Just 1% of television advertising includes people with disabilities, new research indicates, even though this demographic accounts for more than a quarter of the population.

Nielsen, the company best known for television ratings, analyzed data from almost 450,000 ads that aired in prime time on broadcast stations and cable in February 2021.

Only 6,000 of the ads showed or referenced disabilities through themes, visuals or topics, Nielsen found. These ads accounted for 3% of spending on television ads in the analysis.

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More than half of the ads that were inclusive of disabilities fell into the category of health and personal care, the vast majority of which were placed by pharmaceutical companies.

“Considering this active consumer target, the missed opportunity to incorporate people with disabilities into everyday brand messaging could be costly,” the report indicated.

Not only are advertisers overlooking a large segment of the population by failing to include disabilities in their messaging, but the report notes that they also have “an opportunity to help break down social stigmas around disability by making people with disabilities more visible.”

Christina Mallon, who has a disability and is head of inclusive design and accessibility at the global marketing communications agency Wunderman Thompson, said that advertisers need to take a broader view.

“Many brands are embracing the need to engage and include people with disabilities,” she said. “But when they include people with disabilities in creative content, we need to be seen for who we are — beyond our disabilities — without ignoring the fact that we have one.”