The Western Australian media has been urged to consider its role in acknowledging the rights, achievements and needs of people with disabilities.
The call has come from Acting Disability Services Minister Pam Beggs who said today that the mainstream media had a vital role in shaping community attitudes towards the estimated 191,000 Western Australians with disabilities.
Mrs Beggs made the call while commending ABC television's 7.30 Report in Perth for its positive reporting of issues of importance to the disabilities field. The Minister today visited the ABC's WA headquarters to present the 7.30 Report with a special certificate of commendation, on behalf of Disability Services Minister Eric Ripper.
Mr Ripper's ministerial commendation certificates were presented to highlight the significant efforts of organisations and individuals in seeking to improve the opportunities and quality of life of Western Australians with disabilities. To date, only five such certificates had been presented.
Mrs Beggs said the 7.30 Report had telecast a number of stories in the past year which highlighted the achievements, talents and rights of people with disabilities.
Subjects of some of the stories covered included:
· the Wellstead school near Albany which decided that everyone there would learn sign language, rather than send two children with hearing impairment to a special school in Perth;
· an electrical components manufacturer which was achieving significant international success and which employed Western Australians with disabilities;
· a scheme under which the general community could volunteer to be 'leisure buddies' of Western Australians with disabilities;
· the Dardanup Butchering Company, which won the Prime Minister's Employer of the Year award for its policy of hiring people with disabilities;
· an award-winning documentary 'Driving with Richard' which highlighted the difficulties of caring for a child with intellectual disabilities.
"This sort of sensitive and understanding coverage is precisely what is needed to change the general community attitude in this State to one which gives better recognition to the talents of Western Australians with disabilities, instead of focussing only on their problems," Mrs Beggs said.
"The media in general has a vital role in getting this message across - that Western Australians with disabilities have the same rights, needs and feelings as everyone else, and deserve to be given a fair go."
The Minister said the Bureau for Disability Services had recently launched a 'Finding Better Ways' campaign to boost public information and education about disabilities issues.
"Campaigns such as these rely heavily on their message being relayed by the general media, and I would hope that other media outlets follow the lead of the 7.30 Report in giving greater prominence to disabilities issues," Mrs Beggs said.