Disabled Mannequins: A step towards more representative advertising?

When it comes to clothing store mannequins, body diversity is far from common. Mannequins of different heights and weights are unlikely enough, but physically disabled mannequins are practically unheard of. An organization for the disabled, Pro Infirmis, created mannequins based on real disabled individuals working as models. In this video, we can see the joy of the models, as well as the shock and confusion of the able-bodied people who saw the new mannequins in storefronts, when they were displayed in Zurich on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

On PopAnth, Kris Castner discussed the significance of the fact that it was so shocking for the models to see mannequins that actually represented their bodies. Castner told the story of her sister, who had trouble walking due to her disability. She underwent multiple procedures to aid her walking, but eventually stopped showing an interest in new procedures. Castner eventually realized that her sister’s body was not a problem in need of “a fix”. “When I look at how people with physically disabled or challenged bodies are often portrayed on television, in ads, in photographs or in book series, it makes me more sad than angry. It makes me sad that some people can’t, or have never learned, how to “see” people with “disabilities” for who they truly are. There always seems to be this hang up on “making them better.” On “making their bodies normal.”” (Castner).

Our culture shapes our perception of “normal”. Advertising using only one body type implies that that body type is both normal and ideal. Using more diverse mannequins is a step towards changing the idea that disabled people are abnormal and in need of “fixing”.