Visit from Steve Brookes

Winner of Coventry University Disabled Media award for producing the best photographs.


I was presented with a certificate to commemorate my work from Access to Disabled. by Steve Brooks whom six years ago was chaired head of the Office for Disability Issues: a group of journalists finding ‘the missing image’ of disability in the media. 

To him, he believes that the Power Olympics should not be separated from the Olympics: disabled athletes are still more physically capable to compete in the Olympics than most of ‘normal’ people. 

For a long time the ‘medical model’ meant that the disabled were ignored by society because the disability defined their personality. However, during the 1970s the social model meant that disabled people now have a place in society and the media. 

Steve Brookes then asked: how do you define disability? You can’t. For him, he has a limp after physiotherapy from a car accident; people ask ‘how is your leg?’ when in fact his leg is a symptom of a damaged spine. To him, although he also has had two heart attacks and a stroke, the most important disabilities to him are his chronic dyslexia and his manic depression.

Out of 62m people in the UK, 11.2m are considered disabled and only 10% of these people are in wheelchairs. Yet still, a disabled person is on average spending £250 a month to live the same lifestyle as a ‘normal’ person. 

But how do you present the disabled to society through the media without painting an image of pathos. How do we make disability normal? Without questioning the intentions of the journalist/writer/photographer etc.(?) 

B&Q subtly use models in their adverts selling their products and their disability is not portrayed as the main theme thus allowing a viewer to come to terms with how disability does not define people.


What do I think? I am partial to agree that disability is portrayed quite negatively by the media, but at the same time it is the fear of disability that a company may not want to be slated for what their true intentions were for using a disabled person. It’s a tricky and delicate subject to talk about. 

The likelihood is that there are mental disabilities that aren’t as easily noticeable. For example, Steven Fry used to advertise Twining’s Tea, yet he is a manic depressive. This does not seem to matter, or is it that he is famous that we actually disregard his association with his disability?


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