People living with disabilities are among the most underrepresented groups in advertising – 19% of people worldwide live with a disability, but only 2% of people portrayed in advertisements in 2019 had a disability. Worse, when they are shown, people living with disabilities are often portrayed negatively or in ways that may dehumanize them. Simple lack of knowledge is one reason why marketers can unknowingly give offense to people with disabilities. Our goal with this blog series is to share some general information about living with disabilities to increase sensitivity and accessibility.
To kick off the series, we’re sharing several best practices for marketing to people with disabilities – some effective and respectful “do’s” and some “don’t’s” that can be offensive. The chart below highlights these do’s and don’ts. When in doubt, ensure that the voices, concerns, and needs of people living with disabilities are considered at every stage of a marketing campaign – from target identification to execution. Have you considered a target that has a disability? Does your digital video include closed captions for those with hearing impairments? Keeping a pulse on their perspective will prevent marketers from making assumptions or decisions that may be harmful or exclusive. It is also important to use inclusive language when referring to people who are living with disabilities. Even common phrases like “go for a walk” or “nice to see you” are examples of pervasive ableist language that inadvertently exclude people living with disabilities. Always make sure to use people-first language and avoid at all costs words like “special” or “handicapped.” Finally, it is important to show people with disabilities in positive and authentic ways – avoid showing them as dependent or limited, but there is also no need to glorify their struggles. Instead, show them living their lives as parents, siblings, friends, co-workers and partaking in a variety of hobbies, interests, and activities.
Finally, remember that there are many different types of disabilities, and not all of them affect people in the same way. Portraying disabilities authentically in advertising means going beyond the stereotype of people using wheelchairs. In fact, some disabilities are invisible, meaning that they can’t be detected by simply looking at a person.
Our next two entries will cover different types of disabilities. First, we’ll focus on how to increase accessibility for people living with visual and hearing impairments. Second, we will also share a post on cognitive and motor impairments.
RELATED: How to Be More Accessible to People Living with Visual & Hearing Impairments
RELATED: How to Be More Accessible to People Living with Cognitive & Motor Impairments
We at PACO are incorporating these learnings into our work with our clients. Contact us for help on how you can be more inclusive in your marketing strategy.