Fulfilling Lives for Brazilians with Disabilities

Trends / Realness
Erika Dominiquini
Federico Roales
Jul 1, 2022
Despite awareness campaigns1 2, the efforts of NGOs, and government‑enacted laws, people with disabilities in Brazil (pessoas com deficiência in Portuguese, commonly referred to as PDC) are still underrepresented in media, perpetuating a status quo that keeps them marginalized and deprived of opportunities to develop their personal and professional lives. According to the latest research from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, it is estimated that 23.9% of the Brazilian population has some form of disability3, including visual, physical, hearing, cognitive or other types of impairments. Out of those, 16 million (8.6% of the total population), have a severe disability. However, people with disabilities are represented in less than 1% of the content that is used in Brazil.

Brazilian society is strongly committed to fostering the inclusion of people with disabilities: 98% of consumers think that they should be given equal opportunities, and 95% think that people with disabilities have as much to contribute to society as people without disabilities. Therefore, visual narratives should reflect people with disabilities from an un‑stereotyped perspective: instead of showing them always trying to overcome challenges, we encourage storytellers to portray people with disabilities in work environments, collaborating with colleagues that may or may not have disabilities, as part of bigger communities inside classrooms and across other intersections of identity such as race, ethnicity, gender identity or age.
Visual stereotypes
Within the few examples that do show representation in popular visuals, people with disabilities are portrayed as living a life always defined by their limitations: they are generally shown alone or separated from their communities, without a focus on their life stories, backgrounds, or daily routines. In fact, 2 in 3 visuals show Brazilians with disabilities in medical settings, and 41% show them being cared for, implying that they are not self sufficient. On the other hand, very few are centered as the main characters having fulfilling life experiences: just 2% of people with disabilities are portrayed with a romantic partner, 6% are depicted exercising, and just 12% are shown as part of a group or community, which reinforces the idea that their impairment is the unique aspect of their identity worth sharing.

Stereotypes associated with the outreach and the role performed by people with disabilities within society impact the way they are perceived: almost every Brazilian with a disability reports experiencing bias due to their impairment during the last year, according to our VisualGPS research. Furthermore, 46% of people with disabilities in Brazil perceive that they have been discriminated against for being “weaker” (top reason in the country), while 33% perceive that they have been discriminated against due to being considered “different.” So, we can infer that showing people with disabilities integrated into their communities would be a more inclusive way to visualize them. 
An intersectional approach
Another pain point when it comes to representation of people with disabilities in Brazil is the lack of intersectionality. Intersectionality refers to the interconnected nature of social categorizations that create overlapping systems of discrimination. As an example, even though senior adults are the most prevalent age group among people with disabilities4, visuals tend to focus exclusively on young adults or children with disabilities. Furthermore, while Black people make up more than half of Brazil’s population5, they are depicted in 13% of the most popular visuals among people with disabilities. Finally, looking at popular visuals alone would suggest that people with disabilities may not have gender expressions, gender identities or sexual orientations outside of the norm because LGBTQ+ people with disabilities are rarely depicted. Therefore, we encourage thought‑provoking and powerful visual choices that feel genuine and portray people with disabilities from an authentic perspective, considering different intersections of their identities.
Workforce participation
Another important aspect of depicting people with disabilities is showing their participation in the workforce. Although Brazil enacted the Lei de Cotas twenty‑one years ago6 to ensure that companies with one hundred or more employees must fill a portion of their positions with people with disabilities, their participation in work environments still remains a big obstacle. 

Just 28.3% of employable people with disabilities within working age are contracted, compared to 66.3% of employed people without disabilities7. This is replicated in visual depictions: just 1% of workplace visuals feature people with disabilities. In this way, the audience does not get used to viewing people with disabilities at work. Visuals that move away from one‑dimensional perspectives and portray people with disabilities carrying out day‑to‑day labour activities: commuting to work, interacting with customers, or holding meetings with their teammates would help to evolve the visual depiction of disability.
[1] Converse Ad
[2] Meio e Massagem
[3] IBGE
[4] IBGE
[5] IBGE, 2019
[6] Vagas
[7] CNN Brasil
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