Karen and Andrew Hale, from Grimsby, feel that having their son, Joseph, who has dyspraxia and global developmental delay, as well as Down’s syndrome, featured in the ‘RI Kids Squad’ campaign will help pave the way for more acceptance for people with disabilities.
“We feel immensely proud of Joseph as always, and are extremely grateful to River Island for selecting him, and seeing him for the gorgeous young man he is,” Karen and Andrew told HuffPost UK in an exclusive interview.
The high-street clothing brand has created the RI Kids Squad, which features a group of children of mixed abilities aged three to 11, to launch its ‘Kids + Mini’ collections for autumn/winter.
The Hales explained this was Joseph’s first official modelling job, as he has only done shots for his portfolio with Zebedee Management before.
His modelling agency asked them whether Joseph would be interested in doing the video for River Island.
“He didn’t have to audition,” the Hales explained. “Selection was taken based on images from his portfolio.”
The couple feel it’s “extremely important” children, young people and adults of mixed abilities are represented equally in the media.
“Advertising can put across in a very positive way, that even if a person has a special need and/or a disability they still have emotions, thoughts, feelings, and dreams the same as anyone else,” they said.
“And, given the correct guidance, support and right opportunities to be included in everything, they can thrive and achieve the most wonderful things.”
Joseph’s parents continued: “The impact of more brands including mixed abilities in advertising could be huge - not just for our son but for anyone with a special need and/or a disability.
“Personally it would bring our son to the fore, individuals would see that his disability doesn’t define him and that there are still many more amazing layers of him to discover.
“It is imperative that advertising uses a positive approach towards inclusion, it can be used in so many ways to pave the way for more acceptance for anyone with a special need and/or a disability in the wider world.
“It would help remove the negative pre-conceived ideas that unfortunately the majority of people still have.”
Joseph’s inclusion in the RI Kids Squad is part of a wider shift to a more inclusive approach to advertising according to Kate Potter, spokesperson for the Down’s Syndrome Association.
“It is good to see more and more children and adults with Down’s syndrome being represented in all parts of our society, including in adverts, as models, on stage and screen and also in schools and in workplaces,” she said.
“We wish Joseph all the very best.”
Joseph’s parents call their son a “a big ball of fun, with an infectious laugh”.
“He always tries and gives 100%,” they said.
“He is a unique individual with unconditional love and acceptance of everything and everyone around him, along with that gorgeous smile that lights up the darkest room.”