Promoting inclusion through positive imagery – Breaking Barriers – The Borneo Post – 7 September, 2013

Promoting inclusion through positive imagery
by Peter Tan. Posted on September 7, 2013, Saturday

INCLUSIVE IMAGERY: Davis and Forrester are seen on an airboat in the Florida Everglades.

THERE was never a time when the world was as inundated with so many cameras as it is now. It is very common to see people whipping out their digital single-lens reflex, phone or tablet cameras to capture images in public places nowadays.

From delicious food to scenes of catastrophic disasters, the use of still images and videos in the mass and social media has put us on-the-scene in the comfort of our living rooms and workstations.

This easy availability of images on every possible subject has changed the way we view the world. They are without a doubt powerful tools to tell stories that can tug at the heartstrings, sway opinions or simply entertain.

The popularity of digital cameras and the Internet has spawned an industry where professional and hobbyist photographers alike can put up their photographs for sale on a profit sharing basis through online stock photography agencies. Some photographers are into it full-time and earn their living solely by selling images this way.

Major agencies like Getty Images, Shutterstock and Fotolia offer millions of photographs, illustrations and other forms of images. These can be licensed for commercial use in newspapers, magazines, books, websites and virtually any other medium of creativity.

A new player in the stock photography industry is PhotoAbility. It was established in 2011 by Bill Forrester and Deborah Davis. They are also co-founders of TravAbility — an enterprise dedicated to promoting inclusive tourism, and PushLiving — a disability-related online lifestyle magazine.

Forrester is a successful travel business owner, inclusive tourism consultant and photographer. He lives in Melbourne, Australia. Davis is an experienced sales and marketing professional and a wheelchair user since the age of 18 due to a car accident. She travels extensively and is based in Miami, USA.

They run the stock photography agency full-time from their respective locations. They are assisted by consultants who manage the website, digital strategy and execution, search engine optimisation, stock photography, as well as public relations and marketing.

PhotoAbility is unique in the sense that it specialises exclusively in inclusive imagery. These are stock photographs of disabled persons and their assistive devices in various settings such as leisure, sports and tourism related activities. Illustrations and videos are also accepted if they fulfil the criteria.

The library currently has about 1,700 images submitted by over 100 active contributing members comprising professional photographers and hobbyists. On the other side, the customers are advertising agencies, direct marketing and graphic design agencies, corporations and publishers, among others.

Forrester explained that many agencies and businesses around the world do not have the time or resources to take their own quality photographs for their media and advertising activities.

“This is where the photos in the stock image library come into play. There is a large selection of images to cater to a variety of situations and needs, and avoid the expenses and time of custom photo shoots,” he added.

Contributors can earn up to 45 per cent on images priced from US$20 (RM66) for a royalty-free license to US$2,500 (RM8,250) for a rights-managed license used in a multi-national campaign. Comparatively, PhotoAbility pays higher, if not the highest, commission among the stock photography agencies.

To Forrester and Davis, PhotoAbility is as much a business concern as it is an avenue to showcase and depict the active lifestyle of disabled persons positively. The images are poised to change the perception and motivate society to break social, structural and professional barriers.

The stock photography library features only models who are disabled. This opens up opportunities for those who may otherwise not get to model professionally and be remunerated fairly for it. At the same time, photographers are encouraged to take a more inclusive view of the models and widen their perspectives on
the type of activities that disabled persons undertake.

According to Davis, “Once we are represented by a true and complete reality of our lives; going on dates, enjoying activities and recreational facilities with our families, on the job, on vacation, participating in sports, going shopping, enjoying a glass of wine, a good restaurant, and all the good things life has to offer, it will be understood and accepted that we should be provided accommodations and consideration that recognises how valuable our contribution really is to all these industries.”

On their vision for PhotoAbility, they want the agency to be a valuable go-to source for inclusive imagery worldwide. They want to provide recognition for their models that will lead to revenue and increased opportunities.

“We want to continue building a library of high-quality images, and educate and inspire the advertising and design community to use, create and communicate with inclusive imagery,” Forrester said of their plans for the agency.

PhotoAbility will be officially launched this month. While the pre-launch period was focused on a limited market and for the purpose of seeding the library, the post-launch will see the growing of the purchasing customer base. The agency will also be embarking on a marketing plan to ramp up sales next year.

Never one to rest on their laurels, they are also planning a TravAbility Properties website that will provide a resource for sale, rental, lease or swap of accessible properties around the world.

Forrester offered the following advice to other disabled persons and those working on disability issues, “We need to collaborate and work together. We must support each other and disabled entrepreneurs as much as possible. Let us unite as a group for the betterment of all.”

Disabled persons and those who are interested in becoming contributors or purchasers of inclusive images can visit the website at

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Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.