The Importance of Representation

June 6, 2018

Of the population in the UK, nearly one fifth are disabled.  Despite this, the appearance of disabled people in advertisements is rare – unless of course, the advertisement is aimed specifically at disabled people.

In a survey of Brits, 55% said that they think there is a lack of disabled people in advertisements because ‘they make people feel uncomfortable’.  There was also a sense that people had not been exposed enough to disabled communities, so it was not thought of as an option.  Let’s think of the figure mentioned previously: one fifth of people are disabled, that’s about 13.3 million people!  Which makes it rather surprising that there isn’t more representation in the media.

Helping Remove Stigma

63% of those surveyed, who have a physical disability, thought that seeing more disabled people in ads would remove the stigma surrounding their communities.  They wished that brands would be ‘braver’ in showing people that represent them more in advertisements.  The media is a huge influencer – great at reaching large audiences and challenging people’s perceptions.

“I think that representation of disabled people in the media is definitely improving! Channel 4 has done an amazing job of challenging perceptions of disability and the awkwardness around disability –  especially with The Last Leg.”

Activists for the representation of disabled people in the media, claim that too much of the current advertising strategies revolve around using disabled people as an inspirational story or for a charitable cause.  There is little focus on showing them as capable, independent people, who have their own lives and personalities.

Sarah Troke, a disability campaigner, thinks that representation is improving. She said:

“I think that representation of disabled people in the media is definitely improving! Channel 4 has done an amazing job of challenging perceptions of disability and the awkwardness around disability –  especially with The Last Leg.”

Change of Attitudes

Having disabled actors, presenters, show guests etc. as a regular occurrence in the media, would help change people’s perceptions.  Representation is key to changing attitudes and opinions and as it seems, the mainstream media is beginning to realise that.

Got a view? Let us know what you think