Disability and Advertising
Studies of advertising representations have often focused on important social categories such as class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexuality, but it is less common that the discussion is centered on advertisers' tendency to sell able-bodied perfection. Therefore, this ADText unit focuses on disability and advertising. In addition to defining what is meant by disability and how it forms a complex social category and identity, the unit covers common historical and current representations of disability. Although there are positive signs of change in representing and including people with disabilities in the advertising business, fair and more respectful treatments of people with disabilities are still needed.
ability, ableism, advertising, body, disability, diversity, representations, stereotypes
[Editor's Note: This article is a part of ADText.]
People would be sorely disappointed if they hoped to look to advertising for a complete snapshot of a society's people at a given moment in time. Advertising tends to present a very limited sample of the human population. Rather than being a perfect reflection of society, advertising could be seen as a fun house mirror.2 It is selective in who it represents. It often distorts who is represented. And it has historically been delayed in representing changes in society and culture for fear of "rocking the boat" too much and thus alienating consumers. British art historian and critic John Berger agrees and reminds that advertising "proposes to each of us that we transform ourselves, or our lives, by buying something more. . . . [It] persuades us of such a transformation by showing us people who have apparently been transformed and are, as a result, enviable."3 Therefore, when it comes to looking at the types of people included in advertising representations, a trend emerges: mostly attractive people with flawless bodies populate the world of advertising.
Given advertisers' wish to manufacture envy among consumers to become like those represented in their images, it should come as no surprise that advertising has tended to use people of a particular body type found attractive at a given moment in time. Such desirability builds agreeable associations with the product, service, or idea they are selling. Many critiques of advertising often center on the use of images of unattainable human physical perfection (often made through photo manipulation), but the fact that advertising's default ideal body is able-bodied is often not discussed as much, especially outside the field of disability studies. Physical features and abilities that differ from "the norm" are typically not represented in advertising and have been left out regularly in discussions of advertising's problematic representations of people. Although they are tremendously important, there is a tendency to focus on limited and troubling representations based on class, gender, ethnicity, race, and sexuality. Advertising's focus on able-bodied people is therefore taken for granted because it is the image being normalized. As British nursing researcher Alex McClimens notes, non-disabled bodies are taken for granted in the world of advertising: "In its portrayals of the human species, advertising tends to approximate physical perfection, with the implicit promise that you too can look like this if only you would buy product X. It is a lie of course but, like all the best lies, it is generally accepted as true."4
People's physicality and abilities are an important part of their identity that is worthy of examination in advertising. As American communication studies scholar Beth Haller explains,
Media depictions help us understand the media's role in "constructing" people with disabilities as different and their role in framing many types of people who may not fit with "mainstream" constructions. These media images affect society as a whole, but they also have implications for the self-concept of people with disabilities themselves.5
As will be discussed in detail in this unit, when disabilities or physical "limitations" do appear in advertising, they are often done in a way that tries to invoke pity, exaggerated heroic inspiration, or a humorous curiosity bordering on fetishization. Rarely are people with disabilities showcased with many dimensions beyond their disability; further, they are usually not presented as sexually desirable beings.
Therefore, to denaturalize advertising's tendency to sell physical perfection and able-embodiment as the ideal, this unit examines disability and advertising. In addition to defining what is meant by the concept of disability and how it forms a complex social category and identity, this unit covers common representations of disability in advertising as well as the ways in which advertisers and marketers can and should consider disability more carefully in their work.6 The unit concludes by offering positive signs of change in representing and including people with disabilities in advertising in fair and more respectful ways.
The Meanings of Disability
Disability is a complex concept that often involves debates in definition. To understand the concept, it is helpful to first break down the word into its component parts. Dis- is a prefix "expressing negation," "denoting reversal or absence of an action or state," or "denoting removal of the thing specified."7 Ability refers to the "possession of the means or skill to do something" or the "talent skill, or proficiency in a particular area."8 Thus, when put together, disability refers to the lack, absence, or limitation in being able to do something. When applied to humans' abilities, the prefix dis- assumes that there is a norm for various physical processes, such as communicating, feeling, hearing, moving, and thinking. Any departure from this norm is seen as a deviation that is somehow lacking. Rather than viewing one's blindness or deafness as being unique compared to a majority of the population, the word disability, as well as its commonly used synonym handicapped, treats individuals with such conditions as not normal, without ability, and in some cases undesirable.
Such a negative definition of disability has led many people with disabilities, as well as their allies, to push back against using disability as a marker of inadequacy, inability, and undesirability. Since the rise of disability movements in the 1960s through the 1980s, there has been a shift in the phrases used to describe those who are disabled.9 Phrases such as "differently abled" or "uniquely abled" have taken hold as more awareness is spread about ableism, which is the societal preference toward able-bodied people. Others might use the word crip as a way to undermine and disempower the insult word cripple, which has been used derisively to describe people with disabilities. Ultimately, one of the underlying aims of disability activism is to question able-bodiedness as the desirable default and to embrace everyone's unique abilities, body shapes, and physical and mental states. One cannot control the body one is born with, nor can one go back in time to stop an accident that might have led to a change in one's body, but one can be proud and more accepting of the bodies people have. Disability advocates ask people to not marginalize others' abilities and make them feel less adequate or less than human. People are multidimensional, and one's body is just one facet of a person among many, just as one's sex, gender, ethnicity, and race are just one part of a person's identity and life experiences.
Beyond linguistics, the concept of disability has different legal meanings that can have significant consequences. Such legal definitions vary from place to place and might require individuals, private organizations, and public institutions to comply with important rules to accommodate and include people with disabilities. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 as a way to confront discrimination against people with disabilities and provide a formal framework to support people with disabilities through accommodations in the workplace, through public institutions, and in other contexts. The ADA was a battle fought hard for many years among disabled people and their allies, especially to make building designs more accessible and to fight against discrimination in hiring and maintaining employment. The ADA defines disabled as "a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment."10
The World Health Organization provides a World Report on Disability. The cultural treatment of disability varies greatly from country to country.
Outside of the United States, the 2008 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is most notable, which includes 162 signatories, and states, "Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others."11 The CRPD intends to defend the rights of people with disabilities around the world, especially in locations that previously did not have any or many disability protections.
In addition to critiquing a definition of disability as a negative and undesirable form of ability, the field of disability studies has expanded beyond a medical model, "which locates physical and mental impairments in individual bodies," to a "social model, which understands the world as disabling people . . . [and] names both architectural and attitudinal barriers as the cause of disablement."12 Further, in recent years, there has been increased recognition and understanding of "invisible" disabilities. These are conditions that might not be apparent when looking at others, but they impact people's everyday lives in very profound and often private ways. Such disabilities include chronic depression and anxiety, cognitive and learning impairments, as well as chronic conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.13
The social model of disability reminds people that disability is not just a condition that one must face; rather, it involves the formation of social identities and communities as well. Some people with disabilities may try to mask or minimize their disabilities for fear of social and professional exclusion; they may also want to not be defined by their disability. Others might be more open and vocal about their disabilities as a way to showcase pride in who they are. Many such individuals have rejected pressures to "mainstream" into society by accommodating themselves to and trying to be like the able-bodied majority. For example, tight-knit deaf communities have formed through Gallaudet University and the Rochester School for the Deaf, which provide educational and professional opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Rather than forcing deaf individuals to communicate like hearing individuals, these institutions offer courses in sign language. Similar schools, organizations, and clubs exist for other disabilities.
The use of medical procedures, medications, and assistive technologies is central to debates among disabled communities about whether or not people with disabilities should "mainstream" and assimilate to the norms, expectations, and needs of the dominant able-bodied majority of society. For many individuals who find pride in their disability, they may reject pressures to be "fixed" through medical technologies, procedures, and drugs. For example, among individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, some might embrace technologies like cochlear implants or bone-anchored hearing aids which simulate or deliver sound to an individual's auditory processing organs. Others find such medical interventions an unnecessary imposition on individuals' naturally given abilities.14 This perspective can be represented by the adage, If it ain't broke, don't fix it—since deaf individuals aren't "broken" in the first place.
Two famous disabled Americans help illustrate the divergent ways that disabled people have navigated how to express their disability, as well as the pressures society places on them to conform to certain standards and expectations: President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Helen Keller. Roosevelt can be cited as an example of minimizing one's disabled status for particular pragmatic purposes, whereas Keller is an example of being openly proud and vocal about one's disabilities.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was a prominent leader in twentieth-century American history. He served as a member of the New York Senate (1911–1913), Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1913–1920), Governor of New York (1929–1932), and US President (1933–1945). Roosevelt's career of public service is well known to many, but his story of becoming paralyzed from the waist down after he fell ill in 1921 with Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune condition, was often not told or discussed, especially while he was alive.15 Many efforts were made to minimize Roosevelt's disability during his run for New York governor and US president, and as his administration fought the woes of the Great Depression and the rise of fascism around the world. At the time, it was believed that a display of Roosevelt's disability would undermine his image as a strong and forceful leader.16
The March of Dimes provides resources about its history, including details about how it has enlisted celebrities to encourage people to support its cause.
Despite these efforts to hide his paralysis in certain parts of his public life, Roosevelt founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in 1938, which would eventually be popularly called the "March of Dimes" after an early campaign coined by the star Eddie Cantor that encouraged people to buy lapel pins for ten cents to help fight polio.18 Eventually, the March of Dimes title would be used for the foundation's annual fundraising efforts, and the organization's focus on a dime donation is the reason for why Roosevelt's image was commemorated on the US dime.19 Since the introduction of the polio vaccine in 1955, the organization Roosevelt founded has expanded beyond polio to support research and programs helping babies born with other conditions.
The Perkins School for the Blind provides many details about the life and accomplishments of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.
Although FDR tried to hide his disability in certain instances as a way to project an image of power and authority, Helen Keller openly shared her experiences with and perspectives on having multiple disabilities. Nineteen months after her birth in Alabama in 1880, Keller contracted an unknown illness that left her deaf and blind. As a young child, she learned to communicate through signs with the daughter of her family's cook, and she could tell who was walking based on the pattern of their footsteps. Eventually, Helen's mother was inspired to seek out a formal education for Helen based on a story about a deaf-blind woman that she read in Charles Dickens' North American travelogue American Notes for General Circulation (1842). This led Helen to go to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston at age seven, which was the start of a successful academic career, including graduation from Radcliffe College of Harvard University. Anne Sullivan, a former student at the Perkins Institute, joined Keller at the start of her educational career, which turned into a 49-year-long relationship. Sullivan was Keller's teacher and companion during and after Keller's formal education. Both traveled extensively throughout the United States and around the world advocating for non-violence and women's and labor rights. In addition to telling her story through her popular autobiography The Story of My Life (1903), she traveled extensively across the United States and around the world to lecture on various topics. She became an unofficial ambassador for the disabled, telling stories of how she managed her disabilities through determination, persistence, and dynamic optimism. However, it was not without problematic instances where Keller was treated as an exotic "attraction" to be seen.
Roosevelt and Keller managed their disabilities in different ways during their lives. Their stories stress the need to seek out the disabled's experiences and learn how culture and society have made disability visible or invisible at certain moments in time for particular reasons. This is why the study of advertising and society needs to be informed by the rich field of disability studies, which seeks to understand how ability has been defined and valued in society and culture today and in the past. Just as Roosevelt's and Keller's stories show, disabled individuals navigate their disabled identities in different ways, especially in how one should accommodate to society's able-bodied norms. Therefore, it is best not to assume that all disabled people feel the same way about their abilities and place within various communities. Additionally, one should not assume that other people identify as disabled based on the way they look or the conditions they have.26 What is certain, though, is that powerful societal institutions like advertising shape how many people come to see themselves, their bodies, and others' bodies in the world. To better understand why many disabled people feel like they are invisible, undesirable, and attached to a stigma, one needs to examine the various ways advertising and mainstream media represent and treat disabilities.
Disability's Absence in Advertising and Media
According to the Pew Research Institute, about 12.6% of the American population reports being disabled,27 but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the proportion of Americans with disabilities is closer to 26%.28 Although definitions and measures of disability are difficult to standardize, the World Health Organization projects about 15.3% of the world's population is disabled.29 In a 2012 content analysis of primetime US television commercials, only 1.7% of advertisements integrated disabled characters.30 In the Ford Foundation's broader study of representations of disability in American media, similar statistics were found by other sources: GLAAD observed that only 2.1% of primetime broadcast TV series had regular characters with disabilities and an Annenberg study found that only 2.5% of the 100 top-grossing movies between 2006 and 2016 depicted characters with disabilities.31 Such a dearth of representations of disability would lead one to wonder why advertising and media representations present people with disabilities much less than the actual proportion of people with disabilities in everyday life. Some researchers have found that media and advertising producers have historically claimed that images of disability make people feel uncomfortable or are not profitable.32 However, some researchers have debunked these assumptions. In one experimental study,33 people responded in the same way to disability and non-disability ads, so the small number of depictions of people with disabilities in advertising could be more of a question of institutional will on the part of advertisers and media producers, as well as a limited number of people with disabilities working in the advertising and media industries.34
So when disability is represented in advertising, what is the nature of these representations? What do they say about people with disabilities? As British media studies scholar Shani Orgad notes, today is an age of new media visibility where representation in media equals an acknowledgement of existence of the people who are represented.35 With so few people with disabilities showing up in advertising, and the power of advertising to impact who and what is seen as desirable, the ways advertising has represented disability provide insights into society's thoughts about, concern for, and inclusion of people with disabilities.
Representing Disability in Advertising
In the United States, before the 1980s, there were limited representations of disability in advertising beyond often pity-laden calls for charitable donations, such as appeals by wounded soldiers to support US War Bonds during World War II, the March of Dimes' fight against polio, and American actor Jerry Lewis' annual telethon raising money for muscular dystrophy.36
Ads more favorably representing the disabled emerged in the 1980s.39 A 1984 Levi's 501 Jeans ad is often cited as the first televised ad with a disabled man using a wheelchair popping a "wheelie" as he goes down a boardwalk with an able-bodied woman.40 In 1986, McDonald's aired its "Silent Persuasion" ad showcasing a deaf man convincing his deaf woman friend to go to McDonald's using sign language.
When these ads appeared in the mid-1980s, the Los Angeles Times acknowledged their importance: "And more and more often, the nation's disabled are being seen [leading active, vital lives], not just on telethons and late-night public service ads but through the high-production, high-stakes world of television commercials." As one advertiser notes, casting people with disabilities in ads was a significant sign because "advertising 'has a very big role to play in setting social norms.'" However, as Robert Lins, creative director for McDonald's at the time commented, the industry worried about exploitation: "We always took a cautious position because either we were afraid we would portray them incorrectly or that people would say we were using them to sell hamburgers. But we talked to people, and people said: 'Why don't you give it a try?'"43
Like some disability advocates during and since that time, advertising scholar Richard Pollay was not so optimistic about the sudden emergence of disability in advertising in the 1980s. Pollay explained that advertisers tend to be averse to using images that "take the world as it is." He worried that the celebration of a few ads' inclusion of disabled people for a second or two in a thirty-second spot did not do enough to build empathy for and understanding of the true disabled experience. Further, for him, such short and passing inclusion did little to overcome stereotypes and change public opinion about disabilities. Representing people with disabilities as isolated from others, as was done in the case of McDonald's "Silent Persuasion" ad, or passively including people with disabilities without making them central actors, as was done with the Levi's ad, minimizes the presence of and contributions of the disabled in society. Still, some at the time saw this as a step in a positive direction. Certainly, there was a burden in having a small number of representations of disability stand in as the reality for all people with disabilities, but some would argue that some positive representation of disability was better than none at all.
After the initial increase in representing disability in the 1980s, the advertising industry made efforts to show "realistic, positive, more varied, and even humorous depictions of the disabled."44 Despite these efforts, though, people with disabilities have tended to be represented in a fleeting manner. When they have been central characters in ads, three main stereotypes have persisted: the disabled as victims to pity, the disabled as inspirational "super crips," and the disabled as a source of humor or the butt of jokes.
The first trope is that the disabled are victims to pity and often in need of an able-bodied savior. This stereotype has played out significantly in the past, as seen through the earlier examples from the March of Dimes, US War Bonds, and the Jerry Lewis telethon, but it has more recently taken on more subtle forms. One prominent example of victims to pity is seen in American television ads for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which seeks donations for its important work to fight childhood cancers and pediatric diseases. As a way to provoke viewers to donate, St. Jude commercials regularly use urgent appeals of sadness and sympathy. Although no one can deny the important cause of helping save children's lives, one might question the depiction of sick children as helpless and often voiceless victims. Some recent commercials from St. Jude have focused less on fear and victimhood and more on the stories of child patients, but the voices of the children receiving care are often minimized in favor of more authoritative voices, such as celebrity endorsers, doctors, or parents.
Advertisements for the Special Olympics, a sports organization founded in 1968 for children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities, have used messages that provoke sympathy within the viewer to garner support for its cause. Although the organization's mission is to empower and include people with intellectual and physical disabilities, some of its advertisements may unintentionally treat the intellectually disabled as passive and only being able to do what they dream if the able-bodied can support them through financial and other means.
The second major trope is the inspirational "super crip," which idealizes people with disabilities as somehow being superhuman in their "victories" over their disabilities. Such depictions turn people with disabilities into inspirational heroes, often for doing ordinary things in their everyday life. In addition to turning a disabled person's life into a form of "inspiration porn," this stereotype reinforces the notion of disability as being something to overcome. Moreover, able-bodied people implicitly come to feel better about their able-bodiedness as they watch and listen to the disabled's abilities to defeat all of the "barriers" put in their way by their differently abled bodies. Facing such a representation, a person who sees her disability as a regular part of her life might ask some important questions: "Am I only defined by my disability? Would I be inspirational in this context if I did not have a disability?" Like ads using pity and sympathy, ads with an inspirational "super crip" narrative treat the disabled as one-dimensional people (i.e. disability is the most important thing about them) who make able-bodied people feel better about themselves.
In a popular and humorous TED Talk, Australian comedian and disability rights activist Stella Young explains why she should not be seen as inspiring just because she is disabled.
The idea of "inspiration porn" has found its way in advertising in often-subtle ways. Public Service Announcements (PSAs) regularly feature famous stars talking about important societal topics because people look up to them. When disabled stars are called upon to appear in PSAs, not only do the PSAs use their stardom to encourage audience members to think differently about a topic, but their status as disabled stars lends even more inspirational credence to their messages given their place among the few disabled stars visible in the media. Two examples include blind American musician Ray Charles and American deaf actress Marlee Matlin. Charles asks Americans to allow people with disabilities to participate and contribute to society in various ways. He mentions accessibility, inclusion, signage, and other issues that impact the disabled. Matlin encourages people to use non-violent means to deal with anger. Unlike most ads that many people see, Matlin's PSA is notable because it uses sign language with captions.
Some brands have tried to make themselves appear aspirational by using famous disabled people. In a 1985 ad, Stevie Wonder associates Hansen Soda with his accomplishments as a blind musician and songwriter by telling viewers that "some things in life are inspirational." In a similar way, an early Apple PowerBook commercial has Marlee Matlin sign and type her answers for what "power" means: no limits, no barriers, no restrictions, fighting stereotypes, proving others wrong, independence, confidence, and freedom of expression.
Ultimately, power comes through the use of Apple's laptop, but the message is delivered by a well-known disabled actress at the time, who the audience would most likely say embodies the same qualities. In other words, Matlin's story of being strong and powerful as a disabled person aligns with the power and strength that could come through the use of Apple's new, innovative technology.
A more controversial example of a company trying to affiliate itself with an inspirational disabled actor came in 2000 when Nuveen Investments ran an ad during the Super Bowl featuring the Superman actor Christopher Reeve, who became paralyzed five years earlier when he injured his spinal cord while riding a horse. The ad shows Reeve in a fictionalized future revealing that he could walk after investments were made into spinal cord regeneration research. The ad invokes sympathy toward Reeve but also plays upon his status as the actor having starred as the character Superman. Not only is Reeve's personal life inspirational, but the fictional character associated with him makes him extraordinary. Ultimately, the ad creates an inspirational story of a well-known disabled "superman" being able to "beat the odds" with the help of a company's investments in medical research. What might have been intended to be a progressive message about the need to invest in new therapies led to anger and confusion. Some people thought that the ad actually showed Christopher Reeve cured from his condition. Others were worried about the digitally manipulated image of Reeve raising false hopes among paralyzed people that a quick cure was imminent.54 Beyond the veracity of what could be done with Reeve's condition, the ad underscored society's preference for able-bodiedness and the tendency to draw extra special attention to inspirational stories of the disabled overcoming the odds of their conditions.
The inspirational "super crip" is a prominent figure found frequently in advertisements for sport competitions for people with a range of disabilities like the Paralympic Games, which are international sports competitions that have been organized alongside the Olympic Games since 1960. One prominent example is British Channel 4's trailer "We're the Superhumans" for the 2016 Rio de Janiero Paralympic Games. Although this ad was intended to garner attention for and interest in the Paralympic Games as well as respect for Paralympic athletes' hard work, its equation of the disabled with "superhumans" falls well within the super crip trope. Various athletes are not necessarily presented for their athletic talents. Rather, they are presented as entertaining extreme sports stars hellbent on victory because they are "beyond human" in their ability to overcome their disabilities.
The "super crip" is regularly used in sports apparel advertising, too. Nike has been known to present sports as an inspirational activity that all members of society can enjoy. The brand has regularly included people with disabilities as an explicit subject of an ad, or as a part of broader messages about athletes overcoming the odds or facing adversity. In one example, Nike's "No Excuses" ad has paraplegic basketball player Matt Scott listing off a series of excuses that people use to not exercise or practice a sport. As the ad unfolds, the viewer comes to realize that the man is dribbling two basketballs while sitting in a wheelchair. The implied message is that if he can go out and play basketball in his condition, no one else has an excuse to not go out and practice or play. Matt Scott is used to inspire others to not give up on their sport and goals for the game. The idea is that if a disabled man can face his challenges and still get out and practice, so should an able-bodied person.
In 2018, Nike's controversial "Dream Crazy" ad featuring NFL football player Colin Kaepernick includes people with disabilities, among many others, fighting against "crazy" odds to do what they love. When looking closely at this ad, though, it is apparent that Nike continues to focus only on certain types of well-recognized forms of disability like those in wheelchairs. For example, in one scene featuring a disabled person, one is struck by how the ad follows the same formula as the "No Excuses" ad: a paraplegic basketball player dribbles two basketballs on the exact same court. The key difference is that the basketball player in this ad is a White woman.
The third and final trope in representing disability is advertisements using people's disabilities as a source of humor and the butt of jokes. In some cases, it could be a disabled person using self-disparaging humor to poke fun at her disability to make able-bodied people feel more comfortable. It could also be a case of the "innocent fool" where people with disabilities, especially those with intellectual disabilities, are "portrayed as childlike" and "presented as unavoidably constrained by their circumstances and often are seen as people to laugh at, or as the butt of jokes."59 This is not to say that people with disabilities cannot be humorous and crack a joke, but the question is if a disability is the basis of the joke and whether such a basis is fairly treating the person and her disability.
There are some notable examples involving blindness. In a 1984 ad for Pioneer LaserDisc, Ray Charles talks about new technology featuring music videos. Although Charles admits that he cannot see the videos that play, he can hear their fine quality. Others tell him the LaserDisc video "blows videotape away" in image quality, for which he responds, "Now who am I to argue?" In a Peugeot car ad, Charles is first shown feeling the body of a 306 Cabriolet before he drives around a deserted Utah landscape. Then he stops and addresses the viewer. A tagline then appears in French: "When you see it you want it."
A 1990 Levi's 501 Jeans spot provides a humorous story involving disability and a woman bank robber sneaking into a men's public restroom. As she enters the restroom and is about to change into her getaway clothes, she realizes a man is sitting in the restroom with her. However, she presumes that he is blind because he is wearing sunglasses and has a white cane. Thinking that the man cannot see her, she continues to undress down to her underwear, puts on her new clothes, and then provocatively buttons up the front of her Levi's jeans within inches of his face. Only after she leaves do the viewers realize that the man is not blind (he was holding the cane for his blind companion in a nearby stall). Although this ad with an ironic twist was intended for a laugh, it implies that blind people cannot sense what is around them, it represents people with disabilities as passive, and it questions disabled people's ability to be sexually attracted or aroused.
During the 2010 Super Bowl, Stevie Wonder appeared with comedian Tracy Morgan in a Volkswagen spot showing various people playing Punch Bug or Slug Bug—a game in which someone slugs someone else, and calls out the paint color, every time a Volkswagen car passes by. Toward the end of the ad, Wonder punches Morgan on the shoulder and proclaims, "Red one!" as a red Volkswagen sedan pulls away from the curb. Morgan asks dumbfoundedly, "How do you do that?!?" Wonder's only response is "Ha!" Before the ad ends, Morgan is shown waving his hands in front of Wonder's sunglasses. Like the case of the Levi's ad as well as Ray Charles in the LaserDisc and Peugeot ads, what is intended as ironic humor involving blindness ultimately treats a disabled condition as the source of a joke. This is not to say that people with disabilities cannot use their disability as a source of humor for themselves, but one should ask how making one's disability a joke for the presumed able-bodied viewer might impact how the disabled see themselves and their value in a world predominantly designed for the able-bodied.
Perhaps one of the most troubling examples of an advertisement using disability to tell a "joke" came in a 2017 Zuma Juice online ad featuring three women: "a perky hyper-enthusiastic spokeswoman, a super-fit woman trying to juice her own fruits and vegetables, and a slovenly woman in a wheelchair."64 Contrary to the two able-bodied women talking about their love of juicing and the healthy benefits that come with it, the woman in the wheelchair is depicted as heavier set and uncaring of her health and body. She frantically and goofily eats a container of cheese puffs and sips from an oversized soda container. Moreover, toward the end of the spot, there is the insinuation that she is faking her disability so she can ride around in an electric wheelchair. For writer David M. Perry, this ad used questionable humor to perpetuate commonly held stereotypes in society about people with disabilities:
This ad trades on two of the most pervasive stereotypes facing disabled folks. First, that their disability is attributable to poor lifestyle choices—i.e. drinking soda and eating junk food. Second, that lots of them are faking and are just lazy. The choices in this ad reflect deeply held stigmas about bodies, health, and disability.65
The ADText unit on Social Media and Advertising covers how consumers can use social media to call out questionable advertising and business practices.
After receiving significant backlash, Zuma Juice pulled the ad, but not without much criticism, especially from members of the disability rights community. Zuma Juice's response was sharply criticized on social media, too. As complaints flooded Zuma Juice's social media feeds, the company tried to justify its representational choices, did not acknowledge that the ad treated disability unfairly, and told social media users that the company was sorry people were offended, which only enraged viewers even more.66 The case marks the power of social media to help consumers call for immediate and fair treatment of people with disabilities in advertising. As Perry reflects on what happened, the Zuma Juice ad and how it was handled signal the need to address society's broader ignorance of how people with disabilities have been mistreated and misunderstood in advertising and media messages:
In the end, this is just one ad, and I believe Zuma Juice when they express their contrition and chalk the bad ad up to ignorance, rather than malice. Unfortunately, that ignorance is widespread, a symptom of the big problems about how we talk about and represent disability. Companies, organizations, and even politicians too often casually stigmatize people with disabilities—often to get a cheap laugh or sell some product and policy. Internet outrage might be able to get us less stigmatizing juice, but we've a whole lot more work to do to to [sic] address the way we talk about health, wheelchairs, and disability.67
Signs of Positive Change
An episode of the Laura Flanders Show features disability justice activists giving advice on how to make art, media, and technology more accessible to all.
There are signs of positive change within the advertising industry even though disabled people are not regularly found in ads, and when they are, representations may fall into the trap of using various stereotypes. Some disabled advertising practitioners like Josh Loebner (as well as their allies) have become increasingly vocal about their concerns about disability's treatment in advertising messages and within the advertising workplace, which has gained attention in the advertising trade press.71 As part of his efforts, Loebner authors the blog Advertising & Disability, which provides commentary about trends in advertising and disability. He also provides advice to the industry on how to better reach people with disabilities. In addition to reminding advertisers about the lucrative possibilities presented by the market segment of people with disabilities, he offers practical tips on how to make advertising design and messages more inclusive and accessible:
• Colors should be well contrasted to help with clarity, which is especially beneficial for people with low vision and colorblindness.
• Fonts should be easily readable and allowed to be adjustable in size if read online.
• Digital messaging should be designed to respond easily to changes in the device someone uses (this is especially important for people using assistive technologies, such as screen readers or closed captioning).
• Images and figures should have descriptive tags for those who may have difficulty seeing visuals.72
• Videos should include audio descriptions for those with vision difficulties and closed captions for those with hearing impairments.
• Hyperlinks should have descriptive information to tell users with screen readers where they are going if clicked.
• Buttons and clickable elements should be easily discernible and clickable. Having small items to click that require extra-precise clicking can be very challenging for people with manual dexterity conditions.
• Menus should provide easy-to-find information to navigate a site; they should also easily provide information pertinent to people with disabilities.
• Disabled-friendly words and phrases should be used to respect the thoughts, feelings, and perspectives of people with disabilities.
• Physical ads should be positioned in ways that meet accessibility requirements.73
Loebner's advice reminds advertisers of the need to think in non-ableist ways, consider the possibilities of engaging different senses, and find new modes of communicating, especially through the affordances of digital technologies. Moreover, his work encourages advertisers to think about how they incorporate people with disabilities in their messages and the advertising workplace.
Advertisers and brands have caught on to concerns like Loebner's. More companies are trying to find ways to develop products that suit the needs and preferences of all of its customers, especially people with disabilities, which they have featured in their ads. As an example, Tommy Hilfiger offers adaptive jeans that have been designed with and for people with disabilities. In its advertising, Hilfiger presents disability not as a burden, but as a source of pride that should not be hidden.
Microsoft Xbox provides another example of a company realizing its important place in the lives of disabled people. As part of a 2019 Super Bowl ad, Microsoft shows how its adaptive controller helps ensure that everyone can play, which can bring people of many abilities together in their enjoyment and love for gaming. To show a more progressive way of representing disability, the ad has young disabled users sharing their experiences with using adaptive controllers. It also showcases disabled users playing with other disabled users as well as non-disabled users. Although the focal point of the ad is on disabilities, its final tagline emphasizes how adaptive technologies can create a world of inclusivity and equal participation of all, regardless of ability: "When everybody plays, we all win."
In the realm of Public Service Announcements, efforts have been made to help the able-bodied understand the perspectives of the disabled, as seen in innovative campaigns in the UK and Australia. In 2013 and 2014, Grey Agency's London office teamed up with Scope, a UK-based disability charity,76 to develop a series of three TV spots called "End the Awkward."77 The campaign's goal was to help the non-disabled rethink the ways in which they interact with the disabled. Each clip asks a question related to one awkward situation depicted in the video: How do I shake a hand that isn't there? I've bent down to a wheelchair user, now what? Is this another crushing rejection or is she deaf? Disabled British comedian Alex Brooker narrates each video in a humorous way by asking the audience whether or not it would be better to go the awkward or non-awkward route. Each video then models an understanding response that treats a person with disability respectfully and in such a way that does not make her feel awkward or bizarre.
In 2015, Scope developed another television PSA that mimics a "candid camera" format. A woman manicurist who has cerebral palsy has a loud conversation with an actor playing an ignorant able-bodied customer asking many rude questions that people with cerebral palsy might be asked. In addition to pointing out how people often turn the disabled into inspiring heroes for doing ordinary things, the fake customer makes many assumptions about what it means for a woman to live with cerebral palsy. As the conversation unfolds, Alex Brooker observes remotely and provides commentary for the viewers about the inappropriate and awkward statements the misinformed nail salon client makes. Real customers in the nail salon, who are unaware of the fact that both the rude customer and the manicurist are actors, listen to the conversation with shock and disgust.
Similar to Scope's work in the UK, the Family and Community Services office in the Australian state of New South Wales started a campaign in 2004 called "Don't DIS my ABILITY."82 In an annual series of videos, print ads, and events, the campaign sought to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3) and provide multidimensional portrayals of people with disabilities. Rather than focusing on pity or a disability being a disabled person's most important attribute, the campaign shifts attention to the personalities, occupations, hobbies, interests, and dreams of the people with disabilities who were depicted. The campaign's separation of the prefix dis- from the word ability was done for important purposes. Separating out dis- plays on the word dis, which is a shortened slang form of the word disrespect. By asking people not to dis the represented person's ability, the campaign tells people not to judge, criticize, or ridicule one's differing abilities. Moreover, the ad implies that one form of ability is not better than any other. All forms of ability should be respected, and one's disability should not be seen as a disability at all. It is an ability.
Maltesers, a popular British brand of malted milk ball candies, provides a notable commercial ad campaign showcasing people with disabilities in a more multidimensional way. Rather than avoiding representing disabled people as sexually attractive beings, two of the campaign's ads present disabled people telling humorous stories about sexual exploits with a new boyfriend or snagging a phone number at a wedding. In another instance, a hearing impaired woman signs a funny, but messy story about how she lost and found her hearing aid.
In a behind-the-scenes look at Maltesers' "Light Side of Advertising" campaign, which was produced for the 2016 Paralympic Games as a collaboration between Maltesers, Scope, and the ad agency BBDO, viewers learn that the ad campaign's primary goal was to represent "the reality of disabled people's lives."87 Disabled actor Storme Toolis said she enjoyed bringing "openness and warmness" to her quirky, down-to-earth character. Samantha Renke, the disabled actor in the funny wedding ad, found the spot gave her an opportunity to show her own personality as "a feisty young person" who has fun and is quite cheeky. Hearing impaired actor Genevieve Barr appreciated the chance to tell a story that was "inherently funny because of the sign language that was being used and because of the animation in the story that was being told."88 These three disabled actor's experiences show how advertisements can be more inclusive and fair when people with disabilities are not only cast in the roles of disabled characters, but also when the roles are multidimensional and resonate with their lived experiences. Moreover, the spots use humor in a way that does not treat disabled people as the butt of someone else's joke. As Michele Oliver, Mars Chocolate UK's Vice President of Marketing, states about her company's place in representing disabilities: ". . . we feel very responsible for ensuring that we do embrace diversity. Are we perfect? No. Can we get better? Definitely. And we are looking at ways to improve." Maltesers "Light Side of Disability" campaign was noted to be one of its most successful campaigns,89 and the company has gone on to make more advertisements that showcase other forms of diversity.90
In their quantitative study of representations of disabilities in American advertising, communication professors Dennis J. Ganahl and Mark Arbuckle make an important statement that should be remembered by students, teachers, and practitioners of advertising: "If commercials practice inclusion of persons with disabilities so will the American culture."92 Kate Magee makes a similar argument when assessing the situation in the UK: "The key, as with other diversity issues, is seeing people as individuals and without labels. And the media, marketing and advertising industries have an opportunity to help break down social stigmas around disability by making it more visible."93 These important points certainly apply to other parts of the world, too. By acknowledging past and current stereotypes of disability and seeing the success of more positive efforts take root, more steps can be taken in the future to make advertising more inclusive of people of all abilities, which will only contribute to more acceptance and understanding of disability in broader culture and society.
Edward Timke is an instructor of advertising and society courses in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. He is also Associate Editor of Advertising & Society Quarterly and contributor to ADTextOnline.org.
Edward's specialties include advertising and media history, international advertising and media, and media theory and research methods. His work focuses on the role of advertising and media in shaping how different cultures understand and imagine each other. Timke is a 2017 recipient of a Digital Humanities Advancement Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). He has also received numerous awards and nominations recognizing his excellence in teaching and mentoring of student research.
Edward has lived with a permanent hearing disability since birth and is a proud user of bone-anchored hearing aids. He has been recognized for his advocacy for students with disabilities, including a Certificate of Recognition by the University of Michigan's Council for Disability Concerns. With many allies and mentors by his side, he has worked hard throughout his life to prove a pediatric doctor wrong who said he would never amount to anything intellectually.
2. See Roland Marchand, Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920–1940 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985) and Richard W. Pollay, "The Distorted Mirror: Reflections on the Unintended Consequences of Advertising," Advertising & Society Review 1, no. 1 (2000), https://muse.jhu.edu/article/2945.
3. John Berger, Ways of Seeing (London: British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books, 1972), 131.
4. Alex McClimens, "Value of Advertising," Learning Disability Practice 16, no. 1 (February 2013): 8.
5. Beth Haller, Representing Disability in an Ableist World: Essays on Mass Media (Louisville, KY): The Avocado Press, 2010), 41.
6. Because of the diversity of various abilities, an analysis of how all disabilities are represented in advertising was not possible in this unit. However, many efforts were made to represent as many abilities as possible. The author recommends referring to the many sources cited throughout the unit for further discussions of representations of other abilities in advertising and media. For example, this unit does not discuss medical or prescription drug advertising, which also tends to use flawless people, even if they are representing debilitating illnesses or conditions. A helpful source to address disability in prescription drug advertising for antidepressants is Patricia Peppin and Elaine Carty, "Signs of Inequality: Constructing Disability in Antidepressant Drug Advertising," Health Law Journal (2003) 161-182.
8. "ability," Google, Google Words, accessed June 24, 2019, https://www.google.com/search?safe=off&ei=dAkRXei-BZHwsQWusYWwDQ&q=define%3Aability.
9. For an overview of the disability rights movement in the United States, see Anti-Defamation League, "A Brief History of the Disability Rights Movement," accessed September 29, 2019, https://www.adl.org/education/resources/backgrounders/disability-rights-movement; National Park Service, "Disability History: The Disability Rights Movement," Disability History, December 1, 2017, https://www.nps.gov/articles/disabilityhistoryrightsmovement.htm.
11. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, "Article 1–Purpose," Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), accessed July 18, 2019, https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/article-1-purpose.html.
12. Clare Mullaney, "Disability Studies: Foundations & Key Concepts," J-Stor Daily, April 13, 2019, accessed July 19, 2019, https://daily.jstor.org/reading-list-disability-studies/.
13. Some individuals with chronic or long-term medical conditions may or may not self-identify as disabled, even if some organizational or government policies might consider them disabled and therefore eligible for disability benefits, such as long-term disability insurance or Social Security. For a discussion of how chronic illnesses are defined in relation to the concept of disability, see Sara Goering, "Rethinking Disability: The Social Model of Disability and Chronic Disease," Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine 8, no. 2 (June 2015): 134-138.
14. For a discussion of this debate within the deaf community, see Allegra Ringo, "Understanding Deafness: Not Everyone Wants to be 'Fixed,'" The Atlantic, August 9, 2013, accessed July 22, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/08/understanding-deafness-not-everyone-wants-to-be-fixed/278527/.
15. Doctors at the time diagnosed Roosevelt with polio, but medical experts since that time have determined that his symptoms are more aligned with Guillain-Barré syndrome.
16. For more details about Roosevelt's disability and his pragmatic reasons for not showing it publicly, see "Franklin D. Roosevelt," Whatever Happened to Polio?, National Museum of American History, https://amhistory.si.edu/polio/howpolio/fdr.htm; "Franklin D. Roosevelt-Disability and Deception," The University of Arizona Health Sciences Library, July 20, 2018, http://ahsl.arizona.edu/about/exhibits/presidents/fdr; Cecil Adams, "Did Americans Really Not Know About FDR's Disability?" Washington City Paper, August 17, 2016, https://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/columns/straight-dope/article/20831057/did-americans-really-not-know-about-fdrs-disability; Amy Berish, "FDR and Polio," Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, 2016, https://www.fdrlibrary.org/polio; Robert E. Gilbert, "Disability, Illness, and the Presidency: The Case of Franklin D. Roosevelt," Politics and the Life Sciences: The Journal of the Association for Politics and the Life Sciences 7, no. 1 (August 1, 1988): 33–49; Richard Thayer Goldberg, Making of Franklin D. Roosevelt: Triumph Over Disability (Cambridge, MA: Abt Books, 1981); and Dean Kotlowski, "Ratifying Greatness: Franklin D. Roosevelt in Film and Television," Journal of American Studies 53, no. 1 (February 2019): 252–279.
18. The "March of Dimes" campaign idea was also used as a play on words to sound similar to the popular radio and newsreel series of the 1930s called The March of Time.
19. "Conservatives Want Reagan to Replace FDR on US Dimes," USA Today, December 5, 2003, https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/washington/2003-12-05-reagan-dime_x.htm.
20. "Charity Formed on This Day in 1938," PDX Retro: Memories & More, January 3, 2013, https://pdxretro.com/2013/01/charity-formed-on-this-day-in-1938/. More details about the history of the March of Dimes can be found here: https://www.marchofdimes.org/mission/a-history-of-the-march-of-dimes.aspx.
22. Frank Passic, "When Helen Keller Came to Albion," Historical Albion Michigan, accessed September 1, 2019, http://www.albionmich.com/history/histor_notebook/940605.shtml.
23. For a discussion of Helen Keller being treated as a "Vaudevillian freak," see Susan Crutchfield, "'Play[ing] her part correctly': Helen Keller as Vaudevillian Freak," Disability Studies Quarterly 25, no. 3 (Summer 2005), http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/577/754.
24. Ruth Shagoury, "Who Stole Helen Keller?" Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History, June 21, 2012, https://www.zinnedproject.org/if-we-knew-our-history/who-stole-helen-keller/.
26. For example, the Little People of America organization, which provides information and resources for people with dwarfism, states the following: "Opinions vary within the dwarf community about whether or not this term [disability] applies to us. Certainly many short-statured people could be considered disabled as a result of conditions, mainly orthopedic, related to their type of dwarfism. … Dwarfism is a recognized condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act" (Little People of America, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed September https://www.lpaonline.org/faq-#Disability). This unit does not address how little people have been represented in advertising, but there has been important discussion about this topic, such as Laura Backstrom, "From the Freak Show to the Living Room: Cultural Representations of Dwarfism and Obesity," Sociological Forum 27, no. 3 (September 2012): 682-707; Peter Feuerherd, "Little People on TV: Educational of Exploitative?" J-Stor Daily, August 19, 2017, https://daily.jstor.org/little-people-on-tv-educational-or-exploitative/; Erin Pritchard, "Cultural Representations of Dwarfs and Their Disabling Affects [sic] on Dwarfs in Society," Considering Disability 1 (28 July 2017), https://cdjournal.scholasticahq.com/article/1985.pdf.
27. Kristen Bialik, "7 Facts about Americans with Disabilities," Pew Research Center, July 27, 2017, accessed July 19, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/07/27/7-facts-about-americans-with-disabilities/.
28. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, "Disability Impacts All of Us," March 8, 2019, accessed July 19, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/infographic-disability-impacts-all.html.
29. World Health Organization, "World Report on Disability," 2011, accessed July 19, 2019, https://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/report/en/.
30. Olan F. Farnall and Kelli Lyons, "Are We There Yet? A Content Analysis of Ability Integrated Advertising on Prime-time TV," Disability Studies Quarterly 32, no. 1 (2012), http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/1625/3027/.
31. Judith E. Heumann, Road Map for Inclusion: Changing the Face of Disability in the Media, Ford Foundation (2019), https://www.fordfoundation.org/media/4276/judyheumann_report_2019_final.pdf, 1.
32. For example, see Elizabeth Ellcessor and Bill Kirkpatrick, eds., Disability Media Studies (New York: NYU Press, 2017); Katie Ellis and Gerard Goggin, Disability and the Media (New York: Palgrave, 2015); Farnall and Lyons, "Are We There Yet?"; Harlan Hahn, "Advertising the Acceptably Employable Image: Disability and Capitalism," Policy Studies Journal 15, no. 3 (March 1987): 551–570; and Beth Haller and Sue Ralph, "Profitability, Diversity, and Disability Images in Advertising in the United States and Great Britain," Disability Studies Quarterly 21, no. 2 (Spring 2001), http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/276/301.
33. Zenaida Sarabia Panol and Michael McBride, "Disability Images in Print Advertising: Exploring Attitudinal Impact Issues," Disability Studies Quarterly 21, no. 2 (Spring 2001), http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/279/307.
34. See "Disability and Media Work" in Ellis and Goggin, Disability and the Media, 94–112.
35. For a discussion of the "age of new media visibility" see Shani Orgad, Media Representation and the Global Imagination (London: Polity, 2012), 4–10.
36. For a look at the use of disability in telethons, which are essentially long commercials that brought people with disabilities into people's homes through media, see David Feldman and Brian Feldman, "The Effect of a Telethon on Attitudes Toward Disabled People and Financial Contributions," Journal of Rehabilitation 51, no. 3 (July 1985): 42-45; Paul K. Longmore, "The Cultural Framing of Disability: Telethons as a Case Study," PMLA 120, no. 2 (March 2005): 502-508; Christopher Smit, "'Please call now, before it's too late': Spectacle Discourse in the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon," Journal of Popular Culture 36, no. 4 (2003): 687-703.
37. "1944 Ad Revere Copper Brass Inc Soldier Physical Disability WWII Crutches LF4," Period Paper, accessed June 24, 2019, https://www.periodpaper.com/products/1944-ad-revere-copper-brass-inc-soldier-physical-disability-wwii-crutches-109862-lf4-633.
39. Panol and McBride, "Disability Images in Print Advertising."
40. Dennis J. Ganahl and Mark Arbuckle, "The Exclusion of Persons with Physical Disabilities from Prime Time Television Advertising: A Two Year Quantitative Analysis," Disability Studies Quarterly 21, no. 2 (Spring 2001), http://www.dsq-sds.org/article/view/278/305.
42. "80's Ads: McDonald's Silent Persuasion 'It's a Good Time For The Great Taste of McDonald's' (1987)," YouTube video, uploaded by PhakeNam, August 9, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=li4JMrwouu8.
43. Tony Robinson, "Disabled Actors Playing a Greater Role in Advertising: Major Sponsors Find They're Not a Handicap in Helping to Sell Products," Los Angeles Times, December 15, 1986, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1986-12-15-fi-2828-story.html.
44. Panol and McBride, "Disability Images in Print Advertising."
54. "Reeve Ad – Inspiring or Misleading?" CBSNews.com, January 28, 2000, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/reeve-ad-inspiring-or-misleading/.
59. Heumann, Road Map for Inclusion, 4.
64. David M. Perry, "The Juice Commercial that Pissed Off the Entire Disabled Community," Pacific Standard, June 21, 2017, accessed July 19, 2019, https://psmag.com/social-justice/heres-the-worst-juice-commercial-ever.
66. For examples, see Disabled Mom (Yes We Exist), Twitter post, June 5, 2017, 7:45 PM, https://twitter.com/AprilDelRario/status/871920851419095044; Megan, Twitter post, June 5, 2017, 6:42 PM, https://twitter.com/Skrambled_Megs/status/871905066986291200/photo/1.
69. "This is an ad by @ZumaJuice, this ad makes me mad. Why? Where do I start? Let's start with a couple of key images," Chronically Something Tumblr post, June 5, 2017, https://chronically-something.tumblr.com/post/161491713930/this-is-an-ad-by-zumajuice-this-ad-makes-me-mad.
70. David M. Perry, "Daily Post," Facebook post, June 7, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/ProfessorDMPerry/photos/a.674108252660889/1556599834411722/?type=1&theater.
71. Josh Loebner, "Agencies Need to Better Connect Disability with Diversity and Inclusion Efforts," Adweek, April 5, 2019, accessed July 23, 2019, https://www.adweek.com/agencies/agencies-need-to-better-connect-disability-withdiversity-and-inclusion-efforts/. Also see Iyana Moore, "Normalizing Disability in Advertising," American Advertising Federation DC, The Voice, December 3, 2018, accessed July 20, 2019, http://voice.aafdc.org/2018/12/normalizing-disability-in-advertising/.
72. Without such descriptive tags, advertisers and marketers lose out on opportunities to share their messages. In an early study of online advertising's outreach to the visually impaired, David R. Thompson and Birgit L. Wassmuth found that nearly 75% of online newspaper banner ads "failed to present accessible content by using informative alternative text in the image tags of online banner ad images. For advertisers, that means millions of both sighted and blind online readers will not be exposed to their advertising messages." See David R. Thompson and Birgit L. Wassmuth, "Accessibility of Online Advertising: A Content Analysis of Alternative Text for Banner Ad Images in Online Newspapers," Disability Studies Quarterly 21, no. 2 (Spring 2001), http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/281.
76. Scope seeks to build a community of the disabled and non-disabled to "achieve a society where all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness." See Scope, "Vision, Mission, and Values," accessed July 19, 2019, https://www.scope.org.uk/about-us/vision-mission-values/.
77. "Scope 'end the awkward' by Grey London," Campaign, May 8, 2014, https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/scope-end-awkward-grey-london/1293468.
78. "Scope 'end the awkward' by Grey London," Campaign, May 8, 2014, https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/scope-end-awkward-grey-london/1293468.
82. For more details see "Don't DIS my ABILITY," Wikipedia, last updated December 13, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_DIS_my_ABILITY.
87. Alexandra Jarine, "Disabled People are the Stars of Maltesers' Humorous Paralympic Ads," Ad Age, September 6, 2016, https://adage.com/creativity/work/dance-floor/48908. "Maltesers | Look on the Light Side of Disability | Behind the Scenes," YouTube video, uploaded by Maltesers, September 7, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mx12fTwOQl0&t.
89. See Natalie Mortimer, "Maltesers' ad featuring disabled actors prove to be 'most successful' advert for the brand in 10 years," The Drum, April 5, 2017, accessed July 23, 2019, https://www.thedrum.com/news/2017/04/05/maltesers-ads-featuring-disabled-actors-prove-be-most-successful-advert-the-brand-10, and Omar Oakes, "Maltesers' disability campaign 'most successful' in decade," Campaign, May 18, 2017, accessed July 23, 2019, https://www.campaignlive.com/article/maltesers-disability-campaign-most-successful-decade/1433980.
90. David Griner, "Maltesers' Wonderfully Awkward Diversity Ads Are Back, Featuring Hot Flashes and Lesbian Dating," Adweek, April 23, 2018, accessed July 23, 2019, https://www.adweek.com/creativity/maltesers-wonderfully-awkward-diversity-ads-are-back-featuring-hot-flashes-and-lesbian-dating/.
92. Ganahl and Arbuckle, "The Exclusion of Persons with Physical Disabilities from Prime Time Television Advertising."
93. Kate Magee, "The Invisibles: Why Are Portrayals of Disability So Rare in Advertising?" Campaign, September 9, 2016, https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/invisibles-why-portrayals-disability-so-rare-advertising/1407945