Advertising Ignores Disabled, Claims UK Minister

19 November 2003

The British government has attacked the advertising industry for treating disabled people as "poor relations" when it comes to portraying them in ads.

Maria Eagle, minister for disabled people, on Tuesday urged marketers to target the "disabled pound" and cast off the prejudice that disability in advertising is a turn-off.

"For too long disability has been the image advertising forgot," Eagle declared at the launch of the government's first annual disability report. "At the heart of this, I'm sure, is a misapprehension that disability doesn't sell. Try telling that to the UK's 8.6 million disabled people spending more than £45 billion ($76bn; €65bn) a year."

The minister believes that advertisers of the future will recall the dearth of disabled actors in ads "with a sense of embarrassment".

Eagle's comments were welcomed by Stephen Woodford, president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. He argued that the ad industry should better reflect Britain's population, both in its work and in its recruitment.

"This report is making an important contribution to inclusivity, and the IPA is delighted to support this imaginative initiative," he commented.

The government is one of Britain's biggest advertisers -- second only to Procter & Gamble in 2002 -- and 50% of its campaigns include portrayals of the disabled.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff