Advertising is everywhere. We see ads every day – on our social media, favourite blog, a web page, before a movie or during our favourite TV show – and they are designed to impact our perception of the world around us.
Inclusion of people with disabilities in mainstream advertising is a powerful tool with significant reach, to shape cultural consciousness and behaviour, by "disrupting" biased assumptions about the participation and belonging of people with disabilities as full members of their communities. In this way, it has the potential to accelerate inclusion in every area of life and undermine enduring attitudinal barriers that diminish human rights.
Although the discussion of diversity in advertising has been taken up by other groups, for people with disabilites, the demand to be seen in advertising is particularly significant – it is part of a broader challenge, in response to a long history of excluding people with disability from society, by increasingly occupying places in the public eye.
From an advertiser’s perspective, inclusion of people with disabilities in advertising provides brands with an opportunity to connect with a significant segment of their market – the 1 in 5 people globally who have a disability - albeit a group that has only begun to be recognised as a substantial minority in recent times.
However, brands sometimes feel hesitant to depart from established marketing formulas and for the people in charge of managing multi-million dollar brands, #adinclusion may appear to involve some risk. It is important when engaging brands in discussion about #adinclusion to present examples of other well established brands that have embraced the representation of people with disability as part of their broader marketing messaging around diversity. For example, Nordstrom US, Target USA, Diesel USA, L'Oreal, Kmart Australia, Target Australia and many others (see startingwithjulius.org.au for examples of ad inclusion around the world). It is critical that brands ensure that they consult with people with disabilities about the nature of the portrayal of disability in advertising, especially where portrayal goes beyond "incidental representation" of people with disabilities alongside non-disabled people.
Robyn Lambird on why #adinclusion matters
Robyn Lambird, one of the first adults with disabilities to model in a major advertising campaign in Australia and an Ad Inclusion Ambassador for the Starting With Julius organisation, explains it here:
Starting With Julius
Advertising & Disability
Fashion in Advertising