When you open a magazine, turn on the television, or browse on your phone, what do you see? Do the images in advertising look like your life? Is your experience reflected in what you consume? For people with disabilities, the gap is often wide. Although they are 20 percent of our population, they appear in 2 percent of media images. The Disability Collection aims to address this problem by using stock photography to inclusively document life with a disability.
Verizon launched the Disability Collection in collaboration with the National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA) and Getty Images, a worldwide stock photography company. The Collection’s guidelines were developed through an inclusive process, where NDLA representatives considered key questions of representation:
- How do they want disability depicted?
- What kinds of situations should the photos document?
- How can photographers incorporate how disability intersects with race, ethnicity, or gender identity?
They asked these questions in six disability focus groups, a quantitative survey to over 1,000 respondents, and validation by NDLA leadership. This thoughtful approach produced practical guidelines that will continue to be refined based on feedback from photographers and participants.
Careful, intentional planning produced beautiful photos. To celebrate, we held a Disability Collection Celebration at our Washington, DC Technology and Policy Center, a reception that pulsed with the energy radiating from the project. Thought leaders in the disability community participated, including Helena Berger, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities; Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living; Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf; and Julia Bascom, Executive Director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
The evening’s centerpiece was a panel discussion led by Lawrence Carter-Long of the Disability Rights and Education Fund. Lawrence asked three young disability advocates – Claire Stanley, Harsh Thakkar, and Keri Gray – to select their favorite images from the Collection. Their choices reflected the diversity of their experiences. Keri loved an image of a man with a prosthesis playing basketball because it evoked her life growing up in small town Texas. Claire selected an image of a young woman using a service animal to get around, asserting her independence. Harsh shared a photo of a young person in a wheelchair on a date, an experience he believes is marginalized for people after a spinal injury. We were proud to provide a platform for these young leaders, and that the Collection inspired such an inclusive discussion.
Verizon is grateful for our partnership with NDLA and Getty Images. Together, this project grew from an idea to reality, producing beautiful images that anyone can purchase. When we listen and collaborate, we can create things that showcase life beautifully, in all its complexity.
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