A new disability radio program in Adelaide is aiming to eliminate ableism and change how society thinks, approaches and perceives disability.
De-Stigmatised is Radio Adelaide’s new segment to air on Sunday afternoons, presented and produced by people with disability.
One presenter is Jarad McLoughlin, 33, a qualified news journalist who has been a volunteer with Radio Adelaide for the last five years.
At five years old he was diagnosed with autism, back then referred to as Asperger’s syndrome, and self-admittedly grew up shy and introverted to the point where socialising became difficult, causing him to keep his ears “glued to the radio, listening to whatever was on the airwaves”.
Jarad says he would spend many hours in his bedroom, “pretending to be a disc jockey of [his] own fictional radio station” playing tunes from John Farnham to Kasey Chambers.
The concept of De-Stigmatised initially took a documentary path when Jarad, back in 2011, wanted to produce a piece on how people with disability face stigma and discrimination daily. The project was in collaboration with the Julia Farr Youth Group, of which he was a member. Established in 2008, Julia Farr Youth is an advisory group for people living with disability aged 18 to 30 and advocates for equal opportunity and social inclusion.
“I was to be filmed for a period of 12 months as I embarked upon some training and mentoring to land myself a job in radio broadcasting and become the first on-air presenter/producer with autism,” Jarad says.
When the project fell through Jarad spent the next seven years tweaking the framework, pitching it to Radio Adelaide as a radio segment two months ago.
After a review of the proposal by Radio Adelaide’s Programming Committee, the show was unanimously backed and given the green light for September, with the first show to be aired this Sunday at 3pm.
Radio Adelaide’s People and Programs Manager Nikki Marcel says the committee feels the show is an important part of their company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“[The committee] agreed that this program was in line with our station’s objectives to give voice to underrepresented people and issues within the community.”
Jarad says the program is about re-educating society to “discard discriminatory, antagonising, patronising rhetoric and language that negatively affects disabled people, their families and friends”.
“De-Stigmatised is about having conversations that others in society refuse to participate in. Our core mission is to analyse, dissect and discuss every single ideological and philosophical opinion or thought process from the very people who have a disability or impairment who we will interview with hilarity, clarity and intellectual diplomacy,” he says.
Alongside Jarad in the studio will be Angus Fowler and Aiden Marks, who will both carry the roles of co-presenter, co-producer, segment producer and panel operator. Angus has cerebral palsy and, alongside Jarad, produces stories for The Wire, a national news and current affairs program, in collaboration with 2SER in Sydney and 4EB in Brisbane.
Aiden, who has autism, revels in television production and filmmaking. While Aiden volunteers at Channel 44, a community television station in Adelaide, it will be both Aiden and Angus’ first time in the studio, having just completed an eight-week training course in broadcasting.
“Having people with lived experience talking about the issues that are important to them is of great benefit to not only those within the community but is also an important aspect of normalising difference,” Nikki says.
“It also educates listeners about disability issues from a first person perspective, which is rarely heard in mainstream media.”
Jarad hopes the show’s listeners will “refrain from arguing off the authenticity and accuracy that [people with disability] have when talking about their own lives”.
“By concentrating on diversity, connectedness and inclusion in all spectrums of mainstream, commercial, publicly funded and community-based media networks, we can work and convene together to prove that disability isn’t just about wheelchair bondage, Zimmer frames or other stereotypical caricatures,” he says.
As a 30 minute program, each show will centre around two or three topics surrounding two eight-minute interviews, “offering audiences a lived, first person perspective of being amongst those who inhabit the disability community”.
Interviews for this Sunday’s inaugural show include Rick Neagle from the Count Me In Foundation and Graeme Innes from Attitude Foundation Australia, who will talk about “media representation and the problem of non-disabled/neurotypical actors ‘crippling up’”.
Jarad says episodes will “showcase dedicated, authentic and multifaceted interviews centred on numerous topics including sports, pop culture, arts, academia, sports, self-advocacy, public transport, social disadvantage and inclusivity, employment, travel, housing and LGBTIQ+ health and relationships”.
“The wide range of guests that the team will have also helps to showcase the differences and commonalities of living with disabilities and be a power advocacy tool,” Nikki says.
Jarad says growing up there were no disabled media practitioners or news journalists he could aspire to, and nothing like De-Stigmatised.
“I never imagined that disabled people had the capability of working in the media industry, let alone believing a journalist or radio presenter who is also autistic could be experienced enough to be hired,” he says.
With a growing focus on social inclusiveness and the promotion of equal opportunity for all Australians on a local, state and national level, using a highly accessible platform such as radio has the power to help people connect with others and feel empowered to share their experiences.
As Jarad says, “the most impactful conviction in doing this program is having a proper conversation”.
Tune into Radio Adelaide 101.5FM this Sunday, 3pm, for De-Stigmatised.
For more information on disability support and services, please visit DisabilitySupportGuide.com.au