Thanks to Catherine Townsend from Wellspring Advisers for allowing me to share this fascinating and incredibly useful report by the Frameworks Institute on how to talk about disability and human rights. The report is the first stage in a longer exercise in finding more effective ways to communicate about disability in more persuasive ways. Perhaps the most challenging question posed in the report is whether the language of rights is particularly helpful at all where disability is concerned….
In summary, the report found that disability organisations (those working in the international sphere) typically:
- Blitzed on unframed facts and numbers which only experts understand
- Described the situation of disabled people without explanation
- Concentrated on problems while offering few if any solutions, removing any sense that problems could be fixed
- Relied on crisis stories, which also tends to overwhelm (or excuse) any sense that problems can be addressed
- Employ vivid stories, which counterproductively locate problems at the individual rather than systemic level
I expect we can all recognise these fault-lines in communications around disability and other areas. Frameworks recommend that effective communication demands:
- Using thematic stories, not individual stories, to foreground the systemic factors shaping outcomes
- Leading with values, not facts/information
- Combining urgency with efficacy – people must feel a problem can be solved. Set out the solution
- Avoiding crisis language
- Developing and deploying examples that emphasise solutions, not problems
- Connecting outcomes to society as a whole – explain how the positive or negative outcomes facing disabled people affect everyone
- Contextualising numbers – don’t expect them to speak for themselves
- Avoiding myth busting – it tends to affirm the myths, not overcome them.
Fully adopting the lessons herein can be deeply challenging, but the rewards could be enormous.