Synopsis of lecture:
Disabled people are excluded from mainstream adverts, despite there being 11 million disabled people in the UK. The stereotype of disabled people is someone in a wheelchair, however only 2.2% of those who are disabled are actually in wheelchairs. There was a case where a female childrens presenter on cBeebies was disabled- she had the bottom half of her arm missing- and after he first time presenting on the programme there were 8,000 complaints to the BBC about her being on the television, these consisted of comments like ; “it forced me to talk to my children about disability”. There are very few disabled people represented in television adverts and very few agencies which hire disabled models. However, there is to be a break-through, as Coronation Street is to have its first disabled character but this is particularly different as the storyline will not focus on the fact that she is in a wheelchair. Big Brother also treats the disabled differently, they make a ‘big deal’ out of them and treat them in a different way to the other contestants. Disabled people tend to be viewed from one point, the physical point, rather than from multiple points, like personality etc, but you woul not judge someone who is not disabled in this way. Every disabled person is different, like every non disabled person is, disabled people have personalities. There should be more disabled people as characters or in adverts etc- promoting their quality of life- why does the disablity have to diminish the person? Don’t show them in plain clothes. 47% of people become disabled within their working lives (20-50yrs old). And finally, although there are many disabled charities that advertise and do fantastic work, they actually amplify the disablitiy and the need for help.
There really is a great exclusion of the disabled from adverts, I cannot ever remember seeing someone with a disability in an advert, yet I see people with disabilites all the time- working, shopping and living their lives, so why can they not be included in adverts doing all these things? I must admit that before the lecture, my instant thought, my stereotypical image of someone who is disabled is someone in a wheelchair- this is probably because the only disabled characters on television are those in wheelchairs.
The 8,000 complaints there were about the presenter on cBeebies I find astonishing. I cannot believe how parents could find the presenter ‘inappropriate’ – she was a fantastic presenter and the children loved her. Children are shielded from enough as it is, they only see perfection on television, so in letting their programmes be presented by a disabled person itroduces them to the idea of disability and makes it part of their everyday life and stops it from becoming a prejudice in their minds- so I do not know how parents could complain about broadening their children’s minds, thoughts and beliefs.
In regards to disabled characters in soaps, there has been characters in wheelchairs before. In Coronation Street, Ryan’s friend was in a wheelchair and the storyline did not focus on his disability. However, the character of Hayley in Hollyoaks did have storylines quite heavily focused on her being in a wheelchair, but mainly to highlight the prejudices she came up against. For example when someone heard her singing they wanted her in their band, but when they saw it was her and that she was in a wheelchair they no longer wanted her as their lead singer. Also when she fell pregnant, all her friends and her brother thought she would not be able to cope because she was in a wheelchair, which of course was not true. The storylines for Hayley’s character, although focused on her being in a wheelchair, still had a positive effect as they highlighted the prejudices she came up against and how she overcame them and how her life was the same as everyone else’s- something she often said in the soap; why should she be any different because she’s in a wheelchair. But I do feel that it is a good thing the new character in Coronation Street’s storylines won’t focus on her disability, because, like the character of Hayley, it should not stop her doing anything and most importantly being herself and having a personality, which Hayley certainly did. Also, in regards to disabled characters often being put in plain clothes, Hollyoaks never did this to Hayley, the character always wore what any young, twenty-something girl would wear.
I think that every disabled person should be treated the same as anyone without a disability when on any kind of programme etc. – game show, reality, acting or modelling- the disability most certainly does not have to diminish the person and if the disabled person doesn’t let their disability effect their life, then why should others make it do so? The disability should be acknowledged, but then almost ignored as it does not make them less of a person. People should be judged by their personalities and negativity towards a person should be based on bad attitudes, or bad traits in that person, not by how they look. But unfortunately in a modern society where appearance is key, this is unlikely to happen.
After the lecture on 18/2/10 we were asked in groups to create an advert. The brief was to be based on an origianl one given by ‘Clarks’ and was as follows:
And we decided to create an advert that showed someone with a disability included in a group, doing something simple and regular as jumping, because they loved their new ‘Clarks’ shoes so much. We decided that the person with the disability should not be in the centre, as this would attract attention and in doing this, making sure the audience who look at the advert don’t even see the disability at first. Also to show that ‘Clarks’ is for everyone and everyone is included. Also to make the disability not a “big deal” at all- as the brief said. This is our advert: