Offensive Advertisement

Along with many other blind and partially sighted people, as well as some sighted people too, I was outraged and deeply saddened by an advertisement which RNIB have used this year to appeal for funds. The Advert can be viewed here:

Having seen the advert I wrote to the RNIB Fundraising department. My Email is below:

*** Email from me to RNIB ***

I am writing with regard to the advertisement which I saw a link to today on Twitter.

I would first like to ask a couple of questions.

1. Is this an old advertisement or is it still being broadcast?

2. How many blind people were involved in the writing and making of this advertisement?

As a blind person trying to make my way and be part of society I find this advertisement extremely offensive. RNIB recently published a survey suggesting that 90% of employers would find it difficult or impossible to employ a blind person. We also hear that one of the biggest problems which blind people face is isolation. As a blind child I had friends, I read my books and I rode my bike.

RNIB could do so much to help blind children and blind adults. It would take a bit of clever marketing, but RNIB could actually promote what blind people can do with the help of RNIB, instead of falling back on this negative, pathetic, and frankly damaging stereotypical advertisement. I quite honestly didn’t know whether to go into a rage or burst into tears when I saw that advert, it was so awful. Could you not come up with anything better than “Mummy where are you?”

I hope that you come back to me and say that actually the advertisement is something from the seventies and not relevant to today and that there is therefore nothing to be concerned about. However, I suspect you won’t. As I’ve been writing this I recall an RNIB appeal that I saw in the cinema in the late seventies. It showed children at Worcester College writing Braille and doing maths. Far more progressive than this latest offering.

I look forward to your response.

*** End of Email ***

I received the following from them this afternoon:

*** Email from RNIB Fundraising Department to me ***

Thank you for your email to Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). I am sorry for the delay in replying to you.

I can confirm that RNIB’s ‘Help Emma’ advert was on air from 12 to 30 March 2012. It was a fundraising appeal explaining the vital work of RNIB in supporting blind and partially sighted people across the UK. It tells the story of nine-year old Emma, her experience of sight loss, and the support she received from RNIB, particularly through the talking books programme. We were inspired to develop the advert after receiving a heartfelt letter from a young girl thanking RNIB for the support that she’d received.

We felt this was a wonderful opportunity to tell a real-life story of one young girl and her family. We do, however, take very seriously our responsibility to reflect the many and varied experiences and life situations of people who are blind or partially sighted. Therefore, across all our RNIB communications we show a wide range of individuals and illustrate many different aspects of people’s lives, including the challenges and achievements.

Blind and partially sighted people are central to our work. Sight loss can occur at any age and every individual’s experiences will be different. Although some people cope, and indeed may cope well, with sudden sight loss, others find it a very traumatic experience and need support from organisations such as RNIB. Whilst people may have different experiences throughout their life, our ambition, as we know it is yours, is that each person who is blind or partially sighted has the same opportunities as anybody else. Our commitment to this goal remains unchanged.

Blind and partially sighted people are central to our work and helped shape this advert. However we are very keen to receive feedback on this and all of our films which depict the many different experiences of sight loss in order to increase the public’s understanding. We are grateful for the engagement and feedback that the video has provoked, and, moving forward, will use your constructive feedback in the spirit in which it was given.

We very much appreciate the time you have take to share your thoughts, thank you.

If you have any further queries, or would like to know more about our work and how you could help support us, please do not hesitate to contact our Fundraising Support and Enquiries Team on 0845 345 0054 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or email fundraising.

*** End of Email ***

Personally I don’t feel that this really addressed the points I raised. Yes, this might have been inspired by a letter from a child which is great, but I think they went about it from the wrong perspective.

Couldn’t they have featured what Emma could do and explain how she has got to where she has now instead of getting the child to call for her mummy in a way to pluck at the most sickly of heartstrings? Personally I’ve never heard a blind child call pathetically for their mothers like that. They either go and find her or they yell and holler like any other child!

As I stated in my Email to RNIB this type of advertising can only ever be damaging to blind people, reinforcing the negative and stereotypical image that a lot of people still hold.

So where to go from here? I’m not sure as yet. I just hope the many, many blind people who have been angered by this advert on Twitter in the last 24 hours will also have the drive to take this forward.


About Mel Griffiths

I live and work in Nottingham, England and am blind. This blog is often centred around things that happen to me because of being blind. This is my space to write and sometimes people will disagree with what I write, but its the one place I have in which to be frank and honest. I also like to reflect on the funnier side of life from time to time.
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3 Responses to Offensive Advertisement

  1. Jane Manley says:

    Perfectly fits the argument we all have with the advert which is being studiously ignored by the RNIB their response is nothing more than a cut and paste of media speak it says nothing and reminds me why I have as little to do with them as possible.

  2. Fellow blind person says:

    You know, some of my blind friends say that RNIB stands for Really Not Interested in Blind people….

  3. Lynn says:

    For me this advert is cringeworthy in the extreme, but not offensive.

    Like or loathe it, RNIB is still providing a bunch of goods and services that we’d be hard pressed to do without, and the money for those has to come from somewhere.

    Surely a more constructive way to feed back would be to suggest positive role models for fundraising literature that would still cause people to dig deep, which sadly I suspect would be nigh on impossible.

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