Part of a Whole

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

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BMW anti drink driving ad devalues disability

There’s an ad for an anti drink driving campaign by BMW making the rounds. The ad, while clever, leaves me uncomfortable, like most advertisement that use disabilities as the bogeyman. These ads are saying “don’t do this, otherwise you’ll end up disabled”, and the subtext is that disability is a horrible fate.

These kind of scare tactics happen too often for my liking. I already wrote about two such campaigns: one involving an anti-txt and drive campaign and one about drink driving. They are insidious. The message is too subtle for someone unfamiliar with the issues to be consciously aware of it, but clear enough that it’ll seep through in their mind.

BMW ad shows prosthetic leg, comparing it to a car spare part

This particular ad shows a man’s lower legs and feet. One of the legs is a prosthetis. The text states:

“Spare parts for humans are not as original as those for cars. Don’t Drink and Drive. Issued in Public Interest by BMW.”

The ad certainly is dramatic. It tugs at heartstrings. It also implies that being an amputee is a negative. It says “if you become an amputee, you won’t be as good as you are now”. It passes a negative value judgement on all amputees out there. Mind you, being an amputee can be difficult – there can be pain involved and logistical issues, and facing discrimination. I’d go as far as saying that this very ad is part and parcel of the discrimination amputees have to go through. It sucks!

If we’re going to scare people, we should do it with the threat of dying rather than the thread of disability. They are saying that disability is a fate worst than death. I know many people believe that, but it usualy is younger people who don’t have a first hand (or even secondary) experience with disability that think that way.

Here’s a challenge to advertisers: Don’t threaten people with acquiring a disability as part of anti-drink driving campaigns.