The Invisibles

  • What points are raised in this article about portrayals of disability in advertising?

In this article, there are two main points about the representation of disability in advertisements: there is simply not enough of it, and the small amount we do have is inaccurate and insensitive or overly focused on disability. Disabled people are people before they are disabled. There are 13 million disabled people in the UK and they are a huge demographic that adverts do want to target – yet they still never see themselves on advertisements – potentially isolating them. In order to change perceptions in society, we have to reflect society in our adverts. Will people really not buy a product if they see a disabled person using it? The only adverts with disability are the ones specifically about disability. Be authentic – but not cheesy. Whereas there are ads featuring disabled people; there is more to life than just overcoming adversity.


  1. Review the adverts you have seen; how do they compare to the points of view raised in the article?

I agree with some of the points raised in the article – but obviously I do not have such a wide scope of the advertising industry personally. However, my personal context as a teenager means I am often exposed to targeted advertisements, and I can honestly say I doubt I have seen a single advertisement featuring a disabled person on any social media platforms. At the very least; if there has been one, the product has been heavily related to the disability. I find the arguments in the article to be convincing – especially as they reference the adverts specifically. One thing in particular that I agree with is the argument that there should be more representation of disability not strictly related to it. As the argument points out, the disabled  (or people related) community is not a niche market – and as of currently, they are severely underrepresented. And in the rare occasion that they are represented, it is all focused on their disability and them overcoming it.

For example; the Duracell battery advert. It was hugely focused on how the NFL star overcame everyone telling him he couldn’t do it. Equally; the Paralympics Meet the Superhumans campaign was all about their disabilities. Whereas this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the whole point of the Paralympics is an Olympics for disabled people – there are more to people than just their disabilities. One advert when this was showed quite well was the This Is Wholesome campaign by Honeymaid. This advert portrayed a mother and daughter cooking together; a very familiar narrative; but the role of the mother was played by a woman in a wheelchair – when it could just have easily been an able-bodied actress. This completely familiar advert didn’t place an emphasis on the wheelchair – normalising and reinforcing the alternative narrative that disabled people are people too. Whereas it is no good to ignore that they have a disability, they are more than that – and it should be portrayed as such in advertisements.

Equally, Apple’s advert with Dylan, a boy with non-verbal autism, showed good fluidity from the product and how it actually related to the story being told, while still focusing enough on the disability for it to be genuine. So while I do agree with the points of views in the article to a certain extent, I also think there are examples of good adverts too. It is simply the scale of good advertising, and also it should be noted that the adverts we looked at were the award-winning adverts that did very well. I am sure there are many adverts which are insensitive and stereotypical.