Conference to ask if media helps or hinders portrayal of disability

The University of Leicester is hosting a conference on disability issues.
The University of Leicester is hosting a conference on disability issues.

DISABILITY groups in the Harborough district are being invited to a one-day conference exploring the media’s portrayal of disability.

The symposium, entitled ‘Mediating Disability in Broken Britain’, is being held at the University of Leicester and will be examining the media’s representation of disability issues.

It is being hosted by the university’s Department of Media and Communication at Embrace Arts in the Richard Attenborough Centre on Friday, November 9, from 10.30am to 4pm.

It will be examining issues such as the extent to which the media can help people think differently about disability in Britain, with a view to providing an agenda for future research in the area.

Areas will be explored such as whether the media’s role helps or hinders the campaigns of activists and charities aimed at influencing government policies that affect disabled people.

The event will be bringing together local policy-makers, media, politicians and activists against the backdrop of the government’s Big Society project and welfare reform.

It is part of the Festival of Social Science, run by the Economic and Social Research Council, which runs from November 3 to 10.

Confirmed speakers include:

*Anne McGuire MP, the Shadow Minister for Disabled People

*Robert Adamson from the Liberal Democrat Disability Association

*Cllr Manjula Sood from Leicester City Council

*Sue Marsh, a blogger from the non-partisan disability campaign. The Broken of Britain

*Marc Bush, the head of research and policy at disability charity Scope

*Julie Howell of Giraffe Sense Mentoring

*Filippo Trevisan from the University of Glasgow

*Dr Anna Claydon from the University of Leicester

*Dr Emma Briant from the University of Glasgow

*Dr Vicky Tolfrey from The Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sports

*Jayant Mistry, former wheelchair tennis Paralympian

The event is being organised by Dr Paul Reilly, a university expert in politics and new media with a specific interest in how social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter can be used by disability activists to enhance their communication strategies.

Dr Reilly said: “We hope the event will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to debate how the media can re-frame disability in such a way as to empower disabled people and help these groups shape future policy-making.

“The media framing of disability has arguably become even more crucial as public spending cuts and reforms to benefits such as Disability Living Allowance and Employment Support Allowance begin to affect disabled people.

“Recent campaigns to highlight disabled people’s issues such as #spartacusreport have appeared to gather momentum in online spaces rather than through traditional media outlets.

“The news media is often criticised by these groups for its negative stereotyping of disabled people, and television depictions of disability often appear tokenistic or circumstance-specific, for example, the Paralympics.”

The venue, Embrace Arts, is one of only two purpose-built and fully-inclusive arts centres in the East Midlands.

For details of how to register to attend the conference, email Dr Reilly at or phone 0116 2522829.

More information is also available at the symposium website.