The Disability Collection

Repicture / Our Partnerships
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Rebecca Swift
May 16, 2019
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 between the media and reality is often wide. Although nearly one in five people have a disability, just two percent of publicly available imagery depicts their lives.

That’s why over a year ago Getty Images launched a partnership with Verizon Media and the National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA), a cross‑disability coalition led by 17 national organizations headed by people with disabilities, to work together to create imagery that more accurately portrays individuals with disabilities and breaks stereotypes. The Disability Collection aims to address this problem by using stock photography to inclusively document life with a disability.

During that time we have worked together to identify the types of images that perpetuate myths of people living with disabilities and have developed comprehensive set of guidelines for how to authentically reflect people with disabilities in photography, which was shared with Getty Images' global network of photographers. The Disability Collection’s guidelines were developed through an inclusive process, where NDLA representatives considered key questions of representation such as: 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?
Although nearly one in five people have a disability, just two percent of publicly available imagery depicts their lives.

The goal is not to be tokenistic or formulaic about it in these images but actually to be choosing people who do live with a range of disabilities, and creating an environment whereby they feel comfortable being a part of that shoot, thereby creating natural imagery that reflects their reality.

The resulting Collection of over 1,000 images aims to empower our industry to get real about disability representation with stock photos that can be licensed and used by anyone in the world. Already we have seen an increase in searched for disability‑related images the past year on Getty Images ‘disability’ up 98% from 2017 to 2018, ‘people with disabilities’ up 218% and ‘disabled accessibility’ up 124%.
While we cannot change what people publish or click on overnight, we can provide better alternatives for those looking to create more authentic stories.
Since we launched the partnership one year ago, we have noticed new search terms appear for the first time ever. These terms include “learning disability”, “intellectually disabled” and “physical disability” and reflect the diversity that is now being sought within the representation of disability. The evolution of these search terms shows how seriously some of our customers are working to shut down stereotypes and commit to more inclusive representation of all people.

At a time when imagery is the most widely used global language, it has never been more important to produce and promote a visual language that is progressive and inclusive, and to support diverse voices in doing so. While we cannot change what people publish or click on overnight, we can provide better alternatives for those looking to create more authentic stories. We are so proud of this partnership with NDLA and Verizon Media. When we listen and collaborate, we can create things that showcase life beautifully, in all its complexity.
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