Debenhams today became the first High Street retailer to use a disabled model in its advertising campaigns.
Shannon Murray, who is confined to a wheelchair, took part in a photo shoot for the department store last week.
The actress and model, 32, revealed the news on her blog: ‘I’ve been modelling for over 14 years but this was different,’ she wrote.
‘It is a first and as I was getting ready in hair and make-up, the potential of this shoot suddenly struck me – another small step towards inclusion and representation.
‘I hope the images challenge a few misconceptions about disability; it’s been a long time coming.’
The shoot, which will promote the recently launched Principles by Ben de Lisi fashion range, is set to appear in the windows of the Oxford Street flagship in London today.
Fashion designer Mr de Lisi, said: ‘Every woman deserves to look good and feel special – which is why there are styles to suit, fit and flatter every body shape in the new Principles range.
‘I think that Shannon looks amazing,’ he added.
Miss Murray will join three other models in the campaign: Kate Fullman, who is a size 16, Tess Montgomery, a petite 5ft 4in model and Tokumbo Daniel, who is a size 10.
A spokesman for the store told how the campaign had been in partnership with the Channel 4 television show How To Look Good Naked, in which stylist Gok Wan encourages women who are lacking in body confidence to pose nude.
The current series, titled How To Look Good Naked…With A Difference, has seen the presenter turn his attention to disabled women, and will follow the story of Miss Murray.
Mr Wan said: ‘We in the UK have the best high street in the world. It’s a multi million pound industry that needs to recognise all shapes, sizes and disabilities.
‘Debenhams is pushing the boundaries by producing the first ever disabled fashion campaign … I hope that one day disabilities will be recognised by every chain in the high street’
News of the photo shoot was welcomed by disability campaigners. Clair Lewis, from the Direct Action Network, said: ‘As long as the campaign is more than just a brief moment of tokenism then I think it should be welcomed,’ she said.
‘Britain is a varied placed filled with women of different sizes and ethnic backgrounds. The models and high street windows should reflect that variety but all too often they don’t.’
Miss Murray, who is regarded as a pioneer in the world of disabled modelling, has been confined to a wheelchair since the age of 14, after breaking her neck during a holiday in Lanzarote.
She became a model after winning the first modelling competition for disabled people in 1994.
She was, and continues to be signed to model agency VisABLE, which organises the contest, and specialises in finding work for disabled models and actors.
Miss Murray is one of a number of high-profile people who are transforming public preconceptions of those with disabilities.
Hollyoaks star Kelly Marie Stewart, who suffers from Guillain-Barré syndrome, is also wheelchair-bound, as is Cherylee Houston is set to appear on Coronation Street from April.
CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell, who was born with part of an arm missing, sparked a row after parents complained she might scare children when she joined the channel a year ago.
Last week Debenhams launched a trial of size 16 mannequins in its store windows.
The store currently uses standard size 10 mannequins in all its window displays despite the majority of women in the UK measuring in at either a size 14 or 16.
Signs next to the mannequins, which will also be wearing the Principles by Ben de Lisi range, will ask customers: ‘I’m a size 16. Do you want to see more of me?’
Debenhams stocks up to size 2-6 in its womenswear department, with 42 per cent of sales coming from size 14 and 16 garments.
By Tamara Abraham