PhotoAbility Stock Photos Could Potentially Do a Lot For Representation of People With Disabilities

The need for better representation in stock photos has been noted before, and it will be noted again. But currently, a website called PhotoAbility is looking to improve stock photo representation for people with disabilities. And the results are pretty awesome.

On the surface, it might not seem like stock images have a lot of impact on people's lives, but we encounter them a lot more than you might think — everything from advertisements to pictures in magazines to the "real people" in Republican political ads. Just surfing this website, you've almost certainly encountered a pretty good number. Which is why it matters if, say, stock photos tend to turn up nothing but sexist images of women for a standard search. Or if they don't include any photos of people with disabilities as happy, normal, and living their lives.

"Increasing the positive imagery of persons with disabilities ... will not only encourage further inclusion by increasing awareness that we want to participate and should be accommodated," the website explains, "but will help to eliminate the fear and negative stereotyping that so often permeates all levels of society."

The site sells pictures of people of various ages, races, and levels of disability, all shown participating in normal activities — playing sports, going to work, traveling, or just going about their daily lives. Which seems simple, but alas is actually pretty revolutionary in this context.

Plus, as the "paralyzed bride" Rachelle Friedman, who has done modeling work for PhotoAbility, points out, just using models with disabilities is also pretty awesome. "I'm sure when you hear 'quadriplegic,' you don't exactly think 'model,'" she writes for XO Jane, "But with these photos, that's exactly what I am."

Though PhotoAbility does include pictures of people in hospitals or undergoing physical therapy, it also shows people with disabilities cooking, gardening, doing laundry, driving, playing with their children, and any number of other daily tasks. Because being in a wheelchair or having any other type of physical disability doesn't stop anyone from being normal — or from being awesome.

It's true that we have a long way to go before images of people with disabilities are seen as normal and everyday — in fact, the amount of time it took me to find a picture of a person who was both in a wheelchair and smiling for the top of this story was a little depressing. But hopefully, with time and with things like PhotoAbility, that will change and images of people who need wheelchairs, canes, guide dogs or other means to get around will be just another, average stock photo that we all see every day and don't think anything of.

Images: Giphy (3)