Author Topic: Disability etiquette, how to approach this tactfully  (Read 2721 times)

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kitchcat

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Disability etiquette, how to approach this tactfully
« on: January 17, 2013, 11:51:54 AM »
I work as a photographer/editor for a publication at my university. I recently got an assignment that covers accessibility for students with disabilities on our campus. It requires I take photos of SWDs  (using a wheelchair, power scooter, crutches, etc.) using various features like ramps and elevators.

Normally, we photographers tend to just hang around waiting for a photo opportunity, approach a person, explain what we're working on, and ask to take a photo. However, I feel this could be a sensitive subject and think this approach would be in poor taste (not to mention inconvenient as my campus has a small student population, equating to a limited number of SWDs). I can't imagine saying, "Hi! I see you have a disability! Can I take your photo for [publication] for our story on accessibility?" It would put me off if I were on the receiving end.

I emailed the reporter for the assignment requesting any specific names of SWDs that she plans to interview or knows personally, hoping that I can email these students individually asking for permission to photograph them.

Do you have any suggestions on how to word these emails? I'm already aware to use person-first descriptions (e.g., saying "student with disabilities" instead of "disabled student"), but I'm not sure how to actually go about the message.
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Yvaine

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Re: Disability etiquette, how to approach this tactfully
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2013, 12:00:11 PM »
Do you have an activist group on campus for accessibility issues? People who are already involved in activism are less likely to mind bring approached for your article. For example, I have a friend who is blind and is heavily involved in advocacy organizations, and she's in the news all the time.

faithlessone

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Re: Disability etiquette, how to approach this tactfully
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2013, 12:11:26 PM »
Do you have an activist group on campus for accessibility issues? People who are already involved in activism are less likely to mind bring approached for your article. For example, I have a friend who is blind and is heavily involved in advocacy organizations, and she's in the news all the time.

This was going to be my suggestion. My university had a small group of people who were often in the campus news about various issues (accessibility, equal opportunity hiring on-campus, exam arrangements etc.) They even were featured in the university prospectus.

Coley

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Re: Disability etiquette, how to approach this tactfully
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2013, 12:28:03 PM »
Do you have an activist group on campus for accessibility issues? People who are already involved in activism are less likely to mind bring approached for your article. For example, I have a friend who is blind and is heavily involved in advocacy organizations, and she's in the news all the time.

This is a good idea. Also, your campus may have an ADA officer on staff who is responsible for coordinating accommodations for persons with disabilities. He or she might be a good contact person.

PurpleFrog

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Re: Disability etiquette, how to approach this tactfully
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2013, 12:28:26 PM »
Could you just approcab the student and say something like:
We're doing a story on accessibility in the collage, and we'd like some pictures of students taking advantage of the adaptations, so would you mind if I photographed you using this ramp/lift/whagever, for x publication.

Make the question about the adaptation rather than the fact they have a disability.
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Jaelle

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Re: Disability etiquette, how to approach this tactfully
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2013, 12:34:27 PM »
Hi, OP. I'm a newspaper reporter and have been an editor. (Not a photographer, though. :) But give me time.)

Going through an activist group is a good idea. I'd keep it in mind as an option if you have issues finding someone.

However, I do think you could approach someone about this more openly. You don't have to say, "Hi! I see you have a disability!" However, "I'm working on a story about access; would it be OK if I took your picture?" offers them the chance to politely decline (or agree) and you can go from there. They know they have a disability and as such, they certainly know about access issues. I'd just be matter of fact.

However, if the reporter can steer you to someone, so much the better. I'd word the email with a similar matter-of-factness, something along the lines of "Reporter said she's speaking to you about this story. Can we set up a time to get together for a photo?"

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rashea

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Re: Disability etiquette, how to approach this tactfully
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2013, 01:08:01 PM »
OP, if the story covers accessibility other than physical accessibility, you might need to expand your thoughts on what to take pictures of. A Deaf student could be photographed sitting in a classroom looking at the Professor and interpreter for example.

I second the idea of contacting the office on disability in your school and asking them if they know of students who would be interested.
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Oh Joy

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Re: Disability etiquette, how to approach this tactfully
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2013, 01:18:33 PM »
Can you make it about using the visible tool and not the person using it?  We're looking for pictures of students using a wheelchair on a ramp/navigating with a cane/etc...

Best wishes.

Onyx_TKD

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Re: Disability etiquette, how to approach this tactfully
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2013, 01:36:45 PM »
Could you just approcab the student and say something like:
We're doing a story on accessibility in the collage, and we'd like some pictures of students taking advantage of the adaptations, so would you mind if I photographed you using this ramp/lift/whagever, for x publication.

Make the question about the adaptation rather than the fact they have a disability.

If you end up approaching students around campus, I think this is a good approach. You are doing a story on accessibility, not disabilities. The reason you're approaching them is because they are people using the accessibility adaptations, not because they have a disability. Really, even though it makes sense to focus most of the article on those who need the adaptations, anyone who is using the adaptation in the manner it was designed for (going up a ramp in a wheelchair or with crutches, reading signs in braille instead of visually, etc.) could offer some insight into the issue of campus accessibility, whether they have a disability or not. In fact, such a person might be able to highlight the differences between the level of accessibility most students are accustomed to versus that available using the adaptations.

I would also talk to the reporter and see if she would be open to having students with disabilities approach her if they have comments about campus accessibility or want to offer to discuss it. Then, instead of just asking for a photo opportunity, you could offer them the information for how to get more involved in contributing to the article, if they're interested.

QueenfaninCA

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Re: Disability etiquette, how to approach this tactfully
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2013, 01:43:35 PM »
I'd probably use various available social media and other online ad service (like craigslist) to announce that for an article on bla you are looking for SWD to take some pictures (and give examples of the types of pictures).

onikenbai

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Re: Disability etiquette, how to approach this tactfully
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2013, 09:05:32 PM »
Hit up the accessibility office (calling it the disability office is passe) and they will hook you up with people who won't mind being photographed.  Also, they will be able to connect you with people who are using the less obvious campus facilities for disabilities... there is a lot more out there then door buttons and ramps.  Go check out the braille printer or the book reading gizmo.  Find out where we all write our exams if we can't do it with the rest of the class.  Meet the note takers and find out how the seriously dyslexic person gets notes from lectures even though taking notes while following the lecture is impossible for them.  It takes a small army of people to make sure that stupid stuff like trouble holding a pencil doesn't prevent a perfectly capable mind from graduating.

cicero

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Re: Disability etiquette, how to approach this tactfully
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2013, 03:23:07 PM »
Could you just approcab the student and say something like:
We're doing a story on accessibility in the collage, and we'd like some pictures of students taking advantage of the adaptations, so would you mind if I photographed you using this ramp/lift/whagever, for x publication.

Make the question about the adaptation rather than the fact they have a disability.
that's what i think.

and if accessibility is a problem on the campus, then physically disabled students might be happy to help

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