In the recent “All In” UK advertising industry census, it was encouraging to see survey questions included on mental health and disability, which is often overlooked in corporate D&I agendas and is evident in the census results, showing disabled talent underrepresented in our industry at just 9% vs 20% working age population. Unsurprisingly this also translates into a lack of disabled representation in advertising.
As the total spending power of families with at least 1 disabled person is estimated at £274 billion a year, according to Scope a disability equality charity, it’s a missed opportunity for brands not to be prioritising disability and to help change perceptions. It’s an issue well addressed in the Stop Being Diversish video by The Valuable 500, a campaign launched at the World Economic Forum in 2019 asking brands to include disability in their D&I agendas, making the point if disability is not on your agenda, then neither is diversity.
Driving Disability Inclusion Forward
To drive disability inclusion forward in marketing, we need to start within our own organizations. As disability transcends gender, race, age, socio-economic background and will affect us all at some stage in our life, particularly with increasing life expectancy and ageing populations, it should be an inherent part of a company’s sustainability strategy. It should also cover invisible disabilities encompassing neurodivergent conditions such as autism and Asperger syndrome, as well as mental health.
While most companies want to support disability inclusion, many are afraid of getting it wrong and making a misstep that could potentially trigger negative PR or other consequence. By example, just writing this blog I’ve been uncomfortable using the term “disability”, as many of the disabled individuals I’ve met in my life are some of the most abled, driven and uniquely talented that I know, yet this is the universal term applied. To avoid inaction however, my experience is we need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable and promote a continuous dialogue on diversity and inclusion to drive awareness, share learnings and knowledge.
Recommendations on How to Act
In this spirit, we have provided some of our thoughts on how to action disability inclusion, starting from within our own organizations to authentically translate into marketing. It’s not an exhaustive list but hopefully provides some practical steps to help drive change.
- Sign up to the Disability Confident UK Government Scheme – As a starting point we would recommend signing up to the disability confident scheme which provides employers with guidance on how to recruit, support and retain disabled talent. It also helps organizations raise their profile as an inclusive employer. For equivalent initiatives supported by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, please see here.
- Consult disability experts to help educate – Seek expert advice from groups such as Remploy, Celebrating Disability, EARN, The Valuable 500, Neurodiversity Specialists, Genius Within, Disability:IN who can help educate on the benefits that disabled talent can bring to an organization, from innovation and creativity to high levels of productivity and attention to detail. They can also provide guidance, training and/or case studies on how best to support disabled talent to ensure they feel genuinely valued and included in the organization and can truly thrive.
- Survey your organization – Conduct an anonymous employee survey to determine what is your organization’s current understanding and perceptions on disability to inform the training required. The survey should also encourage disabled employees (known or unknown) to share their experiences and recommendations and serve as key contributors/leads in helping shape the company’s disability agenda. If disabled talent does not exist internally, or are unknown, seek external disability advice.
- Audit your Accessibility – this is an extensive topic for which we would recommend expert guidance to help assess your accessibility, from a work environment perspective through to the products/services you develop. This should also include a review of your marketing channels and communications, which is something we are currently looking into at Flock ourselves, starting with a review of our website. Such audits can help to assess is disability addressed/featured in your content? Does video content include captions? Can audio options be included etc? Groups such as 3playmedia can help provide support in these media and content related areas.
- Include Disability in your Briefs – to support disability inclusion in advertising and marketing it needs to be included in agency/partner briefings. If you are the partner, and it’s not included in your briefs we would encourage you to address it with your clients. A few examples we consider best in class work on the subject…
- IKEA This Ables Project
- Uber Thanking Deaf Partners
- River Island Labels are for Clothes
- Guinness Wheelchair Basketball
- McCain Here’s to Love
At Flock, we are learning more and more about how the best companies embrace sustainability and inclusive marketing starting from within their organisations. We have partnered with the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) to produce our “Representation of a Nation” guide, providing practical advice for marketers wishing to become more diverse and inclusive. We are also currently working on a follow up to the guide, which will focus in on the important task of measuring diversity and inclusion in marketing. We are keen to learn more, share what we know, and assist those companies who seek our help where we can. If you would like more information, to collaborate or to share your ideas, please contact us via the form below.