Time to challenge disability preconceptions head-on
As International Day of People with Disabilities approaches, we get news that Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuinness and his wife Christine were challenged by a passer-by when parking in a disabled parking space to drop of their twins at a play centre.
The passer-by did not realise that the twins, who the couple revealed have autism, were disabled. The incident shows that there is a way to go in challenging preconceptions of disability and understanding disability in the UK.
According to the UK Government’s family resources study of 2017, over one in five of the UK population are disabled. In demographic terms, 45 per cent of disabled people are over 65, 19 per cent are of working age and eight per cent are children. The number of disabled people is set to grow as population estimates by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that by 2041, 26 per cent of the UK population will be over 65. There is a need to change and challenge public perceptions of disability – particularly, as in the case of Paddy McGuinness’s twins, most disabled people are not wheelchair users. In fact, only ten per cent of disabled people have mobility issues and require a wheelchair.
The charity Scope produced a report in 2018 – The Disability Perception Gap – which highlighted that more than one in three disabled people feel there is a lot of discrimination in society, whereas only one in five non-disabled people surveyed feel the same, revealing a substantial gap in perceptions. Other research reveals that well over half of all disabled people say the way that businesses treat them impacts upon their own and their family’s shopping habits.
Disabled people have a combined spending power of some £80billion per annum in goods and services, according to the UK Business Disability Forum. Company marketing can play a crucial role in challenging preconceptions of disability. The most recent example of marketing challenging preconceptions of disability is the Morning Ritual, Amazon’s advert for Alexa – its voice technology assistant.
The advert – produced in partnership with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) -challenges preconceptions of blindness by showing a woman rising from bed, greeting her Labrador dog and making coffee in the early hours of the morning, before consulting Alexa on the weather and setting out with her dog. Only when we see the Labrador is in a harness, does it become apparent that the woman in question has a visual impairment.
Preconceptions of disability – as experienced by Paddy McGuiness and his wife – cause pain and heartache to those on the receiving end and can be costly to businesses, as poor service is a key reason that disabled people switch to a more disability-aware business.
Let’s make 2020 the year in which businesses and marketers examine their preconceptions about disability and challenge any misconceptions head on.