This might be rapidly becoming an old saw for me, but as I watched the Super Bowl last night, I couldn’t help noticing that, while the advertisers had been very obviously careful to include people of all colors and sizes and genders, I didn’t see a single person with a disability. I thought surely the Coke ad, with faces from our melting pot nation, people of many races and both genders singing “America the Beautiful,” would slip in a kid in a wheelchair or on crutches or something. I was even hoping the Jeep ad, showing us flashes of all sorts of people engaging in various activities, would include someone in a wheelchair flipping out in a skate park. Or someone getting out of a Jeep, hauling out a wheelchair, and heading off for adventure.
(Just so you know, both of these things actually happen!) There were so many opportunities to include someone with a disability – but nothing. Sure, I saw middle-aged white guys, but none who looked like me. I wondered this morning what kind of outcry there would have been – and rightly so – if the Coke or Jeep ad had failed to include a woman. Or a non-white person. Advertisers are so careful to diversify the people they cast in the ads. I seem to always wonder why I never see myself. People in wheelchairs go bungee jumping, sky-diving, they drive cars, they ride horses (as I did a few days ago – more on that later! Stay tuned!) and do all sorts of things that “normal” people do. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it stuns me that these advertisers have yet to include any nods to the 15 million or so Americans of disability. Talk about opening up a new market! If I was a driver shopping for a car, and saw a guy climb out of a Jeep, or, hell, a Maserati, and snap the wheels on his wheelchair, and roll off with his pals for an adventure, I might think twice about investing in one of those cars. I don’t need to see wheelers featured (though that would be nice), but just included. No big deal needs to be made about the wheelchair – just as no big deal is made about including a Afghani woman in a headscarf.
I bet there were even disabled people watching the Super Bowl. And some of them might even have driven themselves to a bar to watch with their friends.