Getty Images’ Disability Collection now has a gallery of over 1,000 images that aim to accurately portray individuals with disabilities.
A partnership between Getty Images, Verizon Media and National Disability Leadership Alliance (a coalition led by 17 national organizations run by people with disabilities), launched the collection last year.
The alliance has “prioritized centering people with disabilities in ways that allow us to shape and decide how we want to be represented in the media and beyond. That, in turn, influences how we view ourselves within society,” stated Lawrence Carter-Long, communications director for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund for the NDLA.
Last year, the three organizations developed guidelines for how to authentically reflect people with disabilities in photography, which is utilized by Getty photographers.
"We became acutely aware of the lack of diverse and authentic disability imagery available to support editorial, marketing, advertising, and other types of media," Mike Shebanek, head of accessibility at Verizon Media, told Publishers Daily.
"Most of the images available in stock image libraries were old, outdated and only narrowly represented people with disability as charitable or heroic," Shebanek said. Verizon Media reached out to Getty Images and NDLA for this initiative.
The new collection depicts people with disabilities from a diverse range of socioeconomic status, age, gender, ethnicity and sexuality. It portrays real disabled people living their lives. The narrative isn’t about “overcoming” disability; it’s just one part of a larger identity.
Though 34% of U.S. households have at least one member with a disability, this segment is often overlooked and underserved by brands and advertisers, the companies argue. The Disability Collection can be used as a resource to brands, and increase representation of those with disabilities.
Getty Images recently found searches for "disability" was up 98% from 2017 to 2018, and "disability icons" increased 269% from 2017-2018.
New search terms have appeared over the past 12 months since the partnership was created, such as "learning disabled," "intellectually disabled" and "disabled employee."
Verizon Media found 69% of consumers feel it is important that ads are accessible to people with disabilities. Some 56% of consumers will feel more negative about a brand if its disability representation in advertising was handled in an inauthentic way.
"Until now, it has been difficult for companies and small businesses to find modern, dignified and diverse images of people with disabilities. The Disability Collection changes that," Shebanek stated.
Verizon Media’s research found 70% of people would feel more positively toward a brand if its advertising featured people with disabilities, per Shebanek.
This isn’t Verizon’s first effort in the fight for disability representation. The company has the Verizon Media lab, which focuses on improving adapted technologies for people with disabilities, such as screen readers, switch controls, alternative input devices, etc.
Verizon Media (formerly Oath) includes brands like HuffPost, the Yahoo properties and TechCrunch, and encourages its properties to use more inclusive imagery.
The collections aims to "empower the media and advertising industry to get real about disability representation,” stated Dr. Rebecca Swift, senior director of creative insights at Getty Images.