Social Policy, the Media, and Misrepresentation

By Bob Franklin | Go to book overview

Chapter 14

Out of the closet

New images of disability in the civil rights campaign

Ann Pointon

Introduction

The events leading to the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) dramatically raised the growing profile of disabled people in Britain and prompted media and public recognition that there was a 'disability movement', even though that movement had been in existence for some time. The movement had been seeking comprehensive civil rights for disabled people through a series of Private Members' Bills proposed by the then opposition Labour Party. These attempts were consistently opposed by the Conservative government but such was the heavy cross-party and public support in favour of legislation, that it was forced to make a reluctant U-turn. The limited and piecemeal DDA which was eventually introduced fell far short in its provisions from the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill preferred by the disability movement. But the fact that it was enacted at all signalled a profound change in the political agenda on disability. 'A very able pressure group' was the headline of an article by Victoria Macdonald in the Sunday Telegraph which referred to the 'wind of change' that the government had somehow 'missed'. 'The most remarkable point' Macdonald continued 'was the Government's belief that the civil rights bill could be shelved without such a fuss; for the growth of the disability pressure group-indeed the growth in the numbers of “disabled”-is one of the features of British life in the past 20 years' (15 May 1996).

Over the last decade new images of disabled people have entered the media catalogue, as a result of disabled people taking protest to the streets to publicise a variety of issues-including benefits, lack of access to transport and buildings, patronising television Telethons and demands for civil rights. These images showed disabled people chained to inaccessible buses or trains, blocking traffic in the streets, crawling along the pavement outside the Houses of Parliament, and more recently in 1997 protesting at proposed benefit cuts, smearing symbolically angry red paint on themselves and the pavements of Downing Street.

Although these new images contradicted traditional media stereotypes of dependency, physical limitation, or individual 'courageous' achievement, they

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Social Policy, the Media, and Misrepresentation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures and Tables vii
  • Introduction 1
  • References 13
  • Part 1 - Producing Social Policy News 15
  • Chapter 1 - Soft-Soaping the Public? 17
  • References 36
  • Chapter 2 - Media Coverage of Social Policy 39
  • Chapter 3 - Charitable Images 51
  • Chapter 4 - Dying of Ignorance? 69
  • References 84
  • Part 2 - The Media Reporting of Social Policy 87
  • Chapter 5 - Poor Relations 89
  • Notes 102
  • Chapter 6 - Home Truths 104
  • Chapter 7 - The Picture of Health? 118
  • References 133
  • Chapter 8 - Media and Mental Health 135
  • Note 144
  • Chapter 9 - Thinking the Unthinkable 146
  • Note 156
  • Chapter 10 - Are You Paying Attention? 157
  • References 172
  • Chapter 11 - Exorcising Demons 174
  • Part 3 - The Media Reporting of Social Policy 191
  • Chapter 12 - Bulger, 'Back to Basics' and the Rediscovery of Community 193
  • References 205
  • Chapter 13 - The Ultimate Neighbour from Hell? 207
  • Notes 220
  • Chapter 14 - Out of the Closet 222
  • Chapter 15 - Social Threat or Social Problem? 238
  • Note 251
  • Chapter 16 - They Make Us Out to Be Monsters 253
  • Index 269
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