Perspective: A different point of view.

Helping businesses understand and navigate the landscape of the disabled consumer market since 1998.

Spotting potential misrepresentations of your message is as simple as changing your point of view. Read on for how.

A matter of perspective.

When sending the right message goes wrong.
Understanding perspective is critical when crafting a message intended to reach disabled consumers and allies. What seems to be a great story, concept or image to a non-disabled person is often the exact opposite when viewed from the disabled community.

Read The Landscape

On the surface, these two images are virtually identical. They both feature a single disabled person sitting in a wheelchair, outdoors, with outstretched arms, gazing at water. They're exactly the same price, have the same licensing features and are in the same collection and search results.

From a non-disabled perspective, they could be interchangeable.
They're not. There are subtle but critical differences between them, and understanding what they are can help you avoid having your message misconstrued, or worse, ignored altogether.
The image of the man on the pier is appealing and relatable to a disabled audience. The location is accessible, reachable independently, you can easily see how he got there, without help, he's using a current, modern wheelchair that fits him and the body language is expansive and grand. It's a strong, empowering photo.
The image of the woman on the beach is not relatable to a disabled audience. The "victory over disability" symbolism is a feel good image that speaks to non-disabled people, which is fine if that's your target, but if disabled consumers are your market, this type of portayal won't be successful.

Lost in Translation

Inspiring and profound or a demeaning trope?

Inspiring and profound or a demeaning trope?

The victory cripple is THE go-to thematic representation of disability in media. It's EVERYWHERE. The reason it's everywhere is because agencies and marketers who are not in the community love it. It gives non-disabled people a conscience-soothing image of freedom and "joie de vivre". It's a happy picture that eases their hearts.

However, the devil is in the details. Every wheelchair user knows getting a wheelchair on the beach is a multi-person job, even if you have a real, properly fit, useable wheelchair.

The ones where the "disabled person" is precariously perched in completely unrealistic and dangerous locations with no relation to reality are even worse. The smarmy underlying message is a backhanded insult implying that the very state of being disabled is something to overcome, making the point of life of a disabled person to overcome, not thrive, or live well, but just to fit in with the non-disabled world.

The only people who DON'T know this are non-disabled people.

When we see the "victory crip" genre of images, featuring purported disabled people in unrealistic locations, in unrealistic chairs, and other giveaways that we know it's a non-disabled person in a staged setting, and not an actual slice of life vignette. It's something about us, without us.

It shows a total lack of understanding of the disabled community as a whole and the individual disabled consumer. That in turn makes the message with that image completely ineffective.

You can't get there from here.

When activism dresses up in advertising's outfits.

Activism vs Advertising

This is a fine and nuanced point to be aware of when marketing to disabled consumers. Being able to spot it will help when crafting your message.

Activism comes in words: "I don't see you as disabled." and portrayals, where the aim is to change how disabled people are perceived in the world and in media. Activism messages are not normally speaking to the disabled consumer, but are more directed toward the non-disabled community.

The "I don't see you as disabled" position is a variation of the "victorious disabled person, overcoming their disability" theme. While noble, this is problematic because it removes the life experience of the disabled person, negates the realities of disability and shames the state of disability by virtue of it needing to be unseen. What's intended as a compliment is actually an insult.

The "change how disabled are perceived" concept is also a lofty goal in theory, but often fails in practice, as the aim is to change what already works at the expense of the disabled community, and does the exact opposite by using inappopriate settings, situations and models, changing what was intended to be a spectacular marketing concept into a sad, discordant spectacle.

It's easy to cross that line with good intentions, and the easy way to avoid it by using established marketing principles.

The myth that disabled people want to be spoken to differently to prove a larger point is just that, a myth.

Ready to add disabled consumers to your customer base?

Social Architect

Sometimes the steps to success are a ramp.
Ā© Kimberley Barreda. All rights reserved. An UnlimbitedĀ® network site.