Stigma and discrimination against people living with disabilities, including people with mental health conditions, is one of the major obstacles that prevent them from reaching their full potential. Stigmatising and discriminatory terms create situations where people with disabilities feel worthless and unfit to contribute to the development needs of societies and thus, curtail their potential. These experiences are perpetuated by the community, families, religious groups, and the media, partly due to misunderstandings, perceived social danger, and misinformation on disability and mental health.
Addressing this issue, a media training was organized in March this year for 10 practitioners from selected media houses in Accra on the use of positive disability language in media programmes and reporting. A review meeting with the same participants was organized on 19th July 2022 at the Miklin Hotel for the participants to share their experiences of how the training has helped in their media activities. All participants reported that the training increased their knowledge on stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities including people with mental health conditions and were now included in positive disability language.
Significant among the changes made by the participants was a reporter who has created a disability bulleting column in her radio station’s news slot to highlight disability issues. Another participant also conducted step down trainings for five of her colleagues at work on the use of positive language and continue to monitor them. Also, one participant recounted that after sharing the new knowledge with her colleagues’, she got the support of the supervisor to embark on assessing the accessibility of public buildings in the capital. Their report revealed that most of the old public buildings still did not have disability access even though the 10 years grace period for construction of ramps had elapsed.
The participants as part of further promoting positive disability language drew action plans that will guide their work. The review meeting was organized by Hope for Future Generations and the PsykForum as part of the Social Behavior Communication Change and Stigma Reduction for Mental Health and Disability Inclusion project being implemented across four regions (Northeast, Savannah, Central and Greater Accra Regions) with funding from the UK Government and supported by Ghana Somubi Dwumadie.
Apart from promoting positive disability language in the media space, the project has developed positive disability language in four local languages (Ga, Mampruli, Fante and Gonja) that are being used to sensitise the public. Twenty (20) advocates from the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), traditional and religious leaders and the associations of persons with disabilities are part of the stakeholder communities supporting the implementation of the intervention in the regions.