iStock Tips for Visualising Authentic Representation of People with Disabilities for SMBs and SMEs

Today, on Global Accessibility Awareness Day, iStock celebrates the three-year anniversary of The Disability Collection, launched in partnership with Verizon Media and the National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA) to depict authentic, diverse representations of people with disabilities in media, marketing and advertising.  

According to iStock Visual GPS research, nearly 8 in 10 people globally expect that the businesses they engage with are consistently committed to inclusivity and diversity in their visual communications. The data also reveals that 6 out of 10 people prefer to buy from businesses that are founded by or represent people like themselves.

“Research shows that nearly 1 in 4 adults have a disability, but few visuals in marketing and business communications reflect that reality. However, our research tells us that people want to see inclusive stories, and they want the media and advertising that surrounds them to accurately capture their world — from lifestyle and culture to appearance,” said Dr. Rebecca Swift, Global Head of Creative Insights, iStock. “At iStock, we understand the power authentic visual content can have in shaping and breaking stereotypes, and brands and businesses now have the opportunity to be part of inspiring change and connecting with people even more through visuals, especially when it comes to their influence and spending power.”

For businesses of all sizes seeking to build confidence with their audience(s), iStock has unveiled a series of tips to keep in mind when selecting inclusive visuals this Global Accessibility Awareness Day and beyond:

  • Showcase the full spectrum of human experiences: Disability is intersectional – It’s important for businesses to intentionally include experiences that make up everyday life, across age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic status, religion and cultural lines.
    • Are you showing the whole range of life experiences that a person with disabilities may have? Are you representing people with disabilities alongside other intersections of their identities (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender identity or expression, age, etc.)?
  • Represent real people: Use imagery and videos that portray real people with disabilities instead of actors portraying persons with disabilities. By using authentic visual content which includes people with disabilities, you also include them in the conversation and allow them to help shape the way they are represented, which in turn may also influence how they view themselves within our broader society.
    • Are you only featuring people in wheelchairs or with other easily identifiable differences? What about people with cognitive challenges or an invisible disability?
  • Stay away from the narrative of “overcoming” disability: Instead, focus on joyful moments, as well as relationships between people who are living with disabilities and those living without. The images traditionally used in the media typically reflect “heroic” concepts or suggest “pitiful” stereotypes of disability, missing the mark as to how disability is a natural part of someone’s identity.
    • Avoid portraying disability as something that needs to be “cured,” “fixed” or “overcome,” and instead embrace and celebrate it as a part of our everyday lives.

To find imagery and video celebrating people with disabilities as they live their lives, visit:

image credit: Drazen_/iStock

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