Disabled people call on brands to be 'braver' as study uncovers stigma around visibility in ads

Two thirds of population put lack of disability in advertising down to viewer discomfort

Fresh research has highlighted the continued impact of negative stereotyping in advertising upon those with disabilities, sparking calls for greater representation of those with physical and mental disabilities across advertising and the media.

Research by media agency UM found those with mental disabilities faced the greatest stigma.

Of the 2000 Brits questioned, 64% agreed that mental disabilities were most likely to be negatively stereotyped by society, with this number rising to 75% among those who had actually experienced such a condition.

When asked why those with mental disabilities weren't currently visible enough in UK advertising, two-thirds (62%) of Brits said it was because such depictions "make people uncomfortable," while 43% say it’s because UK audiences aren’t exposed enough to people in this community.

More than half of respondents (52%) said they thought people with physical disabilities were adversely stereotyped. Meanwhile 66% of those with physical disabilities said they felt like society wished to "sweep them under the rug".

Regarding the lack of those with physical disabilities in ads, 55% of Brits again said it was because they "made people uncomfortable".

The research unearthed widespread support for greater representation going forward, including 63% of those with physical disabilities who would like a higher profile in order to remove artificial divisions. 54% said they wished brands would be "braver" in showing "people like me" in their ads.

72% of those with mental disabilities wanted to see themselves better reflected in advertising.

Michael Brown, head of insight at UM, remarked: “The disabled are perhaps the final frontier for UK advertising, the last remaining major consumer group in need of a more positive approach and less stereotyping.

“Some brands have begun to use those with physical disabilities in their ads, famously Maltesers, but there is clearly far more that could be done to build a more positive perception both of those people and of those with mental health conditions.”

The study showed that when it came to LGBT diversity, 40% of gay and bisexual men perceived a more positive reception within society over the past three years, with 54% attributing this shift to more positive media coverage.

Similarly 37% of lesbian and bisexual women reported a more positive reception, with 53% of the belief that upbeat media coverage has played a part in this.

Advertisers acknowledged a 'disability deficit' during last year's New York Advertising Week.

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