Is The Internet Blind? An Ableist Advertisement That Mistakes Blindness For Incapability

Persons with disabilities have been subjected to society’s insensitivity since time immemorial. To say that television commercials and films have ridiculed persons with disabilities in numerous instances is an understatement. In the streak of such commercials and films, here is this recent advertisement by an electronics retail store chain, “Vijay Sales”.

The advertisement that can be found here is one of the many commercials of Vijay Sales that says, “Internet dekh nahi sakta (the internet can’t see).” The advertisement shows a person who calls himself ‘Internet’. The customer is shown asking Mr Internet “if he could see her gestures” to which he replies: “No! I can’t see.” He’s shown wearing dark glasses (the fatuous symbol of blindness) and is supported by two women.

There are many preposterous scenes in the commercial that show the blind man looking away at a wrong direction; not being able to understand the customer’s questions because of his blindness; relying on his cane (again used as a symbol for blindness).

I still don’t understand the point of drawing an analogy between the internet and a person with visual impairment. The latter is also a “divyang”. Does the internet possess such supernatural powers?

This advertisement is a pressing example of how the Indian society is still bound by the shackles of ideologies undermining the potential of persons with disabilities. To show that the internet has a limitation in responding to the customer-centric queries is one thing and showing that a blind person is not capable of doing things labelled as ‘normal’ by the society is different. I believe the advertising agency hired by Vijay Sales doesn’t understand the difference between blindness and incapability. To use both these words as synonyms is truly derogatory.

Persons with disabilities have proven their mettle in almost all walks of life. Persons with blindness have broken all the glass ceilings and have been great successes in the world.

It is not hard to understand that Vijay Sales seeks to compete with stronger e-commerce rivals through the commercial. However, would the use of persons with disabilities in such a way yield profits for the business? Persons with disabilities have been mostly excluded from the mainstream economic channel of the country.

Activists and organisations have long been demanding economic and financial inclusion for them. However, I didn’t know that financial inclusion would mean this: including blindness in a commercial in a nonsensical manner and earning profits from it. The internet can’t see? I believe Vijay Sales and their advertising agency are actually not able to see (with their sight) the derogatory remarks they’re making in this commercial.

This article is only an addition to the great pool of articles talking about the need to sensitise people about the great diversity that exists in India, and the world at large. It’s high time we make these people realise that earning profits through ridiculing underprivileged sections of the society is an act of shame. To conclude this post, I would only say that Vijay Sales must take down this advertisement right away and put up a public apology.

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