Special needs: 16-second GapKids ad makes a difference

A new GapKids ad featuring a little girl with special needs is a step in the right direction.

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Anchel hopes to see more diversity in the media as Syona grows up. Photo: Anchel Krishna

Last week, my friend sent me a link to the new GapKids ad. The 16-second spot promotes their latest kid photo contest. The winners will be featured in the GapKids 2015 marketing campaign.

My friend doesn’t work for Gap or have any specific affiliation with the brand. So, why did she send me the link? Because—I feel like there should be a virtual drumroll here—at the six-second mark there is a little girl in a wheelchair.

Gap is known for their diverse campaigns, including last year’s ad featuring designer and actor Waris Ahluwalia, who sports a traditional turban worn by Sikhs. The company was commended for their swift response when the Ahluwalia ad was defaced with racist comments in the US. However, whenever organizations talk about diversity, I often find that those with disabilities are left out of the equation.

When I saw the GapKids promotional video featured a little girl in her wheelchair, I cheered. I appreciated how she was incorporated into the “class picture” in the ad, unlike last year’s real-life controversy over the exclusion of little Miles Ambridge in New Westminster, BC. And, as the mother of a three-year-old with cerebral palsy, I’m grateful that there is no special attention drawn to the fact that GapKids included a child in a wheelchair—it was naturally inclusive.

Read more: Why we put this little girl on our cover>

Gap has faced its fair share of controversies—from the size of their models to how their clothes are produced. I believe consumers need to make informed decisions that is best for their family—and I think we should act on those decisions by spending our money on organizations we are most aligned with.

The optimist in me hopes that this is real progress. I know GapKids is not the first retailer to feature models with special needs (a recent example being Nordstrom’s catalogue). But I hope that other retailers and media outlets follow suit. The pragmatic part of me knows that one 16-second promotional video from a clothing retailer isn’t going to change the world. But it’s a start. It’s a step towards creating a world where Syona can witness diversity in the media. And maybe, just maybe, there will be a child with special needs included in the 2015 GapKids campaign. I want to be able to head to our local mall with Syona and point out the giant ad featuring a little kid in a wheelchair.

Read more: Special needs in the media: Why I went on TV>

What companies do you support because of their practices? 

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.

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