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I can be sexy too! Just like you!

A recent set of portraits doing the rounds of social media did a bang-up job of causing a storm in a virtual teacup.

One was of a twenty-something woman in a yellow bikini. There was one of a drop dead gorgeous young guy with an elegant sartorial style…in a crisp city smart suit and tie. Another photo showed a raunchy muscle man, who could have had the girls running wild…

Sexy, funny, successful…

It would be easy to get all sniffy and politically correct about some of these images. Do we really need any more sexualised or stereotyped portraits of women, corporatist or physically intimidating images of men? Haven’t we all had enough? In this case, such a reaction was exactly the point…

Black man in wheelchair

lady sitting in wheelchair wearing swimwear…because all of these men and women had a disability, whether visually impaired models, amputees or wheelchair users. In other words they were sexy and disabled.

Who’s that person…

Whatever your opinion of these images, whether you find them sexy, regressive, clichéd, uncomfortable or whatever, you have an opinion – and it isn’t about a piece of engineering. The images of those disabled models pushed you to see past the wheelchair or the prosthetic to the individual.

This was very much the theme of Scope’s 2007 disability awareness campaign, ‘See The Person, Not The Disability’. As winner of the 2009 Cannes Grand Prix For Good, it went a significant way to challenging prevailing attitudes.

On the campaign trail

The campaign was committed to highlighting the barriers – attitudinal and institutional – which exclude people with disabilities from being seen as…guess what? People!

Why is it that individuals who are able to participate, and contribute to, professional and community life – no differently from anyone else – be excluded, treated differently or assumed to be in some way beyond it? Why can’t they be, feel and dress sexy? Why can’t they retain their intelligence? It’s like saying: cut the functionality switch, I have prosthetic legs now or use a wheelchair.

Scope for improvement

The Scope ads took the conventional iconography of disability and cleverly manipulated and subverted its appearance. They challenged the stereotypical narrative of disability.

A parking space marked with the traditional disability icon of a person in a wheelchair was augmented to show a person in a wheelchair working on an iPad. A sign for a disabled toilet was altered to show a person in a wheelchair playing saxophone. Productive, creative, smart.

Show your identity

There are no disabled people…although there are plenty of people living with disabilities: sexy, fun, successful, professionally challenged, irritating…human.

For more information on our Disability Awareness e-learning, please use this link…

About the author

Daniel Williams, the director of Visualise Training Consultancy