Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) commends The New Age for its empowering portrayal of a disabled teenager, Michael Moeketsi. The 17-year-old high school pupil was given a platform to express his views on the issue of disability in the article “Disability not an inability for this teenager” (The New Age, 16/06/2011, p.20), where he shed light on his experiences as a disabled teenager.
The article reports that he relies on his lips to type as he cannot use his hands and portrays him as an ambitious young individual who has risen against all odds. Through his achievements he has admittedly proven wrong many, who had misconceptions about him.
The tone of the article is uplifting and inspirational. The opening paragraph, which bears testament to this, states: “Being disabled does not imply that one will never do what able bodies can do”.
The article focused largely on what the teenager can do instead of what he cannot do. This is evident in the impressive headline “Disability not an inability for teenager” and in a quote from Michael which states: “I can now type 60 words a minute and I want to improve to 93 words a minute. I know I will achieve it soon.” In accessing this quote, The New Age undoubtedly, overlooks this teenager’s disability and instead portrays him as an able bodied person, who can do most of the things that people without disabilities can do.
MMA believes that the media wield a great influence on how people view disability and persons with disabilities. Therefore, to change people’s attitudes and perceptions of disability for the better, one must begin with looking at the messages media send on a particular subject. Accordingly, a more informative and positive portrayal similar to this article in The New Age, goes a long way in changing people’s misconceptions surrounding a subject like disability and in so doing, challenges stereotypes.
MMA is GLAD that The New Age gave surmounted attention to the important issue of disability and accessed a child on this prevalent issue. This article focused on advancing the ideas and voices of those who are often marginalized and is by all means, a meaningful contribution to the development, empowerment and moral upliftment of children and people with disabilities.