Automatic Inclusion

Recently I shared an article about a print ad from Target for kids clothing that a number of children pictured, one of which was a child with Down syndrome.  The great thing about the ad was that Target didn’t come out and give themselves praise for including a person with a disability in their advertisement, they didn’t hold a press conference or make an announcement. They just did it.  The article that I saw was titled “Target is ‘Down’ with Down Syndrome: 5 Things Target Said by Saying Nothing At All.

I’m glad they chose to include a person with a disability and not feel the need to have to rationalize it.  The fact that we notice and applaud them shows that we have a long way to go for full inclusion.  It shouldn’t have to be highlighted when a child with Down syndrome is in an ad, it shouldn’t a special media event if a wheelchair user or a blind person is featured in a campaign.

Apple had another great inclusion moment when they featured a blind user using the new iPhone 4S’ accessibility feature in the first commercial for the device.  At the end a woman is shown reading a book in Braille and using Siri to read and send a text message to a friend. It was a great moment because it showed a person, who happened to be blind, casually reading and interacting with a friend via text.  This seemingly simple act of showing the versatility of Siri and the iPhone  among different users caused a ripple of notice and praise for the advertising and technology practices of Apple.

Hopefully, one day we’ll get to a point in our society were it will be common place to see people with disabilities in commercials, TV and print ads and it won’t have to be pointed out.  I’m just glad I haven’t seen any articles about how “inspiring” it is to see someone with a disability in advertising media.

My view of inclusion has changed a lot since I started working at disABILITY LINK (the Center for Independent Living serving Atlanta). I’ve been using a white cane for years now and I’ve noticed, that when watching TV or movies, I’m curious as to why I don’t see more representation of blind people, or people in wheelchairs or people with hearing impairments.

I work with people with disabilities on a daily basis and I expect to see my peers in entertainment media and rarely do.  Inclusion shouldn’t be an initiative, program or effort, it should just happen.  If it just happened we wouldn’t even need a word to point out that everyone is included equally.

What are your thoughts?

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3 thoughts on “Automatic Inclusion”

  1. My family & close friends do not even turn on the close-captioning – my parents started doing it a few years ago – but I’m 45, and close-captioning has been around for quite a few years now. Even in my inner circle, close-captioning is seen more as a nuisance, rather than a simple necessity to enable me to enjoy more a viewing pleasure – to be able to understand the dialogue of what is transpiring on the television.

    I can only imagine the steps necessary to take – all public televisions should have closed-captioning on – when someone sits down in a lobby anywhere, the close-captioning should be present across any and all screens being shown. Is it a nuisance? Do I like the close-captioning being shown during a ball game when I can’t see the player’s stats or some other piece of information being blocked out by the captioning? No, I don’t like missing that piece of information; however, moments like that – missing information due to interference of the close-captioning, are rare.

    Whether it be blindness, deafness, – whatever type of disability – awareness, one person at a time, should be emphasized. Share your thoughts to your friends – my parents didn’t turn on their television to close-captioning until I showed them the subtitle version available on almost all current-day movies. I’m 45 – and my parents have only been using the close-captioning for about maybe five or seven years now – if even that.

    I don’t want to be a bother with my friends, as I don’t see them that often. Do you think any of them, when I visit, turn on the close-captioning? No, they don’t. I am just like one of them – but that also means that the disability isn’t fully understood nor appreciated.

    My friends are wonderful people – absolutely fantastic – and I am partially responsible for their lack of appreciation of how much I enjoy being able to read a movie while I watch it – that’s right – read a movie while I watch it. Try it sometime – you’ll be surprised how much information you pick up in a movie that you otherwise would have missed because you didn’t have the close-captioning on during the movie…

    Kudos for this article – it touches a nerve – our society should be inclusive for all members of our society – but it’s not there. It’s got a ways to go. It’s improving, yes – but still – we don’t help others with disabilities enough. Recognition, in any form, be it television, YouTube, other internet venues, radio – is essential in improving the public’s awareness, compassion, and understanding towards other individuals with disabilities…

  2. What a wonderful article
    Now to answe your question
    Models pose for ads and many models do not openly share if they struggle w/ learning disabilities or physical handicapped. It is up to the fashion world to change their ideal of beauty.

  3. I really liked your article. I’m currently studying the master of Mass Communications (Journalism), and one of my main concerns, both as a blind person and as a future journalist, is to make people with disabilities really visible in the media. As you said, it’s great when the participation of people with disabilities in the media becomes natural as opposed to an “inspiring” moment.

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