Disability is one of the largest minority groups, with a spending power of approximately £273bn every year. Consequently, many advertisers are now weaving people with disabilities into brand narratives. These narratives often evoke feelings of pity or portray people with disabilities as inspiring, solely or in part on the basis of their disability. Meanwhile, social media has emerged as a vessel for social change. Through the netnographic study of twelve influencers with visible impairments, complex personhood is proposed as a social ontology by which disabled lives are acknowledged in less confined terms. Our findings illustrate how social media influencers with disabilities may draw on narratives based on empowerment, playfulness, resistance, and responsibility to present themselves as neither victims nor superhuman agents but as complex human beings. We thus bring forward a complex model in market-mediated representations of disability, beyond the misrepresentational narratives based on pity and ‘inspiration porn’.
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