Are You Sure? A Response to "I Couldn’t Find a ‘Back to School’ Ad That Included Kids With Disabilities… So I Made My Own"

disabilities under-represented in advertising; Removing the Stumbling Block

There’s an article from The Mighty circulating the internet called “I Couldn’t Find a ‘Back to School’ Ad That Included Kids With Disabilities… So I Made My Own” Maybe you’ve read it, or maybe you’ve already shared it.

It’s a well written article in which the author expresses her frustration about the lack of disability representation in online back-to-school ads, so she creates her own. And I agree. Disabilities are absolutely under-represented in all forms of advertising.

no disability in ad; Removing the Stumbling BlockBut here’s where I got stuck: This author assumed (you know what they say about assuming…) that all disabilities are visible. In looking for a “child who looked like her daughter” she may well have overlooked children with Dyslexia, ADHD, social issues, anxiety or other psychological issues, those with mental illnesses and many others. Is it accurate to say that each child in each ad she shared in her post doesn’t have some form of a disability? Can she really assert; “Not one model in close to 50 ads included one child with a disability. Not one.”? I will graciously stand corrected if she did the research and verified that each child is typically developing. But I am very uncomfortable with the assumption.

People with disabilities and their families do not want assumptions made about them. None of us do. But this article made assumptions FOR them. Is that any better? I realize that some may argue that this is a bit of semantics, but hear me out. If we are truly invested in creating a more inclusive society, then the rules have to be consistent; for everyone. If it is unfair to make assumptions about a person’s needs or abilities without getting to know him/her, then it is unfair to assume that every child or person we see in an advertisement is neurotypical. The truth is that not all disabilities are visible. Period.

I agree wholeheartedly that we need greater diversity in advertising, specifically where disabilities are concerned. I'm just not confident in her assumption that every single child in every single “regular” ad she found didn't have a disability.

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