When it comes to showcasing the lives of those with a disability, the Attitude Foundation is leading the pack in Australia. It aims to give people with a disability a voice in media.
ANZ was a founding partner of the Foundation soon after it was established in 2014, reflecting a shared desire to change community attitudes and behaviour, and empower people with disabilities to participate in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
Media diversity is gaining traction in the national conversation with the recent launch of Media Diversity Australia which also seeks to promote more balanced representation in Australian media, reflecting the communities it serves.
In the US, the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts and the Screen Actors Guild are also working towards better disability inclusion.
We see particularly strong leadership in the UK, where the Creative Diversity Network has been championing the stories of people with disabilities on TV and other media since it was founded five years ago- here industry participants are collaborating rather than competing.
We can learn a lot from the CDN experience.
The CDN has two main aims: to bring together UK media organisations to promote and share diversity good practice and to build the business case for wider representation and inclusion.
Its members include major UK TV broadcasters and media organisations, such as the BBC, ITV, Sky, Channel 4 and BAFTA.
In 2017, the network launched Diamond (Diversity Analysis Monitoring Data), a world first industry-wide diversity monitoring system which will collect data about diversity in UK media.
As the UK’s Rio Paralympics broadcaster, Channel 4 is a great example of the leadership in this area. It has set its sights on being “the most creatively diverse broadcaster in Europe”.
In 2016 Channel 4 launched its ‘Year of Disability’, pledging through its 360⁰ Diversity Charter to showing diversity at every level, not just within the organisation, but also involving those who contribute to content.
A recently published report from the channel highlights some of the individual success stories of the last few years. For example, in 2016 it doubled the number of people with disabilities appearing in over 20 of its biggest programs.
Importantly, representation isn’t always about superhuman achievement or being a victim of circumstance.
“It’s important for society in general to see a disabled person just living their life like they would normally,” Amy Conachan, star of British soap Hollyoaks, told The Scottish Sun.
“I’d like to play parts that are much more about the character, casting me as an actor rather than the fact I’m in a wheelchair, and this part is nothing to do with the fact I’m in a wheelchair.”