Socialinis darbas

patirtis ir metodai

From poverty to sports achievements: the image of people with disabilities in Lithuanian media

Review

This article is based on the analysis of the results of 120-day (from 1 June 2017 until 15 November 2017) monitoring of Lithuanian national media channels (print, internet dailies and TV) and material from journalists’ focus group discussions. Descriptive statistical analysis has demonstrated that most of the information on disability in the media is provided by
online newspapers, although topics related to disability are rare in the majority of the media, with more than half of publications mentioning disability episodically, without deeper analysis of integration problems that still prevail in the country. The framing analysis has shown that people with disabilities are more often depicted as holders of rights than
victims, but their overall image in media publications is slightly more negative than positive (there are more frames related to the disabled people being at poverty risk, also being presented in contexts of crime and accidents than frames emphasizing positive context, success stories and achievements). The public is poorly informed about the opportunities
and the needs of people with different disabilities, as the disabilities are frequently generalised. The analysis of media sources has revealed that information on disability in the media is most often reflected from the point of view of public authorities, while people with disabilities, their relatives and NGOs play a less significant role in providing information to the media. During the focus group discussions, the journalists were more critical of the integration situation of people with disabilities than they seem to be in publications. The journalists do not believe that the media can play a part in solving the integration problems of the people with disabilities in Lithuania, but they emphasize their own role in improving
public understanding. According to the internationally accepted definition, social work is a human rights profession. Therefore, its practitioners must be able to understand and recognize the stereotypes that affect their clients’ quality of life. Both in the media and in everyday life, people with disabilities face depreciation, regret, continuous emphasis
of clinical aspects of their disabilities. Explanation and understanding of social and structural obstacles are rare. Therefore, the analysis of factors that contribute to the perpetuation of discrimination and inequality serves as a basis for designing new social work methods that help to ensure successful implementation of human rights and principles of equality
and non-discrimination.
Keywords: disability, people with disabilities, disability image, media representation, media monitoring, stereotypes, human rights, discrimination.

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