Putting disability issues onto the world stage Health: Short-wave radio program talks to and about people around the world, spreading the word.

December 23, 1997|By Mary Ann Farrell | Mary Ann Farrell,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

In terms of covering disability issues globally, few people know the world better than Jean Parker.

Each week, over the Radio for Peace International (RPI) shortwave system, Parker's radio show, "Disability Radio Worldwide," has everything from interviews on the latest topics to what it's like to live with a disability in such war-torn areas as the West Bank and Gaza. Now two years on the air, it's easy to hear the passion she has for her subject.

She first became drawn to the Costa Rican-based RPI because of the organization's interest in human rights. She soon saw, however, the potential for her show.

"The show goes all over the world to about 110 countries," Parker says. "It's about 30 minutes. In terms of Eastern Standard Time, you can hear it at 1 a.m. Sunday, and it will be repeated again at 10 p.m. on Monday and 5 p.m. Saturday. You can pick up the show at 7385 on a 41-meter-band shortwave radio."

The cost of such a radio is $75 for a basic model up to several thousand dollars for a device that also patches operators into other communication systems.

Parker must come up with topics that have appeal not only to someone in Montana but to listeners in Portugal or Italy as well. Over the two years, she has interviewed scores of people who havean impact on people with disabilities.

"Striking interviews? The one with a woman with blindness in Croatia, her experiences during the Bosnia-Croatian war," Parker says. "She had started a guide-dog school there in the early 1990s and kept the school going in the face of the war. She so saw the need for independence and in the face of all that destruction, kept her school."

Another "striking" interview was with a triple amputee in 1996 from Afghanistan.

"He talked about being a land-mine survivor and the reconstruction that was going on his country. But what really took me back was when he said that in many ways, despite the circumstances and the conflict, that when one had the chance completely to rebuild or reconstruct, to start all over, one could rebuild it so that it was accessible for everyone when you got whoever was in power to realize that here was the chance for that goal. Wow, what a way to look at things in the face of terrible war."

And she has interviewed disability rights leaders worldwide, such as Canadian Henry Enns of Disabled Peoples International.

"Enns talked about how military actions impact disability because so much of that causes disability," Parker says. "We have such large defense budgets worldwide and that continues the military actions, and in turn, the affect on the populations."

Parker believes what has made her show so successful is the medium itself.

Unlike newspapers, television or films that can be banned, the short-wave air is free.

"It's the only communication that crosses political and financial boundaries," she says. "Nothing can stop a short-wave signal where all other types of radio can be controlled. All you need is the radio itself or access to it."

If you'd like more information on Parker's show and its format or how to find it, you can write to her at Box 200567, Denver, Colo. 80220.

Pub Date: 12/23/97

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