Week 5 – Representation of disability on the media

One of the subjects this week was the way disabled people are represented on the media. There was a specific focus on the strategies used by the charities to attract attention and raise donations.

Bellow there is an example of an advert of Enable Scotland from 2007.


Here the person is a product, and the aim is to create sympathy towards the issue and using the “Focus on the failure of the individual to adapt in the society” (Evans, 1999, p.274).  During this discussion, it reinforces the stereotypes and the prejudices that exists in the society towards disability.


On the above advert by Scope, it describes interaction with disabled people as awkward and tries to “help” with strategies for the situation to become comfortable. Here they are again focusing on the disability and reinforcing the difference between the “”normal” and typical, and what is “abnormal” or different”. (Barnes & Mercer, 2010, p.186).

I personally feel uncomfortable and have an opposing view as it creates negative feeling on the way disabled people are represented. This is an “othering” approach and it is not very successful in normalising disability.

voguebrasil-brazil-paralympic-games-photoshop-800x460Vogue (Brazil) 2016. We are all Paralympians

The Vogue campaign in 2016 was extensively criticised for using abled models to represent the two disabled Paralympians on the picture on the right. This just reinforces the lack of representation that they have on the media and a missed opportunity to get them exposed and empowered. I personally feel this again was a case of “othering” instead of “normalising”.

The use of models implies that the Paralympic themselves are not “good enough” to be the face of the event and describes them based on their impairment, rather by their personality. Doing so, they are stripped of their individuality as human beings and that they are unable to represent themselves, implying inferiority. This attempt was unsuccessful in my opinion.

Following the Council for Europe in 2006 effort to improve the portrayal of disabled people as full citizens, charities started to focus on the abilities rather than the disabilities, but often missing the point on the positive representation.


Amy Purdy in Toyota Advert, 2015

On the other hand, there seems to be a polarisation on the way disabled people are portraited on the mainstream media: either as uncapable and disability focused, or as a super human being.  Here Amy Purdy is represented as an inspiration and super women: practicing snowboarding, dancing and modelling.  This advert was criticised called as “inspiration porn”, and many claimed that disabled people should not be represented in such manner.


Kruger, 2014 – Real Prettiness

Here Kruger show the personality behind the disorder, and they express themselves using fashion. She was criticised for creating a “Freak show”, just like Diane Arbus. In my opinion, the two above representations could be more widely acceptable if disability was more widely portraited in mundane situations, such as the bellow Maltese’s advert:


This Maltese’s advert has in my point of view the best approach of the above adverts, as it normalises disability representing it in a normal activity, a group of friends are sitting around a table, talking and eating chocolate. The focus is on the friendship and the laughter, the disability is barely noticeable.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s