Paralympics Spotlight: The Importance of Disability Representation

As the Paralympic Games kick off in Beijing this month, we’re seeing increased visibility around disability representation in both modern media and advertising. While brands have seemingly been making strides in representation of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals, we’re only starting to see similar strides for inclusion of people with disabilities.

The importance of inclusion is not new; in fact, a 2019 Adobe survey noted that nearly 4 in 10 American shoppers are more likely to trust brands that show more diversity in their ads. At the same time, a recent Nielsen study found that less than 3% of prime-time ad spend in 2021 went toward ads that were inclusive of people with disabilities or embraced disability themes in the creative, even though more than 1 in 4 Americans (or 61+ million individuals) live with a disability.

About 35% of those 61+ million Americans with disabilities are of working age (16–65) income-earners (either through employment or supplemental benefits). Research shows that the total value of discretionary income for working-age Americans living with disabilities is about $21 billion, more than that for the African American ($3 billion) and Hispanic ($16 billion) communities combined. That shopping value alone proves brands cannot afford to ignore the power of shoppers with disabilities. Compound that with the two-thirds of shoppers who say they are somewhat likely to immediately purchase a product after seeing it advertised with diversity and inclusion, and it’s easy to see the immediate value of representation in advertising.

All in all, the power of disability representation cannot be ignored. And if this year’s Winter Paralympic Games are anything like last year’s Summer Paralympic Games (which set viewership records), we’re likely to see millions tuning in to support disabled athletes from around the world. This support doesn’t stop once the Paralympics ends. Compelling diversity representation can be a prime opportunity for every brand to earn shoppers’ trust (and dollars) year-round.

Contributed by: Susan Parsons, Group Director, Social Media & Content

Image Source: Unsplash