Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Writing & Linguistics (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Lisa Costello, Christopher Garland


The field of disability studies holds that disability is a political and cultural identity, not just a medical condition. The rhetoric attached to disabled bodies makes them seem negative, while the rhetoric attached to abled bodies is positive. This negative rhetoric applies to visual rhetoric as well, resulting in disabilities being largely ignored in the fields of advertisement. As they are now finally being incorporated, this brings up certain questions about the issues regarding the exploitation and representation of people with disabilities. The representation of bodies in advertising affects and alters how society considers and perceives the actual bodies that they encounter daily. This thesis rhetorically analyzes and contextualizes the textual rhetoric attached to disability and historical representations of disability in order to contextualize disability within our society. Contemporary examples of disability representation in still-image advertising are then analyzed to portray societal relationships, exploitation, as well as normalization. This thesis uses multimodality and plain language in the form of videos to reach a wide range of audiences that are affected by this research.