• Wants participants to increase awareness of people with Disabilities

By Leila B. Gbati

Internews Liberia is urging journalists, media organizations, and civil society groups to raise awareness by using their different media platforms and sources to report on problems that affect people with disabilities (PWD) in Liberia, whether they be good or bad.

At a one-day media and civil society discussion on individuals with disabilities on Saturday, December 3, 2022, Internews Country Director Lien Bach made the call (PwD).

Internews Liberia hosted the one-day Roundtable at the Monrovia Christian Fellowship Center, 9th Street, Sinkor, in observance of International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The event’s global theme was “Transforming solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fueling an accessible and equitable world.”

Lien Bach made a special statement in which she expressed her gratitude to the media and CSOs for coming to the media roundtable to commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Internews Liberia, according to Bach, is a part of a regional media initiative that is being undertaken in four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and is meant to improve the quality and equality of PwDs’ coverage in the media.

According to her, during the past two years, the project has increased the ability of individual journalists, media organizations, and networks to cover topics and give PwD in Liberia’s voices greater prominence.

She claims that Internews provides assistance in collaboration with a few chosen journalists to expand and enhance the coverage of disability issues.

“I recently saw an article with the headline “people with disabilities rights are seriously infringed” in a newspaper. This clearly demonstrates that people with disabilities are now being included in society, politics, and the economy, and we can observe that many PwD in Monrovia who are survivors of accidents and other causes are also making progress in the counties “Bach threw in.

In order for people to be aware of the problems that surround and afflict PWD, she also underlined the significance of the media increasing awareness about PWD through their various media sources.

The 2023 elections are quickly approaching, so what can be done to support PwD voters or candidates in the election, Bach emphasized, and he urged the media and civil society organizations to support them by raising awareness of them and talking about government involvement with them.

She ended by saying, “I hope we have a great discussion today and find a solution as partners to help in this regard.

Alonso D. Dixon, Secretary General of the National Union of Organizations of the Disabled (NUOD), added that the Roundtable is crucial because it promotes awareness of issues that have an impact on PwDs’ quality of life.

Alonso argued that if Liberia wants to join the rest of the world in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, it must begin making greater efforts to ensure that people with disabilities (PWD) are not left behind.

He emphasized that because PwDs are underrepresented in so many areas, it is imperative that the general public join the disabled community in pushing for the inclusion of PwDs in all developmental plans.

Alonso said they need more training for the media to understand the kind of names that they call PwD because some of the names that journalists use are hash names, which make them feel mobile, and as a result, they expect the media to send out more informative messages to the public rather than calling them hash names. Alonso was speaking (presenting) on the topic “Media and PwD CSOs Partnership for Active Civic Engagement.”

He continued, “They also need the media to be accessible because they typically see media institutions’ offices and studios that are not accessible and have many stairs, making it difficult for a person in a wheelchair to get to the studio if they have a pressing issue and want to send out a message or make an SOS call.”

We need media outlets to provide news in clear language so that their hard-of-hearing friends can understand the message, as well as media outlets to be more accessible to persons with disabilities.

We encountered this during the COVID government limitations that took place during the lockdown; the message spread quickly, making it difficult for those with hearing impairments. He recalled an incident in Barnesville where a member of his community with hearing impairments was assaulted by security because he was outside during the lockdown and was unaware of the limits. In order to enlighten people with hearing impairments and support inclusive information exchange, sound-language interpreters must be employed by media organizations (particularly television).

In addition, Alonso urged media organizations to be inclusive and begin hiring PWD who have degrees in mass communication because the theme of this year’s International Day of the Disabled is SDG Goal 8, which discusses fair and decent employment opportunities, economic growth, and the reduction of inequality.

He emphasized that they see people with disabilities in other countries, but in Liberia, their seats cannot be created by the government, so they need the media to talk about these issues and other international protocols. He added that elections are approaching and that they need the media because the National Commission on Disabilities Act mentions the legislature creating three seats for PwD in parliament, but they have not gotten those seats since the Act was passed.

“We need the media to check on the government in the same way that they check on political party manifestos for development activities; they need to look at political party manifestos and see what they have there for PWD because if we don’t have the political will in Liberia, we will just be crying around here and won’t be included,” said one journalist. He said, “We need an inclusive society that would speak to all sorts of discrimination against PwD if Liberia is to attain the SDGs by 2030.

Speaking on the topic of “changing the narrative to amplify and increase plurality in voices of PwD during the election,” Charles Coffey, president of the Press Union of Liberia, said that PwD’s daily lives include economic and social inclusion, that they are victims of substances because of their condition, that their human rights are not respected, that more opportunities are not provided for them and that more media institutions are not highlighting their plight.

According to Coffey, the society’s rich variety, which includes all of its members, including those with disabilities, can support the advancement of all people’s rights and improve their fundamental rights.

He asserted that PwD has a human right to vote and that the media’s job is to hunt for images and stories that can have a significant impact on public opinion and society standards.

PwD are reportedly underrepresented in the media and, when they are, they are frequently stereotyped poorly and given inaccurate representation.

Coffey stated that it is common to see PwD represented as objects of pity, charity, or medical care who must overcome a terrible or crippling condition or, on the other hand, presented as superheroes who have achieved great things in order to motivate able-bodied people to follow the example set.

He suggested that media outlets may be a crucial tool for spreading knowledge, battling stigma and false information, and a strong force in eradicating societal misunderstandings and portraying those with disabilities as unique members of human diversity.

He stated that the media can actively contribute to the effective and successful integration of PwD in all aspects of societal life by raising awareness of disability issues, the voices of PwD, and their situation. He added that “to amplify their voices, give them more time; it is expected of media institutions, especially on electoral matters, to develop special programs for PwD; and reporters of various media outlets must be trained on how to cover PwD issues.

Many journalists from Monrovia’s various media outlets, as well as PWD and CSOs, attended the discussion. “Digital rights and inclusion for PwDs” and “the election process and PwDs’ civic involvement” were just two of the issues that were covered.

In 1992, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 47/3, which established December 3 as International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD).

The purpose of the day’s celebration is to increase awareness of disability issues and rally support for the dignity, rights, and general welfare of people with disabilities.

The global commemoration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 2022 will focus on the overall theme of innovation and transformative solutions for inclusive development and address the following thematic issues in three different interactive dialogues: This conversation will cover the connections between employment, knowledge, and skills needed to access employment in an innovative, quickly evolving technological landscape for everyone as well as how assistive technologies can improve accessibility to employment and be mainstreamed in the workplace. It will also cover innovation for disability-inclusive development in employment (SDG 8). This debate will address innovations, useful tools, and best practices to eliminate inequities in both the public and private sectors that are disability-inclusive and interested in encouraging diversity in the workplace in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 10 (SDG 10). Sport serves as an excellent example of best practices and a hub for innovation, employment, and equity. It is a sector where all of these factors are present.

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