Calling athletes “superhuman”, “heroes” or “brave” in reports on disability sports could offend some disabled adults, a media survey carried out ahead of the Paralympics has revealed.
The English Federation of Disability Sport’s Media Research Report also showed a mixed response to the terms “victim” and “sufferer” from the 30 disabled adults interviewed.
Seen as negative were “lucky”, “sufferer”, “confined”, “impaired”, “wheelchair-bound” and “handicapped”, while “inspiring” and “disabled” were deemed positive words.
Said one anonymous interviewee: “Brave is a bit of a tricky one I think because it can border on patronising.”
Another added: “Sufferer, impaired, trapped, confined. They are all quite restrictive, they’re all quite negative. It’s about someone’s ability and what they can do, rather than what they can’t.”
The report comes as the world’s media prepares to cover the Paralympics in Rio, which starts on Wednesday.
It also indicated a preference among disabled adults for reports to “honestly and openly address the topic of disability”.
“This includes a preference for using clear and correct terminology to describe disability, rather than using vague descriptions such as ‘difficulties’ or ‘issues’,” the report said. “The overall sentiment seems to be that of ‘say it once, say it clearly, and then move on’.”
A dozen sports journalists were also interviewed for the report, alongside 20 non-disabled adults, who identified a number of barriers to “excellent reporting”.
They said problems included the lack of a clear sporting calendar for disabled sport, poor quality press releases and weak relationships with sports clubs and National Governing Bodies.
Journalists also claimed that more clarity and consistency over language and sports classifications would be useful.
“Making these resources easily accessible to journalists and ensuring links are being built between NGBs, local sports clubs and journalists is key to maintaining momentum to increase coverage of disability sports at all levels,” the report said.
Picture: Channel 4