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Authenticity Matters! Stop Using Inauthentic Stock Photos to Depict Wheelchair Users - Erik Kondo

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Who plays wheelchair basketball in a hospital chair wearing street clothes?

These examples below are just some of the contrived and often insulting images used in media today to represent wheelchair users.

The Stock Photography Hall of Shame

Dear [Organization/Company],

I have sent you this letter due to your organization's use of unrepresentative dated stock photography of wheelchair users that perpetuates stereotypical and inaccurate imagery of wheelchair users. While your gesture at demonstrating diversity in your website’s imagery is noted, inaccurate depiction of wheelchair users does very little to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. As an influential organization, the manner in which you depict wheelchair users has the potential to positively or negatively affect both how the general public perceives wheelchair users, and also how wheelchair users view themselves.

In particular, the use of stock photography featuring able-bodied models in hospital style wheelchairs is not representative of the lived experiences of actual wheelchair users. Its use reinforces the low standard of production values and lack of authenticity that is currently deemed acceptable when depicting the lives of wheelchair users. The positive aspects of using accurate representation for the imagery of minority groups have been well established. On the other hand, the ongoing misrepresentation of contemporary wheelchair users highlights societal bias and a lack of understanding of their lives.

I strongly request that you review the media that you utilize and either remove representation of wheelchair users or represent them accurately by replacing all questionable images with appropriate ones. If you are unable to find accurate and representative photos of wheelchair users via your current stock photo providers, there are an increasing number of wheelchair users experienced in lifestyle modeling who can be engaged to help elevate your company’s commitment and representation of diversity.

Recent advances in consumer digital cameras have enabled many wheelchair users to become experienced life-style models. There currently exist multiple commercial venues to obtain high quality media created by using actual wheelchair users as models.

I hope this letter has made you aware of the importance of creating accurate representation of wheelchair users, and the need to raise the production standards for the images produced. I would greatly appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

Resources: Stock Photography

Models, Modeling Agencies, Casting


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