthausen (disability rights activist): I am annoyed when people with disabilities appear in films, but played by non-disabled actors or actresses. It's like in the old days when white actors were painted black to play blacks.
CBA: And in the reporting?
Krauthausen: I am often bothered by the fact that disability is always mentioned, even if the person is a scientist, for example, and it is actually about a completely different topic. In the process, the diagnosis is also often presented in great detail, which I sometimes find encroaching.
In addition, I find it annoying that disabled people appear in the reporting mainly when it is about scandals: When authorities or companies discriminate against them or there is a medical sensation. People with disabilities are very often portrayed as victims or as medical objects and rarely as people who are simply engaged in an activity and where the disability is told in a completely casual way.
CBA: How do you see broadcasts that have a very explicit focus on disability??
Krauthausen: I see this as a kind of service broadcast. About the same category as a car show. That's just looking at who is particularly interested in it.
CBA: If you were a program director at a broadcaster, what would you change??
Krauthausen: I would not hire people with disabilities simply to meet a given quota. I would equip the editorial offices with disabled people, as reporters, as editors, and not only use them in the archives, the canteen or in the janitorial area, as has been the rule up to now.
CBA: How is accessibility developing in the media in Germany in the meantime??
Krauthausen: There are already some offerings for the various target groups in the form of audio description, subtitles, sign language and easy-to-understand language. Public broadcasters do more than private broadcasters, not least because they are obliged to do so – but still: There could be much more in Germany. The English BBC, for example, has now completely subtitled its broadcasts.
CBA: What are the requirements for reporting on people with disabilities without prejudice?
Krauthausen: I always give journalists the following tip: If you see someone with a disability and find them interesting as a protagonist, try to look at the disability like a hair color. And if you want to mention the disability, you sort of cross-check it. If one were to formulate a sentence like: "Despite the blond hair, he/she bravely masters his/her own fate."The decisive factor is always: Is the disability relevant to the topic of the report at all??
CBA: A few years ago you founded the platform Leidmedien.de was founded to provide journalists with assistance for unbiased reporting. Does it work?
Krauthausen: In the beginning, we only provided wording aids and showed that neutral language can already make a difference. Instead of writing "is confined to a wheelchair," simply write "is confined to a wheelchair". We then received more and more requests from journalists who wanted more linguistic reflection. This is how we researched and expanded our service offering. Now there are workshops, theme services, interview tips and handouts to avoid putting your foot in your mouth…
CBA: One keyword here is "disability mainstreaming" – can you explain that??
Krauthausen: The idea behind this is to sensitize the social and media mainstream to such an extent that disabled people simply appear more self-evident and self-confident.
For example, as moderators and presenters, or as experts on topics that have nothing to do with disability. Due to improved training opportunities in recent decades, more and more people with disabilities are also making careers and have something to say publicly. In addition, it is simply no longer in keeping with the times to regard the disabled person only as a problem child. But he or she is someone who, for example, also likes to have sex – still a very big taboo subject.
CBA: Do you see positive developments?
Krauthausen: There are very big developments in the U.S. and U.K. Germany is still having a hard time. Yes, there are some disabled presenters and moderators – but then they usually only talk about disabilities with the target group of disabled people. Of course, people stay in their own bubble.
But why is there no poor-amputee reporter at the Olympics, for example, who asks the athletes questions?? I think, there one would have to develop strengthened and purposefully people with handicaps journalistically, so that they are simply more strongly medially present and the whole becomes a larger matter of course.
The interview was conducted by Karin Wollschlager.