Change starts with a shift

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Change starts
with a shift

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Towards a more inclusive future for all

Towards a more inclusive future for all

Nearly 20% of Australians have a visible or non-visible disability*, yet only 1% of ads include them**. Shift 20 Initiative is a coalition of the nation’s top brands working towards increased representation, inclusion and accessibility in marketing and communications. We believe that together, our industry can help shift the perception of what disability is and what it can be – creating a more inclusive Australia, for everyone. 


The following framework of 4 core principles has been developed to guide marketers, industry professionals and business leaders in applying best practice within their own organisations, helping us to lead the change.

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Changing the narratives in marketing communications

Changing the narratives in marketing communications

Almost 4.5 million Australians have some form of disability* – a powerful statistic that deserves representation and visibility in mainstream media. Representation of disability begins at the very start of the process, with the storytelling. This involves considering authentic narratives, talent selection and crew selection that will help bring each story to life.

Representation in narratives

Inclusion can be achieved at any stage of narrative development, from scripting to casting. Where possible, the inclusion of people with disability should be considered from the beginning of the idea. Portrayal of people with disability can occur in two ways: ‘incidental inclusion’ and ‘integral inclusion’.


Incidental inclusion features characters with disability that are peripheral to the main narrative, such as extras or minor roles. 


Integral inclusion features characters with disability that are either central to the advertising concept or have a meaningful role to play in the story.


When assessing how best to include people with disability in advertising, some questions to consider include:


  • Has there been an effort to push beyond disability stereotypes and represent other forms of disability?
  • Could the story you are telling be received as insensitive, unconsidered or tokenistic?
  • Has there been exploration of visual/visible as well as non-visual/hidden disability inclusion? 
  • Has there been consultation with people with lived experience?
  • Are people with disability being portrayed in diverse ways that challenge stereotypes? For example showing them in relationships, with families, at work etc.
  • Has consideration been given to wardrobe and props to ensure authenticity to the user?
Representation in characters

Diversity in the characters portrayed in mainstream media is one important way that brands can support increased representation and inclusivity for all Australians. By casting a diverse range of talent that includes people with various abilities as well as other markers of diversity like ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, age and gender – brands can persistently challenge attitudes and play a role in driving broader societal change.


Examples include:

  • A group of friends watching the football could include a friend with disability
  • Representing a worker with disability, when choosing to show employees
Representation in production and suppliers

Representation and inclusivity in communications can take many forms – from visual, to non-visual and even the team behind the scenes. By actively seeking to involve production partners and suppliers with disability when undertaking marketing and communication activities, the impact of Shift 20 Initiative is widened even further.


Examples include:

  • Engaging a supplier with disability.
  • Employing a neuro-divergent finished artist.
Tools and resources

Bus Stop Films Consultation on authentic storytelling, inclusive casting, support in identifying inclusive production crew.


Attitude Foundation Working to shift perceptions of people with disability.

Reflecting a truer representation of society

Reflecting a truer representation of society

Inclusion in casting is an immediate and powerful way to help change visibility and representation in mainstream media. By casting a broad range of talent with both visible and non-visible disability, perceptions in the wider community begin to shift. Considered casting decisions can begin at any stage of development, from script development through to cast selection, to help drive a truer representation of the wider population and promote inclusivity.

Diversity in representation

Both visible and non-visible disability can be included in casting decisions and can span the entire cast – from lead talent to featured and non-featured talent. Some examples of diversity in disability representation include:

  • Auditory: including hard of hearing and deafness
  • Cognitive: intellectual disability, brain injury, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
  • Neurodiverse: including learning disabilities, autism, Asperger’s, as well as all other acquired and non-acquired cognitive disabilities
  • Physical: including paraplegia, people who are amputees, cerebral palsy, as well as all other acquired and non-acquired physical disabilities
  • Speech: difficulty producing speech for the purposes of speech recognition services or people
  • Visual: including degrees of low vision in one or both eyes, colour blindness, sensitivity to bright colours, as well as all other acquired and non-acquired visual disabilities.  
Making space for inclusivity

When working with talent and crew with disability, there are accommodations and adjustments to expect throughout the process. Reasonable adjustments are changes to work, processes, procedures or environments that allow people with disability to do their work safely, productively and at their best.


Productions often provide people without disability adjustments, which can include:

  • Parents having flexibility in their schedule to care for children
  • Older employees having scripts or information printed in large font
  • Different food served to people with dietary requirements
  • Modifying schedules to avoid conflicting commitments. 


Similarly, adjustments for people with disability can look like:

  • Ensuring the set is in a wheelchair-accessible location
  • Providing accessible parking spots
  • Making scripts and call sheets available in electronic formats that can be read by screen reader technology
  • Having seating available for a cast or crew members.


Below is an outline of best practice when approaching and preparing for inclusivity in casting.

Access riders

An access rider is a document that talent or crew can submit so their adjustments are met in the workplace. This foundational tool helps achieve inclusion from casting right through to post-production.


Access riders may be personalised by individuals to meet their own needs, depending on what they are comfortable disclosing to production. This document may outline adjustments on set, or to travel and accommodation and can be referred to when discussing with the talent or crew member how to best implement the adjustments they’ve outlined.

Casting timelines

Once individuals receive an audition request, it will often take a number of business days to organise their adjustments. This may include organising support workers, accessible transport, Auslan interpreters etc. Having considerate timelines in place ensures individuals have as much time as possible to submit their casting tape or organise transportation to the audition.

Auditions and tapes

Self-tapes and online auditions may be more accessible for people with disability than in-person auditions, as it gives them the capacity to implement their adjustments with ease. A chat to camera can also be just as effective in getting to know the person as an in-room conversation.


If the audition or recall must happen on site, it is important to ensure that the venue is accessible for the talent. This can include provisions such as:

  • Wheelchair access
  • Accessible parking
  • Accessible bathrooms
  • A quiet or low sensory space
  • Space in the room for a support worker or assistant.
Production adjustments

Once the talent secures the job, their access rider should be requested as soon as possible. From here, it is the job of production to ensure that the individual’s needs are met, not the person with disability.


Required adjustments can be sourced and funded a number of ways and often those with disability already have their own adjustments through their NDIS funding (i.e., support workers). Further adjustments may need to be covered by the production budget, or alternatively the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) can be contacted to secure funding.


Best practice for production adjustments also include:

  • Delivering adjustments as soon as possible and before the person with disability enters the workplace
  • Checking in throughout production to ensure needs are being met and to offer any further assistance.
Support workers/assistants

Some people with disability require the help of support workers/assistants to do their work. As it is difficult to upskill each support worker/assistant in what is required in an audition, it is  recommended that production provide a separate toolkit for these people. In helping support workers/assistants to understand what is required for an audition or set-up of a self tape, the onus will be taken off the person with disability and will save time for both the talent and production.

Accessible materials

All required materials such as scripts, pitch documents and casting briefs should be provided in accessible formats including:

  • An electronic format that can be accessed via screen reader technology
  • A minimum of a 12pt font
  • The use of plain english, using language that is easy to understand
  • A good colour contrast – for example, a black font on a white background.
Language and communication

How disability is discussed sets the tone for inclusivity. Ensuring all cast and crew use language that is inclusive will provide a positive experience and atmosphere for everyone involved in the production process. 


When on set, how communication happens is just as important as when it happens. By providing people with disability the information they need in a timely manner, timelines can be better managed by everyone involved.

Culture and attitudes

Cultivating a culture where inclusivity can thrive begins well before production. Establishing a clear expectation for all cast and crew members to operate within an inclusive mindset and showing respect to everyone on set, helps to foster an environment of inclusivity where everyone can feel welcome. By ensuring an environment where questions are encouraged and concerns can be escalated through clear processes, people will be able to be both comfortable and professional. 


These expectations of disability inclusion should be regularly communicated to those working on the production to ensure assumptions, misconceptions and unconscious bias continue to be challenged.

Wardrobe and wardrobe checks

Wardrobe stylists should be given reasonable communication and time to ensure preparations are made to accommodate the on-set wardrobe processes. Using access riders as a tool, wardrobe staff should consider what adjustments, if any, should be made. Some examples include:

  • Size alterations
  • Substitution of buttons/straps for velcro so talent may get dressed themselves
  • Added help and assistance
  • Accessible wardrobe locations with accessible bathrooms
  • Allowance of extra time, so dignity and modesty can be maintained by talent when changing.

Creating marketing communications with diverse audiences in mind

Creating marketing communications with diverse audiences in mind

Accessibility is about appreciating the diverse needs within our society and working to satisfy as many of those needs as possible. With almost 20% of the Australian population having disability,* accessible communication is not only critical to inclusion but also connection. By ensuring that brand communications, websites, social media and other mediums are created with disability in mind, organisations not only enhance their connection with their audiences but also signal their support of a more inclusive Australia.

Best practice in communication

Examples of how to best communicate with disability and diversity in mind include:

  • Closed captions – ensuring communications are optimised for the Hard of Hearing.
  • Websites – ensuring communications are optimised for a more diverse user experience.
  • Audio/visual – ensuring audio and visual takes sensory sensitivities into account.
Tools and resources

Get Skilled Access (Shift 20 Initiative affiliate) Accessibility and disability engagement advisory

Web Accessibility in Mind

Adobe  Inclusive design checkpoints 

Amaze Social scripts

Australian Government  Style manual: People with disability 

RGD Canada Handbook on accessible graphic design

Shifting our industry towards inclusivity and representation

Shifting our industry towards inclusivity and representation

As we shift society towards a more inclusive and representative future, the communications industry will play a pivotal role in inspiring and fostering societal change. By staying on top of education programs, sharing learned best practice and focusing on internal policies around inclusion and accessibility in advertising, organisations can help influence industry-wide change. The following resources have been compiled for organisations wanting to get engaged and stay informed. 
As we shift society towards a more inclusive and representative future, the communications industry will play a pivotal role in inspiring and fostering societal change. By staying on top of education programs, sharing learned best practice and focusing on internal policies around inclusion and accessibility in advertising, organisations can help influence industry-wide change. The following resources have been compiled for organisations wanting to get engaged and stay informed.