Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

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Awesome Ads Presenting "The Disabled" In A Different Light

Many years ago, Colours in Motion ran a series of ads showing wheelchair users in a novel, different, and somewhat controversial way. It was good to see prejudices shaken a bit. Now, the Canadian Paralympics Committee have produced their own ads.

I’ve used "The Disabled" in the blog title on purpose, to make people think a bit, but disability language is NOT the goal of this post, so let’s forget about that.

I’ve tried to find some of the old Colours ads, alas they seem to have all but disappeared. I found bad copies of some of them in a PDF newsletter. Here they are:

Heavily tattooed man holding hockey stick aggressively
Lick This
Guy in a wheelchair holding a hockey stick, showing his heavily tattooed upper body.

Woman leaning backwards in her wheelchair
Nicole Parsons is leaning seductively in a negligee out of her tipped-back wheelchair

Quadriplegic shown in profile, with obviously pregnant tummy
Crista Adamson is photographed in profile, skinny legs and all, looking down pensively at her bare, pregnant belly rising above her wheelchair armrest.

These go back to 1996! Daring posters from a time when most ads for wheelchairs were taken in ill-fitting chrome covered "bathtubs" of a wheelchair. I remember they made a big splash in the disability community. And I think they were considered scandalous by many "well thinking Able Bodied" individuals!

I love that they break stereotypes, and present wheelchair users as people, no more, no less.

A more recent ad, again by Colours shows Briana Walker straddling her wheelchair, facing backward. You can hardly tell it is a wheelchair, yet…

Model Briana Walker straddling her wheelchair
Model Briana Walker, straddling her wheelchair backwards.

Which leads me to the most recent couple ads I’ve seen. Thanks to @immeemz for pointing them out to me. These were produced by the Canadian Paralympics Committee. And they are *powerful*. I won’t say much about those two photos, I’ll let you decide

Double leg amputee sitting in a sledge hockey sledge.
Standing on the podium is overrated
Sledge Hockey player Ray Grassi

Leg amputee standing on one leg.
She doesn’t want your sympathy. But her opponents might.
Swimmer Stephanie Dixon

So, what do you think? How do you feel about these two images? What effect are they having on you? Tell me! :)

One thought on “Awesome Ads Presenting "The Disabled" In A Different Light

  1. Great post. The obvious difference between the two sets of ads is the emotion shown by the models.

    In the Colours ads the models show that inspite of their disabilities they are athletic, sensual, maternal, etc, in other words they are emotional, feeling, normal humans. This message might come as a surprise to some able bodied viewers.

    The Paralympic ads are a bit angry. I guess they are trying to demonstrate the strength of the athlete. But as a result they are less “likable”.

    In both sets of ads, the message of “life after disability” comes across. However, it is easier to empathize with the models in the Colours Ad.

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