By Catia Malaquias

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted on 13 December 2006, more than 10 years ago, has 160 signatories and has been ratified by 172 State Parties. Article 1 describes the purpose of the CRPD:

“… to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.”

Under Article 9 of the CRPD, a key obligation of State Parties is to take appropriate measures to enable persons with disabilities “to participate fully in all aspects of life”, including education, employment and independent living.

The CRPD recognises that full participation of people with disabilities is hindered by negative social attitudes to disability – by low expectations – by prejudice against, and the stigmatisation of, disability – all of which operate as barriers excluding people with disabilities. Paragraph 5 of the Preamble to the CRPD provides:

“… disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.

Article 8 of the CRPD entitled ‘Awarenessraising’ is directed at combatting, in particular, attitudinal barriers to disability and specifically recognises the powerful role that the media can play.  Article 8 requires that State Parties foster respect for the rights and dignity of, and to combat stereotypes and prejudices against, people with disabilities by, amongst other things, conducting public campaigns and encouraging all aspects of the media to portray people with disability in manners conducive to their full and equal participation in society.

A measure central to the obligation of State Parties under Article 8 of the CRPD is inclusive public advertising – the inclusive portrayal of people with disability in governmental advertising and promotional public messaging campaigns. Public inclusive advertising has a direct bearing on society’s perception of and attitudes towards disability, but equally importantly it provides a standard and model for private inclusive advertising.

Few countries have established governmental policies to directly promote public inclusive advertising.  Some, like the United Kingdom, have adopted policies to increase the employment rates of people with disabilities in public media organisations, such as the BBC.  Section 337 of the Communications Act 2003 (UK) applies that policy position through broadcast licensing conditions to private media organisations. The strategy being that greater involvement of people with disabilities in content decisions will ultimately influence, increase and improve disability representation levels and quality in media products.

However, in 2016 Brazil took a bolder and more direct approach to inclusive public advertising.  The Federal District Government passed Law No. 5.369 that requires people with disability to comprise 5% of all people portrayed in governmental advertising and promotional materials.

Both Brazil and the United Kingdom are pace-setters in advancing inclusive public media.

[Cover photo © -RS-]

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