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Dylan Alcott | Image: Shift 20

Dylan Alcott’s Next Challenge? Revolutionising the Aussie Media Landscape


To say Dylan Alcott AO has achieved a lot in his 30-something years would be an understatement. A golden slam winner, wheelchair basketball legend and successful radio host (that’s not forgetting the pesky business of winning Australian of the Year), Alcott is the kind of person who deserves to have the spotlight placed permanently on them. Perhaps that’s why his latest endeavour is so important.

Never one to hog the limelight, Alcott has set his sights on improving disability representation in Australian media and advertising campaigns. Under the new Shift 20 initiative, Alcott and his team of researchers and backers have managed to curate a coalition of brands committed to ambitious targets around representation, inclusion and accessibility. 

Dylan Alcott | Image: Shift 20
Dylan Alcott | Image: Shift 20

For Alcott, Shift 20 is a lifelong dream that he has been outwardly vocal about for years. Echoing the sentiments he made in his famous Australian of the Year acceptance speech in 2021, the sporting legend revealed that something as simple as seeing a person with a disability on television could be life-changing for members of that community.

“When I was a kid, the only time I’d see someone like me on TV was as a result of a tragic car accident, and that hasn’t really changed. That breaks my heart,” Alcott said. “Seeing people like me on TV would have changed my life, and that’s what is so powerful about this initiative. The talent are not famous people with disability, instead they’re ordinary people doing ordinary things; eating breakfast, opening bank accounts, going to work and wearing undies. 

Image: Shift 20
Image: Shift 20

The launch of Shift 20 comes after new research revealed a startling discrepancy in Australian media representation diversity. According to the latest statistics, nearly one in five Australians live with a disability, however, only 1 per cent of all advertising campaigns globally feature members of this severely under-represented group. Domestically, the situation is complex.

Research conducted by insight agency TRA in partnership with Shift 20 Initiative found that 33 per cent could not recall ever having seen an ad featuring a person with a disability. Furthermore, a whopping 70 per cent reported that the current 1 per cent level of representation isn’t good enough. The Shift 20 Initiative aims to change this; thankfully, Alcott isn’t doing it alone. 

Image: Shift 20
Image: Shift 20

Working alongside his namesake foundation, the new Shift 20 initiative sees launch partners ANZ, AAMI, Bonds, Kia, McDonalds, Oral-B, nib, Tourism Australia, Pantene, TikTok, Uber, Virgin Australia and Weet-Bix commit to transforming their advertising. 

The project officially kicked off with an ‘Unignorable Ad-Break’ that saw a number of partners replace scenes within their current TVCs to include talent with a disability. According to Shift 20, the re-shot scenes not only featured people with a disability but also provided opportunities for people with disabilities to take part in the ads behind the camera. 

Image: Shift 20
Image: Shift 20

“I want kids to watch these ads and see someone with a disability and think ‘that could be me’ not ‘that’s a kid in a wheelchair doing something awesome,’” Alcott said. “We want to shift perceptions so that when society thinks of people with disability, they don’t only think of gold medal paralympians or someone in an accident, they see a person, just like them. Hopefully that will encourage people to have a different perspective so you might then hire someone in your business with a disability or see someone in a bar that is blind or deaf and ask them on a date.” 

In addition to the launch, Alcott revealed that the Shift 20 initiative will also help to develop a framework for Australian brands to replicate. A dedicated website has been built to allow brands access to best practice resources to create more accessible and inclusive communications. For more information about the initiative and to learn about how Aussie brands can get involved in creating more representative and accessible communications, check out the Shift 20 website below.

Image: Shift 20
Image: Shift 20