People's Potential

We have met with Nelson Bova, a journalist who has written for years on issues relating to disability for Rai, and who is the producer of the weekly information capsule called Abilhandicap for Rai's Emilia Romagna office.

Federico Bartolomei

What is the information capsule specifically about?

Abilhandicap was created three years ago with the purpose of telling stories of people who, because of their disability, are seen only with their limitations rather than their full potential. The word handicap with the prefix able is meant to convey a message in this sense. Since its first edition, the capsule has presented stories of people, of abilities and excellence in sports, of every day life for people who challenge themselves and others, and who have, among other things, a non-ability whether it is sensory, intellectual or physical.

They tell their own stories without a journalistic influence. As they tell their stories, they provide information on opportunities offered in the area, and I can tell you that Emilia Romagna offers a lot, I discover that more and more every day.

I believe the strong points of the information capsule are basically two, beyond the quality of the product which I am not the one to judge: the fact that it is a set weekly event, on Tuesdays, and that it is inserted within a general framework such as the television news bulletin. This fact means that every spectator has the opportunity to learn casually about the potential of a person with a disability in the same way that one learns about a political or general event. Abilhandicap does not willingly have ties that are too close to the news-in-brief style though, avoiding the standardizing pattern in which a story becomes linked to sensationalism and opportunism thus preventing in-depth discussion. The capsule is not a palimpsest because it is within the framework of the news bulletin, but tell me, who else would have watched it, other than the close circle of friends and family, if the word handicap had been written in the list of programs or in a heading? No more than the usual people, and this would not have helped in any way the cause for integration of persons with disabilities into society. My protagonists are positive, with ideas, and not mournful; that is the only way people who are not disabled will understand them and comprehend the needs of persons with disabilities.

I am under the impression that Rai does not broadcast any other such program, which deals with this issue, in a continuous and regular manner like this one. Is that so?

I believe so, while there are more things happening on the radio, for example Diversi da chi, and other things. I must say that in a few years there has been quite a progress in the social awareness of such issues, and the European Year 2003 for Persons with Disabilities has helped in this regard. In 2000, when the capsule of information was designed, the word handicap was commonly accepted. In these few years, it has acquired a negative connotation. For that reason, from the next edition on, there will be a subtitle underneath Abilhandicap: Persons with Abilities. It is the term that WHO proposes as an alternative to handicap: persons with disabilities.

An episode of the first edition of Abilhandicap has won, in 2002, the journalistic award Ilaria Alpi, and at the end of the second edition, another episode of the same capsule was in the finals. It seems to me that the necessary conditions are there for us to continue on this avenue.

In the edition planned for the beginning of November, I do have the intention, however, to renew some ideas, including some cinematographic finishing touches, having once in a while personalities speak, and having them in a situation of disability to demonstrate that the daily difficulties are often caused by unfavourable environmental conditions.
If we want to include the disabled in the common condition of diversity, of a minority which has values and potential to express, it is then correct that the word handicap - which still has the meaning, considering, of a disadvantage determined by social barriers - also include ex-prisoners, homeless people, and people put at a disadvantage of any nature. That is why, once in a while, I would like to address, in the same way, other subjects which are put in some way at a comparative disadvantage.

Do you consider that it is a paradox to think of a cinematographic or television production enjoyable even by blind persons?

I would say it is not at all a paradox. Cinema, which is created by imagination (think of the silent films of the old days), has evolved and experienced new languages and forms of representation. How often does music, or a sentence spoken by a protagonist, become the central element in a movie? Of course, to make a movie that is accessible to blind persons, there are some adjustments to be made, like a sound track that would not be an obstacle to the comprehension of dialogs, silent scenes that are in a way explained to the non-sighted, and so on. Just like theatre, even that would be interesting to explore.

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