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20 February 2024

Shift 20 Initiative to create more inclusive media by engaging people with disability.

When you turn on the radio, open a magazine or scroll through social media you are sure to see or hear an ad. Advertising is everywhere, but the campaigns often don’t accurately reflect the diversity we see in our communities.

Only 1% of ads in Australia feature people with disability, despite nearly 20% of Australians having visible or non-visible disability.

Shift 20 Initiative wants to change that.

A group of companies in Australia are working together as part of the Shift 20 Initiative to help make the advertising, media and marketing industries more inclusive for people with disability.

Led by the Dylan Alcott Foundation, several big brand names including Bonds, Weet-Bix, McDonalds and TikTok have signed on.


Advertising needs people with disability.

The approach aims to improve the visibility of people with disability by including them in mainstream advertising campaigns that celebrate diversity and inclusivity.

Dylan Alcott, a successful Australian athlete and one of the Shift 20 Initiative founders, shares, “One thing I really struggled with growing up when I was a kid is when I turned on the TV, the radio, the newspaper, I never saw or heard anybody like me. I had no point of representation that I could connect to.”

To help more organisations come on board, Shift 20 Initiative has created a four part framework to guide marketers, business leaders and other stakeholders who want to be more authentic in their advertising campaigns.


Representation in storytelling.

For a meaningful change in how people with disability are portrayed in advertising, Shift 20 Initiative encourages inclusivity at every step of the creative process. To create authentic advertising storylines people with disability must have representation in narratives, characters, and in the teams that work behind the scenes.

By involving people with disability in on-screen and off-screen roles, brands can ensure genuine narratives, diverse talent and inclusive crews, bringing each advertising campaign to life authentically.

When brands choose partners and suppliers with disability to help with production the Shift 20 Initiative can have an even bigger impact.


Inclusion in casting.

Casting people with disability in ad campaigns is a powerful way to bring positive attention to the diversity in our society. By including people with both visible and non-visible disability in a variety of roles, advertising can help to shift the perceptions of the wider community about disabilities.

Shift 20 Initiative encourages organisations to make as many aspects of production accessible by default, and to offer reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of talent or crew members with disability.

Adjustments can be requested by the talent or the crew and documented in an ‘access rider’. This is a foundational tool that helps create an inclusive and positive environment for all members of the production. It is the responsibility of the organisation to meet the requirements outlined in the access rider.

It is also important for the production leaders to be explicit about the importance of creating an inclusive and respectful culture and set clear expectations for how all members of the production work together.


Accessibility in communication.

Accessible communication is important for inclusion and connection. 20% of Australians have disability so using tools that make advertising channels and media more inclusive will help people with disability engage with the content.

Some examples are:

  • Closed captions
  • Options for sensory sensitivities
  • Use of simple language

Advertising that purposefully caters to diversity reaches a wider audience and signals the brand’s support of a more inclusive Australia.


Staying informed.

The media plays an important role in inspiring change in our society. Organisations can help shift to a more inclusive society by prioritising representation in advertising campaigns. Brands and advertisers must take steps to stay informed, share learnings and follow best practices to facilitate industry-wide change.

Shift 20 Initiative has compiled a number of tools and resources to help organisations and advertisers connect with people with disability.


Celebrating people with disability in the media.

If you have already read the Leap in! blog we recently shared about blind actor, Aria Maria Loberti, you’ll know the Leap in! Crew is eager to shine the light on the successes of people with disability in the media.

You can read the story about the star of the Netflix mini series All The Light We Cannot See on our website: Blind actor, Aria Mia Loberti, uses her success to shine a light on people with disability.

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