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When Mad Max was released in 2015, handicapped people across the world rejoiced to see heroes and villains with disabilities. Because while 15% of the world’s population (and over 11 million people in Britain alone) have some form of disability, they feel vastly underserved – UK businesses currently lose £1.8 billion a month by not meeting their needs.

In anticipation of the 2016 Paralympics, Channel 4 spot ‘Superhumans’ is the latest in a string of branded affiliations with the world’s disabled population. Created by Channel 4’s in-house team, the spot acknowledges not just disabled athletes, but everyday people who break stereotypes simply by competing in sports, maintaining jobs and enjoying hobbies. Channel 4 CMO Dan Brooke described the ad as ‘an unbridled celebration of ability’. While the London 2012 prequel focused on the paralympians themselves, this pays tribute to those a little closer to home. “Down syndrome graduates and wheelchair users in the workplace are just as superhuman as blind sprinters and amputee weightlifters,” says Brooke.

Two thirds of the British public feel uncomfortable chatting to disabled people
Channel 4 (2016) ©

The tone of the ad is indicative of the mentality of disabled people today – and brands are taking note. While new names are emerging to cater to the needs of the handicapped – Accomable is an Airbnb for those with disabilities – big names are also getting involved. ASDA launched a ‘quiet hour’ for autistic shoppers to make navigating the supermarket as stress-free as possible, Xbox has announced disabled avatars, and Facebook is using AI to describe photos to the blind.

Yet while the extraordinary nature of ‘Superhumans’ is aspirational – gaining it almost universal praise – it does bear the risk of alienating some. “We can’t all be superhumans,” says journalist and wheelchair user Lucy Catchpole. It’s the same reason the elderly don’t want to endlessly be bombarded with images of their peers jumping out of planes and skiing down mountains – people respond to awe, but they often respond to familiarity, too. That said, with 67% of the British public feeling uncomfortable talking to disabled people, ‘Superhumans’ takes the opportunity to breed familiarity between those who do suffer with disabilities, and those that don’t.

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Hannah Callaghan is an account executive at Canvas8. As an Advertising Management graduate, she’s an expert in all things celebrity and pop culture.


01 Aug 16

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