Some big brands have started using models with disabilities. In 2012, Target innovated when they included a child model with Down syndrome in their publicity. The repercussion was fantastic. Eager for visibility, the Down syndrome community instantly noticed and celebrated it. Rick Martin, from blog Noah's Dad posted:
Target Is ‘Down’ With Down Syndrome: 5 Things Target Said By Saying Nothing At All
If you were browsing through this week’s Target ad you may have passed right over the adorable little boy in the bright orange shirt smiling at you on page 9! And if so, I’m glad!
The reason I’m glad? Well, that stylish young man in the orange shirt is Ryan Langston. Ryan just so happened to have been born with Down syndrome, and I’m glad that Target included a model with down syndrome in their typical ad! 🙂
This wasn’t a “Special Clothing For Special People” catalog. There wasn’t a call out somewhere on the page proudly proclaiming that “Target’s proud to feature a model with Down syndrome in this week’s ad!” And they didn’t even ask him to model a shirt with the phrase, “We Aren’t All Angels” printed on the front.
In other words, they didn’t make a big deal out of it. I like that.
5 Things Target Said By Not Saying Anything
Even though Target didn’t make a big deal out of the fact they used a boy with Down syndrome as a model in their ad, they said plenty. They said the same things that Nordstrom said when they used Ryan as a model in their catalog this past summer. I could list a hundred things Target said by running this ad, let me give you 5 that immediately come to mind:
They said that people born with Down syndrome deserve to be treated the same as every other person on this planet.
They said that it’s time for organizations to be intentional about seeking creative ways to help promote inclusion, not exclusion. (It’s no accident that Target used a model with Down syndrome in this ad; it was an intentional decision. If we want the world to be a place where everyone is treated equal we can’t just sit around and watch the days tick away. We have to be intentional. We have to do something.)
They said that companies don’t have to call attention to the fact that they choose to be inclusive in order for people to notice their support for people with disabilities. In fact, by not making a big deal out of it they are doing a better job of showing their support for the special needs community.
They said it’s important for the world to see people born with disabilities with a fresh set of eyes. That it’s time for us to lay down all the inaccurate stereotypes from the past and move forward embracing the future with true and accurate ones
They said you don’t have to spend a lot for your kids to look good! (I mean come on, that shirt’s only five bucks!)
For a selection of examples, Adweek keeps a section of ads that include disabilities. Check it out