A picture can paint the wrong words

Shutterstock image of a young person being pushed in a hospital wheelchair. The occupant is obviously a model that doesn't look like they have a disability.Time to bring photographers along with the universal design movement together with those who choose stock photos.  For those who understand the issues with the picture shown, there is no need to explain. But there are many others who see two good looking young people, one in a wheelchair being pushed by the other. They are wearing bright colours and looking happy as they make their way through an empty shopping mall. For the uninitiated there are three key issues with these companion pictures.

  • First, it perpetuates the stereotype that wheelchair users must be helped by being pushed rather than mobilising independently. A person walking alongside would be better. 
  • Second, it is clear that both of them can walk as they change places with each other to be pushed in the chair. There are many wheelchair-users who could be models and wouldn’t need to be pushed.
  • Third, the type of wheelchair is usually found in a hospital setting. It is not one that a person would normally own let alone use it to go shopping. Wheelchair-user models would come with their own wheelchair.

Wheelchair users are not the only way to convey diversity or disability. The majority of disabilities are invisible, e.g. low vision, hearing loss, heart disease. So pictures of groups of people from all walks of life are much better. Too many of these pictures show a lone wheelchair user in places devoid of other humans. This is not real life.

Images are used for a reason – to convey a message. Let’s make sure they convey the right messages.  

Advertising needs to grow up

Two women sit on a bird nest swing.Time to challenge the entrenched marketing theory of market segmentation by age. It follows mindless formulas and plays into stereotypes about older people as needy and helpless. Buying online is increasing in older age groups. Why marketing to seniors is so terrible highlights some of the issues in sectioning out older people in a negative way, or worse in a patronising way. Here is an excerpt from the article:

THE ONE UNIVERSAL TRUTH ABOUT AGING
The most surprising finding Tuma and her team discovered was when they asked people to envision an aging utopia–and an aging dystopia. In every single country surveyed, the utopia had generations living together in harmony, learning from each other, and helping one another other. The dystopia, conversely, strictly segregated young and old. Which one do we see most in advertising today?

When was the last time you saw anyone over 55 in a decent ad? The world of oldsvertising is a hellscape full of reverse mortgages, erectile dysfunction pills, and bathtubs that won’t kill you.

Time to focus on attitudes, not age. No more patronising pictures of older hands, thank you – real life please.  

It’s the economy stupid! But who’s listening?

Front cover of the reportCentre for Inclusive Design claims a “world first” report on the economics of inclusion. While not exactly a world first on presenting economic analyses of inclusive business practice, it does cover some areas not covered before. The report analyses education, retail and financial services and argues inclusive design can drive financial, economic and social improvements.

“Inclusive design is a no-regrets process that creates significant benefits which are currently being left on the table. It is an overlooked step in maximising the potential of Australian business and ensuring a more productive Australia.” This is a quote from Jeremy Thorpe, Partner and Chief Economist, PwC. 

You can read the overview on the Centre for Inclusive Design website, or download the full report, The Benefit of Designing for Everyone. Alternatively there is an infographic of the report. which has the key findings and the numbers presented in an easy to read format.

It is good to see more work being done on the economics of inclusion. However, such arguments over the last ten years have yet to make their mark. The inclusive tourism industry is testament to that as well as the housing industry. Let’s hope someone is listening and willing to act.

 

Diveristy in Advertising

A busy night street scene in America showing neon brand signs.Who is in the room when decisions about diversity are made can be crucial to the design of an advertising campaign. This point is made in a FastCo article that showcases a new online tool to help brands make advertising more inclusive. Who makes the advertising and who appears in it is as important as what is being advertised. Big name brands need to consider who they are reflecting back to us.

Advertising agencies claim they have difficulty sourcing diverse individuals for their ads. Grow your Circle is an open source database that aims to bring together diverse advertisers and actors. The idea started when a company wanted an all-female production crew and found it difficult to fill every position. The idea of the database is a good one, but it remains to be seen if it really takes off. At least someone is trying. The article has a video explaining the issues. Would be good to see a similar database in Australia.

Editor’s note: Ageing (aging) and disability did not come up on my search. However, they did appear in a cluster where Black, Hispanic and Women are search terms. The database has a way to go before it is well populated. 

The Business of Age-Friendly

A clothes store with jackets hanging and a table with other clothes.Many businesses would like to expand their customer base to include older people and people with disability, but not sure how to do it. Utilising a checklist is one way to start thinking about it. Several organisations have produced checklists and other information to help businesses understand what they can do. Much of it costs little or nothing. Here are just four.

COTA TAS has a checklist that has a rating scale from excellent to needs work. It covers external environments, shop entrances, safety, comfort, and staff training, and much more. It’s nine pages and easy to read.

AgeUK has a more comprehensive document that provides the reasoning behind some of the “Top Tips’. These include telephone interactions, websites, and resolving complaints. Toilets, seating and other physical factors are also included. This is a report based on consumer workshops.

Saskatoon Council on Ageing has a simple tick box checklist with all the key features needed to be age friendly. This one includes the walkability of the area around the shops, as well as parking, and providing smaller packaging units for single households.

From Ontario comes “Creating an Age-Friendly Business” guide. It covers the reasons to be age friendly, some case studies, an assessment checklist and concludes the the principles of the Age-Friendly Community Framework. Easy to read.

Of course being age-friendly means being friendly to all ages. Many of the suggestions are compatible with the needs of people with disability as well. The NSW Business Chamber has produced a guide for small business based on improving accessibility for everyone. However, this short online guide is not easy to read with small text and lots of graphics. It was based on the original Missed Business? by Marrickville Council and the Australian Human Rights Commission. It is also useful for local government authorities.