Images of Disability in News Media: Implications for Further Research


Author/Creator ORCID




Towson University. Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies


Citation of Original Publication



Even in the 1990s, little research has focused on how local media can more often and more accurately cover the disability community and disability issues. Some positive news coverage arose in the late 1980s because of the disability community's growing status as a minority group striving for equal civil rights. Other positive coverage reflected the consumer model, in which equity in society for people with disabilities is seen as good economic sense. A new negative image, however, includes the business model, which depicts economic equity for people with disabilities as costly to the American business community. Another issue is whether people with disabilities are given a "voice" in the news media--are they speaking for themselves? Mass media researchers should be looking for valid sources in the news; they should continue to assess who is speaking for the disability community in the news media. Communication research should continue to assess why and how news media prop up "ableist" views within society. Research must also assess journalists' attitudes about disability. The news media have begun to successfully change some of their language about disability--they are now likely to use "disabled" rather than "handicapped," or person with AIDS rather than AIDS victim. The media's powerful place in the social construction of people with disabilities may become a positive, rather than negative, force, and the future research of communication scholars must be focused on assessing this potential change.