Disability in Media, a Campaign for True Diversity
Consumer culture is being held hostage by media channels broadcasting a very narrow sampling of ‘beautiful people’. The perfect specimens seen in magazines, on television, billboards, and all over the internet only represent a fraction of the diversity that makes up society at large.
One woman, a mother, seeks to change this conformist mentality. Meet Katie Driscoll, mother of six. After five boys, Driscoll was thrilled to have a baby girl. Grace, her youngest child and only daughter has Down syndrome. Katie refused to allow this disability to stop the world from seeing how beautiful Grace is. Katie also refused to have anyone feel sorry for her family.
How would she prevent this? She started snapping photographs. After some time, the photos became fodder for a blog, which eventually turned into a campaign directed toward marketing companies of various products. She petitioned them to include people with different abilities in their advertising.
This Huffington Post article represents a new level of engagement for Driscoll’s target demographic. As she writes on her personal blog, “It is not secret that I have spent a whole heck of a lot of time emailing, searching and begging for companies to include children and young adults of all abilities to be like everyone else. This week was the first time the emails were addressed to me instead of the other way around. It felt good.”
As the Huffington Post article quotes, Driscoll’s philosophy on advertising is simple, “I believe imagery is the strongest form of communication we have. It’s such a visual world that when we see something, we believe it,” Driscoll said. “That’s why advertising is so powerful.” Given this mentality, it is easy to see that consumers of former decades were almost brainwashed into having their eyes skip over anyone who looked different from mainstream. With campaigns like Driscoll’s, society at large can become sensitive to the wonderful variety of humankind.
Also included in Driscoll’s campaign is considerable benefits that retailers or marketing agencies may reap when they diversify. Here are some of the perks:
• Diversity advertising benefits society in general by raising awareness and sensitizing consumers to variety.
• It benefits individuals with different abilities, both in work experience and in who they might encounter.
• It shows consumers that the advertised products are robust and designed for real lives, real play and real bodies.
• It changes the playing field; consumers have a choice whether to buy from retailers who value diversity in their brand or those that focus on homogeneity.
In a perfect world, Driscoll’s campaign wouldn’t be news. We would see a fairly represented segment of the population in every commercial we watch – one in seven people would have a disability. Unfortunately, the world is not perfect. But with advocates like Katie Driscoll, awareness of people with disabilities will continue to reach new heights.