Categories FundraisingRecent

Creatives called to shift the dial on attitudes towards disabled people

Photo of two people on a stage, sitting on chairs, engaged in conversation. An image of a book cover is visible on a big screen at the back of the stage. Visible text reads, "Fats Timbo, Main Character Energy"

Disability campaigners are calling on the creative industry to take messaging and representation of disabled people seriously.

New research for the charity Scope, conducted by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) reveals what types of messaging and positioning work to improve our attitudes and perceptions of disability and disabled people.

According to Scope, three in four disabled people have experienced negative attitudes and behaviour from others in the last five years. Launching the research, Scope called on the creative industry to produce campaigns that reflect the findings of the research, which was meticulously tested with over 5000 members of the public.

Event host, disability campaigner and disability equality charity Scope Ambassador Shani Dhanda, said:

“We live in a society where people don’t know how to talk about disability, and that often leads to disabled people facing negative attitudes from those around them. There is so much stigma against disabled people, in everything from education to employment, and fashion to leisure. When I was 16 I applied for hundreds of jobs, and only got a response when I removed my disability from my resume.

“Having better representation in the media means that disabled people can see themselves reflected in everyday stories, and it also shows non-disabled people that we deserve to be treated equally.”

Leonie Nicks, Senior Advisor at the Behavioural Insights Team added:    

“It is so exciting to create some of the first evidence for what works to change attitudes towards disabled people. Research understanding how to improve outcomes for disabled people is far too rare. Applying insights from this work in future campaigns could have a really positive impact.” 

What Works: The Behavioural Insights Team stress-tested seven different approaches for campaign messaging to change attitudes towards disability and disabled people to see what works with the public. The insight from testing approaches with over 5,000 nationally representative people found we should: 

– Affirm the status of disabled people. This approach challenges the negative stereotype of perceived incompetence. The focus is not about inspirational ‘overcoming’ of disability.  It’s about fostering respect and preserving the dignity of disabled people. 

– Share stories and personal experiences. Stories are persuasive and create an emotional connection. They can challenge people’s preconceptions and defy stereotypes. 

– Encourage people to think about how they would feel if they faced inequality. This isn’t asking people to imagine being disabled, but to imagine how they would feel if placed in an unfair situation.

Be careful with how facts and figures are used to highlight injustice. Using statistics alone may make it difficult for the audience to relate to the experiences of disabled people. This can have unintended consequences for attitudes.

Shani began by interviewing high-profile creator, comedian and educator Fats Timbo,  with over 2.9m followers on her social channels, who recently appeared in the May issue of British Vogue. Also featured was Ekow Otoo – who has Multiple Sclerosis – an actor and model who featured in the recent National Lottery advert.

Following the research, Scope are suggesting five actions creative organisations can take to challenge negative attitudes: 

– Well-rounded representation of disabled people

– Co-produce campaigns with disabled people

– Involve disabled talent on and off-screen or behind the scenes.

– Create accessible content

– Create an accessible environment

For more information, visit the Scope website.

Image: Fats Timbo and Shani Dhanda at the Scope launch event