Why using authentic imagery is important

Recently we have seen a heightened interest in the disability market.

In Australia that interest is being driven, in part by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), new research on accessible tourism, a push towards inclusive housing and major events such as the Wheelchair Rugby World Cup, Invictus Games and the Commonwealth Games.

That interest has lead to some new and positive advertising promotions, Target, Tradie Workwear, QIC and the ANZ being some of the latest.

However, we have also seen some new entrants into the market and some major government departments produce recent advertising and brochures containing "fake" stock imagery. Unfortunately, the stock image world is full of imagery that uses able bodied models placed in wheelchairs for the purpose of a photoshoot.

Due care is needed in selecting imagery of people with a disability as it is in any other form of image selection. There was a recent example of an advertising campaign for a major Australian city that featured a clear out of date picture of the cities skyline with the wrong sponsor logo on a major stadium.


Why is the use of Authentic Imagery Important?

Apart from the obvious hypocrisy of using able bodied models in any article promoting services offered to people with a disability, the credibility of the article is undermined by the use of imagery, that to anyone with a disability, is immediately identifiable as a fake image. What may appear to be a good image to the uninitiated will be seen through immediately by the trained eye. This applies not only to people with a disability, but also to Occupational Therapists, rehabilitation centres and insurance companies looking for the best outcome for their clients. Sending mixed messages by using poor imagery casts doubt over how seriously an organisation takes people with a disability.


Accessibility is Big Business

Accessibility is big business. In addition to the 20% of the population that has some form of disability there are another 3 people directly associated with that person. They may be family, friends or work colleagues. Research puts the spending associated with people with a disability and their friends at 25% of the total market spend in sectors such as tourism, leisure and recreation. Imagery is marketing aimed at a particular sector. Fake imagery sends a message of tokenism at best, at worst it says to a potential customer or employee that "we  really don't know what we are taking about". Using authentic imagery sends a strong message that we understand you, have taken the time to research our products in relation to your needs and that we want the business.



Recent image in a government promotion



Image from the same shoot

Telltale Signs of a Fake Image

  • Wheelchairs that look clunky and would be more at home in an airport terminal or hospital
  • No pressure cushions
  • Wheelchairs that clearly don't fit the model (too wide, legs not horizontal)
  • Postures inconsistent with the disability being portrayed
  • Muscle tone inconsistent with the disability
  • Do a same model search If in one series they are sitting in a wheelchair and in another playing active contact sport it is a fair bet they are an able bodied model.

An image has always been worth a thousand words, it is important that those 1000 words are reinforcing your brand image not defining it by tokenism.

If in doubt, stick to image libraries, like Travability Images, that support the disabled community by only featuring Authentic Imagery using real models with a disability.


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