Athletes with a disability have long been underrepresented in mainstream sports and e-sports media, but a positive shift is underway. As we gear up for the Disability Expo, the first UK event dedicated to all stakeholders in the disability space, it’s crucial to explore the role of media in shaping public perceptions of disability in sports.
Representation in mainstream sports media
Mainstream sports media has historically focused on non-disabled athletes, often sidelining the incredible achievements of athletes with disabilities. However, there has been a noticeable change in recent years, with more coverage dedicated to para-sports and athletes competing in events such as the Paralympic Games. This shift has allowed the public to witness the exceptional skills, determination, and resilience of athletes with disabilities.
Paris 2024: What you need to know about the summer Olympics and Paralympics https://t.co/pHNVKhbe1M
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) January 26, 2024
The inclusion of para-sports in mainstream media not only provides visibility to disabled athletes but also challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about what people with disabilities can achieve. Through thoughtful storytelling, interviews, and highlighting their achievements, mainstream sports media has the power to reshape societal attitudes towards disability in sports.
We’re asking the sports media industry to help fill the gap in disability representation.
— The Ability Group in Sport (TAGS) (@TAGS_Sport) December 7, 2022
E-Sports and disability representation
The world of e-sports is another arena where representation is gaining ground. With the rise of competitive gaming, more opportunities are emerging for individuals with disabilities to showcase their talents on a global stage. However, the representation of disabled gamers in e-sports media is still a work in progress.
Good luck today to Daniel & Christopher, the first students with disabilities to take part in the @AoC_Sport #FIFA 21 Cup. Esports are popular at National Star where staff work with students to make games accessible. Daniel uses six switches when he plays. https://t.co/9rIWrLQZPY pic.twitter.com/vFg2sGHNMT
— National Star (@TheNationalStar) March 10, 2021
Advocacy groups and individuals within the gaming industry are pushing for increased representation, recognising the potential of e-sports to be an inclusive space for all.
The role of the media
The media plays a pivotal role in shaping public perceptions of disability in sports. Positive representation not only fosters inclusivity but also inspires future generations of athletes with disabilities. Let’s remind the media that by showcasing their stories, triumphs, and challenges, media outlets contribute to breaking down barriers and creating a more accepting and understanding society.
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