In December 2014, 2-year-old Izzy Bradley from Stillwater, Minnesota became a star in more way than one. Izzy was featured in a Target Christmas ad booklet wearing a pink flowered dress, dramatic leopard-print tights, her golden locks pulled into a bun and genuine smile as she was photographed playing with a B. Zany Zoo activity cube. But what sets sweet Izzy apart from any other child in an ad? Izzy has an extra chromosome; more commonly know as Down Syndrome. People with down syndrome have a difference in physical characteristics compared to those who do not have Down Syndrome. These traits include low muscle mass, wide-set facial features, an upward slant in the eyes and small stature throughout life. Target got an overwhelming response from the public.
Thousands of parents praised Target for including a model with Down Syndrome in their ad. The inclusion of children with conditions such as Down Syndrome is something as public as a Christmas-time toy ad is very beneficial for raising awareness and helping to promote normalcy for people living with Down Syndrome. Target did not make a big deal over their decision to include Izzy, they simply stated that they were happy to include her and provided a link to a non-profit organization.
Target has warmed the hearts of many people once again with their latest ad featuring Halloween costumes. But it’s not the costumes that are warming hearts but rather one little girl modeling a well-loved princess costume. Disney’s Frozen was the highest grossing movie of 2013 and the sixth highest-grossing movie of all time. The film earned 1.2 billion dollars in 2013. Needless to say, thousands of young girls admire the super-sisters Anna and Elsa and the movie’s crew of loveable characters. A sweet little girl dressed in more than Elsa’s beautiful blue dress complete with a sheer blue trail and silver shoes. In her hands are crutches and she also has prosthetic legs. In a survey that I conducted, I showed a group of people the ad and I asked them which they noticed first; the crutches or the dress. Eight out of the ten people that I asked said that they noticed the crutches first. Why is that?
In mainstream society, people are pushed to look and act in a certain way and when someone does not look the way society says that they should, they are deemed abnormal and people notice the aids they use such as wheelchairs or crutches instead of the person that is being aided. Corporations such as Target are taking a stand against the stigma that is forcefully attached to people who need aids to do everyday activities as well as people such as little Izzy who are born with genetic differences. Inclusion is the solution. By using models such as Izzy, little Elsa and other children and adults with genetic and physical differences breaks the stigma that they look and act differently from what society deems is ‘normal behavior’ does not mean that they deserve to be treated as if they are broken. There is no need to treat people with genetic and physical abnormalities differently than you would treat a family member or friend. Every person is created with the same amount of dignity and it is stupid that people try to undermine another person’s dignity because of his or her appearance. If you ever have the chance in life to meet and become friends with a special needs person, take that opportunity. Special needs people are some of the strongest and most genuine people that you will ever meet.
Thank you, Target for including all children in your ad. It may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things it means the world to parents and advocates for special needs children.