The Rarely Pictured Reality of Living with a Disability

Spotlight / Shoot Spotlight
Claudia Marks
Apr 29, 2024
In a world where authentic representation of people with disabilities matters more than ever, Fly View, a creator based in Portland, Oregon, is part of a new era of inclusive imagery. Our VisualGPS research found that customer searches for "accessibility" are on the rise, reflecting a cultural shift in the way that people with disabilities want to be seen: Not as helpless, and not as heroes either, but as people living their everyday lives.

One shoot often leads to the next!
Following our team’s guidance to be more inclusive in their casting, Fly View organized a shoot with a man they knew personally who uses a wheelchair, showcasing different facets of his everyday life, including intimate vignettes of his daily routine. While getting to know the model during the shoot, Fly View discovered that he was a multi‑faceted athlete, an avid skier, and a member of a group of adaptive athletes. It turned out that they both shared a passion for skiing, leading to a second shoot—a memorable day on the slopes with members of an adaptive ski club, capturing the essence of camaraderie and determination.
Fly View had done a nice job of showing this one person in two different aspects of his life, but the shoots weren’t connected visually—so we suggested that they collaborate with this same model again on a more complete visual narrative. This meant spending a whole day with him and showing a more complete picture of his quotidian life. What emerged was a powerful portrayal of ubiquitous everyday moments like household tasks and simply navigating one's home and chores, fused with authenticity and humanity.

Capturing everyday nuances of living with a disability
During the skiing shoot, Fly View got to know one of the model’s close friends, a woman who is also a dedicated adaptive skier, climber, and cyclist, and she was up for giving him this same window into her daily life as well. Fly View did just that, capturing natural slice‑of‑life moments in both models’ active, independent lives, and conveying their individual personalities, interests, and overall energy, as well showing their friendships.
Such simple everyday chores and errands like taking out the trash, getting the mail, going grocery shopping, having lunch with a friend are rarely shown for people living with disabilities. Through all these different activities, we also get to see more realistic and varied nuances that are rarely pictured, such as how the woman sometimes stands with her supports, sometimes uses a wheelchair, and sometimes uses different kinds of wheelchairs in different ways.
A great new addition to our Disability Collection
All of these shoots followed detailed guidance from our Disability Collection guidelines on both the visual approach and the captioning and keywording, to be accurate and precise. This got great feedback from the National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA), our partners on the Disability Collection, who called out the shoot as being spot on for visualizing a person doing normal things around the home where the disability is not shown as either a hindrance or the central focus, and where normal routines are not shown as a heroic act. As Fly View's work finds its way into our collections, it serves as a reminder of the power of storytelling to foster empathy, understanding, and inclusion for people with disabilities.
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