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Having a disability is not always the story, says diversity expert Vidar Hjardeng

By Oliver Lines

Diversity is more than just talking to minorities about issues that impact only them, according to a leading expert.

Speaking at Leeds Trinity’s Journalism Week, ITV’s diversity consultant Vidar Hjardeng told students about his concept of incidental diversity and how the media had changed to accommodate it.

“Just because you talk to wheelchair users about access to a building, doesn’t mean that they don’t have as many views about Theresa May or Gareth Southgate,” said Vidar.

“Whatever the national, local or international news stories are that people are talking about, then that is what diversity is all about; involving everyone as much as possible.

“The fact that they have a disability or that they’re of a certain age group is incidental as to why they’re included in a piece and it’s incidental to them being featured in a story.”

Credit: Twitter (@tinyliney)

Vidar, who was awarded an MBE in 2012 for services to visually impaired people and to broadcasting, also warned journalists about stereotyping.

He said: “I happen to be visually impaired, just like two million other people in the UK, but that doesn’t mean we all have the same views.

“It’s the same way that people of a particular faith won’t have the same views.

“Don’t put people into boxes or stereotype – it’s a lazy trope.”

Newcastle-born Vidar added that a disability was not always the story and that it did not always need to be included in a story.

“If you’re talking to a Paralympian, for example, then you’re talking to an elite athlete,” he said.

“Yes, they’ve got a disability or a condition which is why they’re at the Paralympics, but they’re there first and foremost because they’re brilliant at what they do in an athletic context.

“They are there to be applauded for their achievements as an athlete.”

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