Mumbrella360: ‘It’s about shifting the needle’ – Dylan Alcott calls on industry to work with disability community

Including a person with disability in your advertising shouldn’t be a tokenistic tick of the DE&I box. Brands need to put in the work, and do more to better represent the one in five Aussies with a disability, former Australian of the Year, Grand Slam-winning wheelchair tennis player and motivational speaker Dylan Alcott reminded the crowd at Mumbrella360 on Thursday.

Delivering the final session of the conference on Thursday afternoon, Alcott discussed the Shift 20 Initiative, a campaign in support of better disability representation in, and around, advertising.

He was joined by Special Australia’s ECD, Ryan Fitzgerald, and disability advocate, speaker, model, actor, and the star of ANZ’s re-shot commercial, Sara Shams.

With nearly one in five Australians having disability, yet only being represented in less than 1% of advertising, the Dylan Alcott Foundation is working hard to change the status quo and give people with disability equal opportunities.

Last year, it created the ‘Unignorable Adbreak’ in collaboration with Special Australia and PHD, which saw ten of Australia’s leading brands – ANZ, AAMI, Bonds, Kia, McDonald’s, Oral-B, NIB, Pantene, Uber and Weet-Bix – re-shoot their ads to include a person with disability.

Alcott and Shams at Mumbrella360 on Thursday

And while it is fantastic to see the industry welcome this initiative and see more brands jumping on board, Alcott reminded the crowd that its important to not disability-wash and come off tokenistic.

“I get hit up by brands all the time through ambassadorship, which I’m very grateful for. I’ve got some beautiful brand partners, and I bloody love them, but I also get hit up a lot to disability-wash brands,” he explained.

“And I tell them to ship off.”

He said brands need to want to do the work and give a social investment to prove they want to do better, not just reach out to people with disability when they need to meet a DE&I target.

“There are nearly four a half million people with disability in Australia, how many do you reckon are in wheelchairs like me?,” he asked.

“It’s only like 4%. Yet when people think of disability, they think of a wheelchair. I mean, the disabled parking symbol is even a wheelchair, yet only 4% of the millions of people living with disability in Australia use a wheelchair.

“Brands need to be doing better and finding talent from across the board.”

Alcott, Shams and Fitzgerald spoke to a packed room

He also reminded the audience that it will take time to get it right, and that is the point of the initiative.

“It’s about the gradual shifting, the needle, shifting to 20% to reflect real life and include people with disability across the industry,” Alcott said.

“This initiative is about starting that step to be able to get to that point eventually, and have people with disability across all forms – in front of, and behind, the cameras.”

The initiative has a dedicated website that has been built for awareness and to give brands access to best practice resources.

To watch this session recording and more from Mumbrella360, head to Mumbrella Pro.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.