RIO 2016 PARALYMPICS
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games were a great opportunity for journalists to report on disability sports in a more inclusive way. Here are tips to make disability sports stories more meaningful.
The Paralympics has created this Guide to Reporting on Persons with an Impairment.
Here you can find a style guide:
The National Center on Disability and Journalism style guide (available in English and Spanish): https://ncdj.org/style-guide/
Here is information for the media for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics: https://www.paralympic.org/tokyo-2020/media
The Paralympic Games Explained by Ian Brittain (Routledge, 2016)
"The Paralympic Games is the second largest multi-sport festival on earth and an event which poses profound and challenging questions about the nature of sport, disability and society. The Paralympic Games Explained is the first complete introduction to the Paralympic phenomenon, exploring every key aspect and issue, from the history and development of the Paralympic movement to the economic and social impact of the contemporary Games.
"Now in a fully revised and updated second edition, it includes new material on hosting and legacy, Vancouver 2010 to Rio 2016, sport for development, and case studies of an additional ten Paralympic nations. Drawing on a range of international examples, it discusses key issues such as:
• how societal attitudes influence disability sport
• the governance of Paralympic and elite disability sport
• the relationship between the Paralympics and the Olympics
• drugs and technology in disability sport
• classification in disability sport.
"Containing useful features including review questions, study activities, web links and guides to further reading throughout, The Paralympic Games Explained is the most accessible and comprehensive guide to the Paralympics currently available. It is essential reading for all students with an interest in disability sport, sporting mega-events, the politics of sport, or disability in society."
"No Notion"Award to Vogue Brazil campaign for the Paralympic Games
GADIM Brazil guided media professionals in 2016 on how to discuss disability in a constructive way that is based on human rights.
The Paralympic Games in Rio 2016 brought challenges in representation of disability in the mass media, but we did not expect to see first up an example that misfired in such a blatant way: Vogue Brazil’s campaign, produced by the Africa Agency, #WeAreAllParalympians showed images of able-bodied Brazilian actors Cleo Pires and Paul Vilhena photoshopped to appear to be amputees.
Vogue Brazil’s campaign inspired GADIM Brazil to launch the “No Notion” award for its stigmatizing campaign and bestow it on the team involved.
So what’s the problem with the Vogue campaign?
1 – It appropriates the role that should have been played by real Paralympic athletes by using able-bodied actors instead to represent people with disabilities. This devalues people with disabilities by not considering them worthy of representing themselves and reflects “ableism”. “Ableism” is to disability what “sexism” is to gender and “racism” is to race – it is fundamentally the prejudice experienced by disabled people. Were the creators of the campaign unaware of the movement for people with disabilities to be represented by actors with disabilities? One of the defining mottos of the disability rights movement is "Nothing about us without us". Put simply, anyone willing to be an ambassador for the Paralympic Games should have known better what matters to people with disabilities. In reality, this is not different to “blackface” – remember when while actors would paint their faces to represent black people? We called it racism – and now we call this ableism.
2 - It assumes that anything goes as long as it results in more visibility of people with disabilities. Just because celebrities are willing to associate with a hashtag campaign - #WeAreAllParalympians – doesn’t mean that the message that is being promoted is a sound one.
3 - It uses the word “parathletes”, instead of Paralympic athletes. Paralympic athletes are athletes in every sense. They are not parathletes or semi athletes.
4 - The Vogue campaign’s art director, Clayton Carneiro, declared, “Participating in the campaign was an honor for me. The atmosphere in the studio was full of happiness and pride. Paulinho Vilhena and Cleo Pires made a beautiful speech before we started shooting that moved everyone involved. And for those who do not know, the whole idea of the campaign came from the Paralympics Ambassador, Cleo Pires. We knew it would be confronting, but we were there for a good cause, because after all, hardly anyone bought tickets to see the Paralympic Games”.
Let's see: - the atmosphere in the studio was full of happiness and pride (what else would be expected – perhaps sadness because it concerns people with disability? And who wouldn’t feel pride in being part of a charitable initiative for these poor people).
- Paulinho Vilhena and Cleo Pires made a beautiful speech that touched everyone (because when it comes to disability, it is always about the disabled people who need our help and the non-disabled people who are so generous in supporting their cause).
- Hardly anyone bought tickets to see the games (no doubt the image of two amputees actors will digitally make the audience feel the urge to rush to the box office!). These statements may seem provocative but they are intended to show the ways in which people with disability often feel patronized by well-meaning but nevertheless misguided initiatives that do not include or consult with them about what their perspective, how they wish to be represented and what really matters to them.
5 - Have you heard of inspiration porn? It is an expression coined by the late disabled activist Stella Young to express the way that media objectifies disabled people for the benefit of a non-disabled audience:
Visibility is very welcome to promote accessibility, inclusion and reduce prejudice, but not all visibility produces these outcomes. "Good intentions" can harm more than help.
We sincerely hoped that the campaign was suspended and that an apology was issued to people with disabilities.
Do not forget to read our Guide to Media with tips about how to discuss disability and, next time, talk to GADIM - we will be happy to help.