Team Serbia: Tackling Media's Role in Disability Advocacy

Team Serbia lined up behind a counter of food
Team Serbia films episode of a cooking show featuring people with disabilities
Two partners from Serbia and one from the U.S. joined forces to reimagine the use of the media as a platform for disability rights advocacy.

Media can be a powerful tool for empowerment. The rapidly changing media landscape gives people with disabilities the tools to tell their stories directly.

“The media have perhaps the most important role in disability advocacy,” said Jelena Jovovic of the Novi Sad School of Journalism in Novi Sad, Serbia. “We receive the majority of our information through the media and, based on this information, we form our attitudes.”

Jelena, along with Mima Ruzicic-Novkovic of Center Upright Living, a Disabled Peoples’ Organization in Novi Sad, and Beth Haller and Rhonda Greenhaw of Towson University’s Department of Mass Communication located in Maryland, USA, met in Serbia for a week to jumpstart their collaborations.

Their exchange is one of the 19 cross-cultural collaborations of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the United States Department of State-sponsored Empower Partnerships for Inclusive Communities program facilitated by MIUSA.

The three partners are passionate about the power of media. But they also believe that most media coverage fails to capture the reality of people living with disabilities.

Team Serbia aims to change that.

"I Speak for Myself" media workshops equipped disability activists, mostly women, to harness the media for disability advocacy. U.S. partner Beth Haller joined these trainings by Skype, sharing lessons learned from the social-networking experience of U.S. self-advocates.  

The U.S disability rights documentary "Lives Worth Living" made its Serbian premiere. And, with mentorship from journalism students, Serbian activists produced a video on self-advocacy to share on website and through social media.  

Team Serbia’s Twitter account continues to share information about disability issues in the country. The Team sees rich opportunities for continuing their work together, providing first-hand experiences of people with disabilities and encouraging people to tell their own stories across media.

The Empower Partnerships for Inclusive Communities program is administered by MIUSA and sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the United States Department of State.