Creating Images that Accurately Represent Disabilities

Creating Images that Accurately Represent Disabilities

Capture the daily life of people with disabilities in authentic, intimate portraits with insight from pro photographers.

In most stock marketplaces, Shutterstock included, images of people with disabilities are often inaccurately represented. It can be difficult for customers to source images that show an authentic approach to photographing people with disabilities.

Images of people with disabilities in everyday situations can be difficult to come by. In most of what we see, images of people with disabilities are depicted in an “overcoming” sense of accomplishment, like people are in a constant battle to defeat the odds. With those images, people with disabilities are featured in superhero poses, and a “We can do it” attitude with no other emotions present.

Creating Images that Accurately Represent Disabilities — More Than a "Can-Do" AttitudeCreating Images that Accurately Represent Disabilities — Ability Doesn't Look One Certain WayCreating Images that Accurately Represent Disabilities — One Size Does Not Fit All

Images by Dean Drobot

In the United States alone, 61 million adults are living with a disability. That’s 26% of the population. We need our marketplace to visually represent authentic lifestyle moments featuring people with disabilities. And together, we need to work with our photographers, videographers, and illustrators around the world to create and share more representative imagery.

Why is creating and sharing images of people with disabilities important?

Now more than ever, we have the power to showcase a truly representative world. A world full of diversity, and images featuring people from all corners of the world.

Diversity is more than just gender, ethnicity, and sexuality, however. An important aspect of diversity in stock is showcasing accessibility, and people with a variety of disabilities in authentic, everyday situations. The reality is, the cookie-cutter approach to stock isn’t relevant. The more diversity you can showcase in the images you submit to stock, the more customers have the opportunity to share and showcase representative imagery in their marketing.

Creating Images that Accurately Represent Disabilities — Showcase Everyday MomentsImage by Denis Kuvaev

What are some of the disabilities that we need representative images of?

On Shutterstock, we welcome any and all images that accurately represent disabilities. Here are a few types of disabilities that we want to see more authentic, representative imagery of.

Physical disability: Affects a person’s mobility and/or dexterity. Examples of physical disabilities can include paraplegia, MS, cerebral palsy, quadriplegia, and many more.Intellectual/ learning disability: Images that represent a reduced capacity to learn tasks or process information due to an intellectual, learning, or cognitive disability.Visual impairments: This doesn’t necessarily have to mean “blind” and can be any need for visual assistance due to disease, accidents, or cognitive illness.Hearing impairments: Images that represent people with deafness or hearing loss. These aren’t images of people just struggling to hear. This can include people in everyday situations with assistance in the form of hearing aids or support.Neurological disability: Disabilities that can result in a loss of physical or mental functions. These can depict sleeping disorders, ADHD, head trauma, and many more.Developmental and genetic disorders: May include autism, Aspergers, down syndrome, and many other developmental or chromosomal disorders.

Disabilities can be physically visible, or completely invisible. Disabilities occur at every age range, in every situation. It’s important to create images that showcase people in disabilities in a wide variety of life moments, milestones, and events. 

What does an authentic image of a person with disabilities look like?

It’s really a simple answer. It’s a picture of anyone, in any situation. It’s an image of your coworker in a meeting, or a picture of someone ordering coffee. It’s a family playing together in a park.

Whether you’re representing a physical disability, such as an amputation, or a developmental disorder such as autism, we need images that depict a wide range of moments and emotions. Happy, sad, and in-between. The big life changes, and the simple everyday tasks. The more that we can diversify our stock marketplace to include these images, the more opportunities customers have to show representative images in advertisements. 

Creating Images that Accurately Represent Disabilities — Portray Parts of Daily LifeCreating Images that Accurately Represent Disabilities — Visible and Invisible Disabilities

Images by Goran Bogicevic

Changing the story of images of people with disabilities

When asked about her images of people with disabilities, photographer and Shutterstock contributor Mila Supinskaya said, “I noticed Naz when he was training for the rugby game. Immediately, I knew that I want to photograph him. Not as much because of an interesting wheelchair story, but because he was so handsome! Photographing him was the same as it would have been with any other model — with the only restriction that he was sitting.” 

Creating Images that Accurately Represent Disabilities — A Touch of HumanityCreating Images that Accurately Represent Disabilities — Shooting with Respect

Images by Mila Supinskaya

Bringing humanity back to stock images is a mandate we stand behind, and we know we have a long way to go. By sharing the importance of why representative imagery is important in stock, we hope to continue to elevate and grow our marketplace to be the best it can possibly be.

As far as tips on photographing people with disabilities, Mila says “I’d suggest that it’s better to shoot people with disabilities just like anyone else. Focusing on your model’s emotions, selecting the best angles for their beauty and making them comfortable with few jokes.” 

Creating Images that Accurately Represent Disabilities — Sensitive and Honest PortrayalsImage by Daisy Daisy

We hope this inspires you to create images that accurately represent disabilities in images, videos, and illustrations. We want to create a marketplace full of inclusive images. Together, we can change the way we represent a global world in media. 

Featured Image by Denis Kuvaev.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out these articles:

Discover the Importance of Diversity in Stock5 Offset Photographers on the Importance of Diversity in StockHow to Capture Authentic LGBTQ+ Content10 Impactful Images Celebrating Modern Workers RightsArtist Series with William Perugini: Creating Diverse Stock Content

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