This is a training manual for organisations of disabled people, as guidance for seminars with the media on disability as a rights issue.

The media coverage of disability is one of the main obstacles to disability rights being given the priority they deserve. In every country in the world the media either ignores the rights of disabled people or portrays disabled people as pathetic recipients of charity or tragic but brave victims. The struggle for equality and freedom from oppression and discrimination, which is the real story of the disability movement, is given little space on radio, TV or the print media.

In 1998 Index on Censorship (a UK organisation promoting freedom of speech), the BBC World Service Education and DAA formed an alliance to gain funding for a programme of activities to raise awareness of disability as a rights issue in Africa. In January 1998, Index on Censorship produced a report on the situation of Disabled Africans and in April and May 1998, the BBC World Service produced a series of programmes in the six main languages of Africa (English, French, Portuguese, Hausa, Somali and Swahili) on disability as a human rights issue. A resource kit produced by DM supported these programmes. Then in October, 1998 a three-day seminar was held in Harare, Zimbabwe to bring together disabled and media delegates from all over English speaking Africa to share experiences and to work out a way for using the media to get the human rights message across.

This training manual is based on the experience of that seminar - learning from the successes and the failures of that event - and the training and experience of the writers as educators and trainers. We hope this manual will be used by the disability organisations whose delegates attended the seminar and encourage them to arrange similar seminars in their country and region. We also hope that it will encourage other readers to support similar events in their own countries, across the world.

There is a serious need for disabled activists to be able to use the media effectively - and for the media to understand disabled activists and our issues are as important and newsworthy as any other. We have to learn to make friends with the written word, the camera and the microphone so that we can make our message heard. The media needs us as much as we need them - they need our stories to fill their news-slots!

As well as the suggested programme for a seminar on media and disability rights, we have given organisational guidance and tips for trainers and workshop leaders which should prove useful for any training seminar or workshop that organisations may wish to run on any other subject.

The DAA Resource Kit 1 - How to Work with the Media, would be helpful when used alongside this training manual.



Training manual

These plans and guidance are for you to use as you wish. They are not rules that you have to abide by, but are an aid your own creativity in making a three-day event an exciting learning experience for all concerned.

Good training is stimulating and enjoyable

This manual should help that enjoyment by assisting you to make sure that you have:

  • clear objectives

  • established good partnerships with the media

  • sufficient funding for the seminar

  • a well-thought out programme

  • the right mix of participants and trainers

  • a good, relaxed working environment

  • the opportunity to problem-solve, share ideas and stimulate

  • a clear administrative strategy


You have to be absolutely clear about your objectives and ensure that you communicate them clearly and accurately to everyone concerned. Make them short and focussed. You cannot do everything in one seminar! Repeat them as often as you can - on funding applications, invitations, press releases, reports, programmes, anything and everything you send out regarding this training.


For the Harare Seminar our objective was: to raise awareness of disability as a human rights issue and to work with the media on how to get that message across.




As the objective is to work with the media, then the next task is to build a relationship with our media. You may already have contacts. Strengthen them, invite one or two to a planning meeting to help with technical advice

The seminar in Harare would not have been successful if we had not established a good partnership with the BBC World Service and other media people in Zimbabwe. The journalists felt that it was just as important for them to be part of the seminar as it was for the disabled delegates.

Journalists may be unable to participate in more than one day of a seminar but input from a variety of media people will widen your audience as well as give you a greater breadth of experience.

Helpful hints!

Make friendly contacts with journalists. If you or your organisation is invited to a reception, contact the press officer, who will be an ex-journalist who may be able to help you and suggest other useful contacts.

Find out where journalists like to meet informally and meet them (hotel bars are a good place). Do not forget they are as keen to get a good story as you are to tell one.

You can get a list of members of the Foreign Correspondents' Association at most Embassies.

There is a 'stringer' for the BBC World Service, Voice of America and CNN in most countries.

Tell the journalists about the Harare Seminar and the valuable experience it offered for journalists who took part.

Try to find journalists that are sympathetic about human rights issues. See who writes/produces programmes on these issues and contact them.


This is everyone's nightmare - but it has to be overcome if you want to have a good seminar. If you have clear objectives and have already built up a partnership with the media, then you are halfway to having a very good funding application. Building on the success of one seminar, your media friends may well be able to suggest new funding opportunities in your region/country.

Your organisation may have considerable experience in raising money but further information is given in DM's Funding Resource Kit, available from the DM office in London.

Helpful hints!

Try local businesses for sponsorship - they might be more enthusiastic about supporting projects involving the media.

Make sure you have a proper budget.

Do not forget the extra costs of disability or that these may have to be explained to a sponsor.

Do not forget to include sign language interpretation, alternate media costs, transport costs and any personal assistance needs that you may have to meet.

If you are inviting delegates from other countries, remember that they may have difficulties reaching your country - it is possible that they will have to stay extra nights and will expect those costs to be covered too.

Contact funders who are already supporting your work and talk to them about this project. It is a new area for them and they might be interested, especially when they see you have planned everything so well and know what you are doing.

Good Luck !


The programme

The programme should allow participants to:

Clearly analyse and understand the objectives

Problem solve


Devise further action

The programme for the Harare seminar lasted three days. We have divided the work into sessions so that you can arrange your own programme over whatever period you wish. Experience in Harare showed that clearly stating the aims for each session helped delegates to get the most from each session. We have suggested timings for each session.

Remember that people cannot learn efficiently for long periods. Educational psychologists suggest that 45 minutes is the maximum period over which most people can remain focused and fully involved. Where the session includes smaller work-groups, the sessions can be extended but, in any event, 90 minutes should be the longest trainees are expected to work without a break.

If there is sign language or other translation with only one translator, you will need to ask the interpreter how often they will need a break (probably every 45 minutes).

Opening Ceremony

15 minutes

This is not compulsory but it will raise the profile of your seminar and give you further media contacts.

A well-known personality or the head of your national TV or radio network, could open the event - this is likely to attract more attention from the media.

Ask the opening speaker to stay for the introductions and discus


Session 1


The aims for this session are:

to look at the situation as it is

to look at the way national and local media are responding (or not responding) to disability as a human rights issue, and

discuss how the media attitude has affected disabled individuals and the movement.

Suggested method:

15 minutes

Introductions and short discussion on objectives and programme.

25 minutes

Split into small groups and discuss problems that individuals/organisations have had with the media in either their presentation or disregard of disability rights stories.

30 minutes

Bring that back to the full group with highlights from each group with full discussion on how the problems arose and what is the possible solution.

(5 minutes are allowed for the change from groups to plenary an

Session 2


The aim of this session is for delegates to:

analyse what makes a good human rights story, and

how the media present positive images.

Suggested method:

1 hour

Split into groups again and look at positive images in the media. These can be positive images of disability or any other human rights issue.

Feed back to whole group and discussion on what are the shared elements of these positive images - how did the journalists make them into positive, rather than negative images?



Session 3


The aims of this session are:

to build on the learning of the previous sessions, and

to look at techniques for getting the message across.

Suggested method:

30 minutes

Discussion on how to get the message across. Brief overview of the five Ws and an H. (Who, What, When, minutes Where, Why and How - all questions that should be answered in any message giving.)

30 minutes

Individuals write their own story in 100 words trying to answer all those questions as clearly and excitingly as possible.

15 minutes

Two willing volunteers chosen to read out their stories and accept comment from the rest.

15 minutes

Discussion of what is to happen in the next two sessions, which will be practice interviews on TV and radio. Delegates asked to think overnight of stories they want to tell in interviews.



Sessions 4 and 5


The aim of these sessions is to:

continue practising techniques of message-giving, through simulated TV and radio interviews

Suggested method:

Each session should last 2.5 hours with a 15 minute break

Practical session in TV and radio studios to simulate real studio and interview conditions.

The delegates should be divided into two groups, the first group does TV and the second group radio for Session 4. They change round for Session 5.

Each group will have an introduction from their trainer giving general points for the most effective ways of getting the message across. Then each individual should take it in turns to be both interviewer and interviewee and comments given from the group on performance.

Technical requirements for these sessions:

A radio studio with play-back facilities

A TV studio with digital camera and sound, with play-back and (if possible) video recording facilities


Session 6


The aim of this session is to:

consolidate what has been learnt, both by disabled delegates and members of the media.

Suggested method:

20 minutes

Choose a journalist to talk to the group about what they think:

1. are the difficulties in understanding disability as a human rights issue, and

2. are the best ways of building co-operation between the disability movement and the media.

40 minutes

Questions and discussion

1 hour

Full feedback from all delegates and trainers and any observing media people on what they have learnt. It might be helpful to have warned everyone at the end of Session 5 that they will have to do this so that they can think about it and perhaps make some notes.



Session 7


Aims of this session are to ensure that:

what has been learnt will not be forgotten or unused,

people who have not been able to attend the seminars will have an opportunity of reaming and perfecting their media message-giving, and

there is a final plenary session, that agrees an action plan for delegates and either a joint statement or press release for the media.

Suggested method:

45 minutes

Delegates who have been so active for three days need to apply that sense of purpose to something practical. An action plan, which actually requires individuals to take some responsibility within a set timeframe, is helpful (Appendix 1 gives the Statement and Action plan of the Harare seminar). For Harare it was a requirement of the invitation to delegates that they would take responsibility for putting on similar seminars in their own countries or regions, creating an ever increasing circle of activity to focus on this important issue.

15 minutes

Leave time for saying thank you's and good-bye's. Remind delegates to complete the monitoring forms and leave them with you before they leave (rather than forgetting to post them!).

There are many other things that you can do to become more skilful when 'puffing the message across' on TV or radio:

Watch TV and listen to radio in an analytical way. See how pictures are made, listen to how experienced radio presenters put the message across. Note their use of humour, change of pace, without losing the focus of what they want to say.

Respond to bad press with letters etc.

Complain about advertisements that portray disabled people in a negative way.

Talk to advertisers and the media about accurately showing disabled people as ordinary members of the public.

Get involved with the media in formulating policy concerning the presentation of disabled people.

Encourage and support the provision of signing or subtitles (captions) on TV.

Support the employment of disabled people in the media.


Delegates and training

This is an intensive three-days in which everyone should have the opportunity to participate on an equal basis. It is very difficult to ensure that this happens with too many delegates taking part - even when you divide the delegates into smaller workshops. For the Harare Seminar, we agreed 15-20 delegates - which was a manageable number - and suggest that you limit the people at your seminars to a similar number. Quite apart from the need to ensure that all delegates participate on an equal basis, greater numbers will cause difficulties for the trainers.

It is important that there should be a good gender balance among the delegates. We managed to achieve this in Harare by asking organisations to make a special effort to send women delegates. It is also important that people with different impairments are able to participate.

Helpful hints!

  • A Chairperson will be needed for the Opening Ceremony and closing plenary session. 

  • The first two sessions need a trainer to facilitate them - this could either be a member of your organisation who is experienced in running training sessions or a suitably experienced disabled person who is not directly connected to the host organisation.

  • Session 3 requires a print journalist to work effectively.

  • Practical sessions 4 & 5 need TV and radio reporters/documentary presenters and as many technicians as the presenters feel that they require. The trainers should preferably have experience in human rights and your region and have some understanding of disability as a human rights issue. The trainers for these sessions will also tell you exactly what equipment they require.

  • Although studios may assist without charging you, to be safe, you will need to budget for hiring equipment, technicians and studios for the day.

  • It would help if copies of video footage and radio tapes were given to delegates, so that they can see/hear themselves and use them for other training events in the future.

  • One of the journalists will need to be selected to give the talk on the last day.

  • Make sure that all the delegates and trainers are well prepared before hand - they should have a draft programme and any background documents that you think would be helpful.

  • Don't forget that some journalists are not used to communicating with disabled people. They particularly need to understand:

- not to speak too fast if there is a need for interpretation

- that printed material needs to be available in other formats, for example Braille or large print.

  • Equip visually impaired delegates with a small tape recorder for the writing exercise, if they do not have a note-taker and ensure that all overheads or other written material that has not been seen before is read out and described.

Working environment

Comfortable, accessible meeting rooms and accommodation are essential factors for a good learning/working environment. It is also important that delegates do not get tired travelling from one place to another and are able to go to their rooms for rest, if necessary.

Helpful hints!

  • You will need to find fully accessible residential accommodation for delegates and trainers and ensure the availability and accessibility of the studios for Sessions 4 & 5. We recommend that the accommodation and meeting room are in the same place. You will probably need to travel to the studios, so lunch and drinks will have to be arranged there as well.

  • You will need a meeting room that is large enough to accommodate the delegates and sufficient tables and chairs. Remember that some of the delegates are likely to be wheelchair-users and that they need to be able to move around safely. Overhead projectors and flipcharts should be available.

  • To ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate equally, you might find it helpful to agree some ground rules for conducting the meetings at the beginning. A list of possible ground rules is provided in Appendix 2. These should be agreed at the beginning of the meeting and kept visible so that people can be reminded of them. These may be particularly necessary for the practical sessions.

  • It is vital to remember how nervous everyone feels (even if they do not show it) when they are on television or radio. Comments on a delegate's performance must be supportive and encouraging, rather than critical or discouraging.

  • Make sure that water is available throughout all the sessions and that tea, coffee and a light lunch are served at the appropriate times.

  • Ensure that the temperature of meeting rooms and studios is comfortable and that you know whom to contact to adjust the temperature in the room.



  • you have a programme that has a similar balance to the one we have suggested,

  • the trainers are enthusiastic and fully aware of what they are supposed to do, and

  • you have the organisation of the event under control

then you will have given the delegates and the media present the best possible environment in which to take up the opportunities of sharing experience and seeking solutions to problems.



Below is a list of administrative tasks that are involved in organising a seminar, once funding has been promised, the date and programme has been set and initial contacts with press have been made.


There may be other tasks that you will need to add-these are only for guidance

Pre-seminar - at least 6 months (preferably 9 months)-before date of seminar


  • Agree action timetable and who is going to do what.

  • Book venue, accommodation, refreshment, studios and equipment, ensure bookings are agreed in writing and that venues are fully accessible or will be by the time of the event. Give estimate of numbers - exact needs to be confirmed later.

  • Notify potential delegates of draft programme, venue and dates with registration form for accommodation, transport and information needs.

  • Confirm trainers, who should also receive the draft programme etc.

  • Start collating material for delegate's pack, including monitoring form.


At least 2 - 3 months before:

  • Chase up any registration forms not received.

  • Book sign language interpreter or language interpreters, if necessary.

  • If you are having simultaneous language interpreters, book the necessary equipment.

  • Confirm exact hotel bookings now that you have registration forms.

  • Make travel arrangements and arrangements for picking people up from airport to take to venue.

  • Book accessible transport to go from accommodation to studios (if necessary).

  • Finish collating material for delegate's pack and, if necessary, have material translated and put into alternate formats. Include monitoring form in delegate's pack (see Appendix 5).

  • Give trainers full instructions of what is expected of them and any requirements for people with sensory impairments

  • Contact airport with numbers of disabled people coming in; agree a strategy with them.

  • If any of the trainers are flying in with special technical equipment make sure that you have all letters, invoices etc. to help them clear customs.

  • You may have to think about the costs that might be incurred if one of the delegates is ill and requires medical attention. Will the delegates be required to have their own travel/medical insurance or will you have to bear any costs?

  • Prepare press pack of info. on timetable, biographies of trainers, O some background information - an example of a good and a bad story and/or pictures might be interesting. You might like to consider holding a press conference during the seminar - a lunchtime is quite a good time


1-week before

  • Send out press release about the event

  • Phone press day after to see if they are going to cover it.

  • Confirm menus with hotel and studio (remember that you do not to have to have meals at the hotel during the time you are all at the studios)

  • Make sure transport arrangements are all right and that you have completed arrangements for meeting at airport and transportation to accommodation.

  • Prepare per diem payments and expenses forms. Don't forget that some airports require airport tax in a different currency, such as dollars. Have you got enough of that currency to give those delegates who need it?

  • Make sure the delegate's packs are all ready and available in accessible formats.

  • Make sure that you have pencils and paper and perhaps a tape recorder for the writing exercise.

  • Are there flip charts in the meeting room?

  • Designate one person who is not involved in the seminars themselves to be available for inquiries, problems etc.

  • Make sure that the delegates all know their exact time- table, where they should go and how to contact the problem- solver.

After the Seminar

  • You might want to send out a press statement on any important O outcomes of the seminar or write a brief letter on what took place to your national/local newspapers.

  • Send 'thank you' letters to trainers.

  • Complete the income and expenditure account.

  • Send narrative and financial report to funders - this is most important and should be done as soon as possible, it will encourage them to give you funding for other projects. Include breakdown of returned monitoring forms.

  • A short narrative report could be sent to national/international disability or media in-house newsletters.