“Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade. With it, it becomes creation.” - Bette Davis
In 1993, Louise Dyson received a request to her agency from Sunrise Medical for a model with a real physical disability to promote their wheelchairs. Ms. Dyson, like many other agents, was unprepared for such a request. Together with Sunrise Medical and DN, Louise hosted a competition for the U.K.’s first professional model contest for models with disabilities. The “Sunrise Model in a Million” in 1994 received over 600 applicants, in which 16 finalists vied for prizes and a modeling contracts. The panel of judges consisted of celebrity and fashion leaders, such as magazine editors and fashion photographers. Media outlets, newspapers and talk shows clamored to talk to Louise Dyson about the modeling contest and the emergence of models with disabilities.
In 1994, Louise hosted a runway fashion featuring models in wheelchairs. In 1997, the Leonard Cheshire charity asked Ms. Dyson to organize another modeling contest for contestants with disabilities. Louise Dyson’s initiative to promote models with disabilities was so successful that she subsequently decided to dedicate all of her efforts to the new venture. In 1999, she decided to sell her shares in the Louise Dyson Agency Ltd. to focus on VisABLE, the new “face” of disability in television, print and radio programming and advertising.
Ms. Dyson believes “it is only when every member of society is represented in mainstream productions as a matter of course and in ordinary advertising campaigns promoting goods and services, where individuals are portrayed as consumers with spending power that we can hope for any kind of equality, in my view.”
Louise’s idea of portraying individuals with disabilities as consumers are changing the face of media and culture. However, VisABLE is more than a modeling agency- some of the most notable programs that utilize the talents of VisABLE include EastEnders, Silent Witness, Call The Midwife, Father Brown, and Doctors. In theater, television, and radio, VisABLE is serving as the agent of change in portraying people with disabilities with authenticity.
Image credit: Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash