Research published last week revealed that negative reporting by newspapers of people with disabilities has increased in the past 6 years. This will have come as little surprise to anyone with a disability or who works with people with disabilities. The report, 'Bad News for Disabled People: how newspapers are reporting disability', commissioned by disability equality organisation Inclusion London, compared print media articles from 2004/5 and 2010/11. The research showed a fall in the proportion of articles that describe disabled people in sympathetic and deserving terms. Additionally, researchers found that stories that document the 'real life' experiences of disabled people had also decreased. Meanwhile, the number of articles focusing on disability benefit fraud increased almost threefold from 2.8% in 2004/5 to 6.1% in 2010/11. Allied to this, a significant increase in the use of pejorative language to describe disabled people was found. This backs up the anecdotal evidence I've seen - which has been building up for some time - from speaking to people, from posts on blog sites and from comments on social media platforms such as Twitter. 'Bad News…' is not the first report of this kind, either. A Scope survey earlier in the year also found deteriorating public attitudes towards people with disabilities. Again, the impact of the welfare reform debate's focus on disabled people as scroungers on the public's perception of people with disabilities was highlighted. It is a worrying trend. For many years, learning disability groups have worked hard to tackle the stigma around learning disabilities and have made considerable headway. But stigma does still exist in certain sections of the public and this reporting trend will do nothing to help. People with learning disabilities have limitless potential, as everyone in the sector knows. But the general public does not necessarily share this perception- and they need to be told more about what can be achieved. The positive stories about people with learning disabilities who have made a success of their lives are out there - not least in the pages of Learning Disability Today - but just don't seem to fit the current news agenda. In fact, that agenda seems to be increasingly focused on benefit fraud. As Nick Watson from the Centre for Disability at the University of Glasgow, which conducted the study alongside the University's Glasgow Media Group, noted, when focus groups were asked to describe a typical story in the newspapers disability benefit fraud was the most popular theme mentioned. "Participants in the focus groups all claimed that levels of fraud were very much higher than they are in reality, with some suggesting that up to 70% of claimants were fraudulent. They justified these claims by reference to articles they had read in newspapers." This demonstrates how powerful newspapers can be in shaping people's perceptions. But with power comes responsibility. The media should be aware of its impact on public perceptions and the damage that negative articles can do. They should think more about the stories they feature. The vast majority of disability benefit claimants are not scroungers. People with learning disabilities do want to work, and can be every bit as effective as non-disabled people in work, when given the chance. But if the newspapers and other media don't report this, and continue to focus simply on the negative, the general public won't have the true picture and attitudes will continue to deteriorate.