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Representation of differently-abled people in branded content has always been a sensitive topic. Brands have the ability to significantly affect how individuals with disabilities are regarded and can change how society views them.

While some brands have made strides in representing individuals with disabilities in their campaigns, others have been criticised for their lack of representation and for perpetuating negative stereotypes.

Historically, the representation of disability in branded content has seen the tendency to portray individuals with disabilities either as helpless victims or as superhuman inspirations. This type of representation can be reductive and perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

The right portrayal is more realistic and humanistic. Differently-abled people will be treated in a ‘normal’ way only after they are represented in a normal way in the media. Let’s take a look at some examples that portray differently-abled people in the correct way:

EatQual - McDonald's India - 2022

In McDonald’s EatQual campaign, we see the portrayal of a woman with a physical disability who goes through life as an independent, self-sufficient person. She manages her life like an ‘able-bodied’ person. She goes jogging, likes a boy in her class who reciprocates her admiration towards him, she organises a party and manages it all by herself.

Towards the end, we see her ordering food from McDonald’s for her house party. It is an interesting campaign by McDonald’s because it does not show them going to a McDonald’s outlet to party. Instead, it is more reflective of the current times, in which people prefer to order in food.

However, McDonald’s ‘EatQual packaging’ takes a backseat over here. There’s not a lot of emphasis on the packaging. The placement of the new packaging is quite subtle, maybe a little more subtle than required. One ends up remembering that it was a McDonald’s ad, but you don’t recall what it was really about.

#NoHandUnwashed | Savlon Swasth India | MFPA | Global Handwashing Day -

Savlon’s #NoHandUnwashed campaign narrates the story of Swapna, a foot-painting artist. Swapna does not have arms, so she uses her feet to paint and earn a livelihood. Swapna tells us that she is not different from anyone else. She also makes tea, snoozes her alarm clock in the morning to get a few extra moments of sleep and takes some extra time to get ready. The only difference is that she uses her feet to perform all these tasks that most people do with their hands.

However, Swapna emphasises that she never forgets to wash her ‘hands’, i.e. her feet. Swapna emphasises that if she does not forget to wash her hands in spite of the difficulty, we shouldn’t either.

The campaign is effective and heart-wrenching. It makes us aware of the struggles of those without arms and also how we should be more responsible in washing our hands.

Disability Is Only a Matter of Perception, Proves Uber Driver Partner Mukesh Bharati | Uber 

Uber India’s heart-warming campaign ‘Disability is only a matter of perception’ narrates the story of Mukesh Bharati, a differently-abled cab driver who works with Uber. Mukesh’s legs do not function, yet he is able to work as a driver.

Mukesh has modified his car, and with the help of an ‘auto-gear stick’ he is able to press the clutch and change the gears of his car with his hand. He does not require his legs to drive the car at all. He also acknowledges the role of his wife in supporting him in his dreams. He now earns in a week what he used to earn in a month.

This campaign by Uber reflects the American ethos of the San Francisco-based brand, that anyone can make it in this world if he has a dream and works hard to achieve it. Uber comes across as an equal-opportunity employer in this campaign that is sensitive to the needs of its employees.

Customer tells this Chef an unexpected love story - 2019

Zomato’s campaign #Newlanguageoflove touches upon the importance that Gen-Z and millennials place on the languages of love. In this younger generation, one often ends up asking the other - What’s your love language? The answers can vary from physical affection, giving gifts, to acts of service for your partner.

Zomato’s branded content gave a new twist to it by narrating the story of a mute man. His girlfriend who is ‘able-bodied’ narrates to the chef of a food outlet how her delicious food acted as a unifying force for their relationship. 

Food becomes the new language of love here, as it transcends all barriers of signs and symbols. And Zomato positions itself as the mediator of this language, as it is helping in bringing the food to its customers.

Axis Bank | Republic Day #23in23

Axis Bank's Republic Day campaign, #23in23, focuses on making Indian sign language a part of the discourse and promoting inclusiveness. The protagonist of the story is trying to make the audience aware that everyone knows a bit of the Indian sign language. There are certain gestures like the ‘folded hands’ or the ‘salute’ that work as embedded symbols in our culture.

The message they're trying to get across is that every way of communication should remain open and accessible to people. No citizen of this nation should feel left out. The patriotic song "Saare Jahaan Se Accha" plays in the background, further emphasising the message of unity and inclusiveness. The slogan "DilSeOpen" reinforces the idea of openness and accessibility.

The ad effectively showcases the bank's commitment to diversity and inclusiveness and appeals to a wide range of consumers. The brand's watermark is always present in the background, reminding viewers of its presence.


In all the above pieces of branded content, differently-abled people have been portrayed in a sensitive manner in which they are treated as equal citizens who deserve the same amount of dignity as anyone else. There has been a conscious effort to make them feel included, not by forgetting their struggles but by highlighting the fact that it is possible to live a ‘normal’ life with the support of family, friends and other members of society.

The most hopeful message for people with disability is that they can live a ‘normal’ life like everyone else; that they need not be singled out and marked as ‘different’ due to their disability. The disability need not define their identity or their life.