We Are More Alike Than Different

Let’s Tear Down Your Walls….

Imagine: I can freely express my thoughts, feelings, challenges, and experiences about my disability without judgment or exclusion. I can feel comfortable with and supported by those around me.

Reality: My world is inaccessible and unwelcoming and I am shut down by others.

Well, believe it or not, you’re not alone.

Feelings of isolation, frustration, alienation, and loss of hope is reality for many people with disabilities.

So, are you always in a safe space?

A safe space leads to individuals feeling comfortable sharing their stories, fears, and concerns as well as sharing their perspectives, ideas, and solutions.

Together, we can break through these barriers and create the everlasting safe space.

We must recognize disability, whether it be physical or invisible. It is not just a medical condition or set of symptoms. Disability is a wide range of individualized experiences unique to each person.

We must open our minds and hearts toward diverse opinions and viewpoints in order to create a sense of belonging for everyone.

How Do We Create This Safe Space? Empathy!

Last Tuesday morning, I had the honor of being a keynote speaker at The Cherry Creek Rotary International breakfast in Denver, Colorado, empowering business leaders by sharing proactive strategies necessary to foster social change around Diversity, Equity, Inclusion + Accessibility.

Breaking down the barriers of discrimination, lack-of-access to services/accommodations, and lack of media representation is essential as more people come into contact with disability.

That morning, we all witnessed the power and importance that empathy had on leaders. They all put themselves in others’ shoes which created open and honest communication; leaders went deep into their own feelings and perspectives. We saw empathy unfold. This immediately created more awareness and understanding towards others.

Some leaders quickly expressed how their businesses are not doing enough around accessibility in their DEI initiatives. Stories were shared about employees fearing asking for a temporary leave, assistance, or mental health support as they are constantly afraid of judgment. “I wish I worked for a company with a culture without one feeling hesitant to have open and real conversations…I wish my employer understood circumstances at home may impact my mental health in the workforce.” By having a safe environment with ease, we will be able to have authentic conversations.

“This Tuesday morning you are my Morrie,” said a gentleman, as his energy lit up the room.

Everyone needs to feel respected and valued. When your people are having their best days, your success is my success which translates to your bottom line.

Reality: Experiences lead to relationships.

“Do you trust me?”

Let’s have a real conversation.
Now, I trust you.”


Time to Open the Door

The saying goes “When one door closes, another one opens.” But, for people living with a disability, often times that second door is kept closed.   

For many individuals with disabilities, the job market can be a challenging and sometimes even daunting place. Even though people with disabilities make up 15% of the world’s population, they are often overlooked and underrepresented in the workforce. 

This community remains largely side-lined by businesses, with only 4% of the 90% of companies that claim to prioritize diversity and inclusion considering disability in their initiatives, according to a report from the Return on Disability Group.

Disability empathy must be spread to HR teams so they are more comfortable building employee trust to knock down the bias of the employees. 

We Don’t Want Your Pity.

When I entered the workforce after college, I had my own fears of disclosing my invisible disability in the workplace.

Should I tell them about my hearing loss in the interview? Will it help me or hurt me?

I don’t want to be harassed, passed over for opportunities or never be hired for another role once someone learns of my disability. Today, this is still a concern for many to disclose their disability. Are you ready to change that 
narrative? Can we all just be? Let’s start by having an authentic conversation.

I will never forget those who didn’t define me by my hearing disability; leaders need to lead with empathy. If only more companies could create an environment that opens conversations to being disability inclusive, we wouldn’t be so worried to disclose our disability.

Just imagine someone coming onto your team increasing your bottom line and enhancing your culture’s performance.  Now you don’t have to Imagine, it is possible when you lead with this mindset.  

Now, I am paying the opportunity forward to a smart and driven college intern, Brett, who just joined the Ready or Not! Media team. Collectively, we are having empathetic conversations to have a disability inclusive workforce. 

I asked Brett, “What does the word Opportunity mean to you?”

Brett: Opportunity to me means that I am being seen, heard and have been looked at not only for my abilities, but for my capabilities. I am fully engaged, invested, grateful, excited, and determined to show that a physical disability should never be a barrier to achieving one’s goals and aspirations. 

Does this sound like someone deserves an opportunity?

“YES!” I thought so.

We ARE READY to work, and show the world what we CAN do.

Are You Ready to Rock the Runway?

It’s Time to Rock the Runway!

While efforts to design for those with disabilities have grown, the adaptive apparel market remains widely untapped.

It makes perfect FASHION sense, after all, when you consider that the disabled population is one of the biggest markets in the world.

With over $13 trillion in purchasing power, this population is bigger than the population of China.

By 2026, it’s estimated that that number will be $400 trillion and still growing!

You are probably thinking “Did I hear that right?” 


Back in 1997, as a fashion editor and associate publisher at WE magazine (the first lifestyle magazine for the disabled community), I was ready to bring out the very best from athletic wear to couture.  It’s important that the mainstream is learning to see that just because we may have a disability does not mean we can’t be one with style.

It’s time to roll out the red carpet.

Adaptive Clothing is Overdue in Stores, Especially Boutiques!

Tommy Hilfiger, one of the few leading designers has recognized this need and created magnetic buttons – stylish on the outside with a magnet on the inside to make dressing easier for some. One of many designs he has in his adaptive wear collection. 

Companies like Gamut Management have recognized and revolutionized the need not only for accessible clothing but also for a process to help consumers identify brands that are vetted and create authentically Adaptive products. Started in 2019, their GAMUT Seal is a mark to show that the company has met a stringent set of requirements and that they are meeting the needs in the disability space, as decided by experts.

It’s time for designers to take fashion forward and ditch the ableist mindset that people with disabilities are somehow “less than” or “not worthy” of stylish clothing.

Second, they need to start actually designing clothing that is accessible and usable for people with a wide range of disabilities. And finally, they need to be vocal about their commitment to inclusivity.

Let’s continue to bridge the gap of the fashion industry  with people with disabilities for ALL seasons. Let’s lead with role models who are championing globally with access, authenticity and style on our runways.

It’s Not a Small World After All

It’s a small world after all….NOT!

How about we reword that as “it’s a wide world after all”?

After all, there’s a worldwide population of 1.8 billion people that have a disability. That’s not a small number, is it?

Do you know who makes up a portion of that number? KIDS.

They dream. They wish. They play make-believe.

Thanks to Disney and other companies, they dream of growing up to be like Peter Pan, Cinderella, Snow White, Aladdin and more.

Some dream of being able to see what Mickey and Minnie look like.
Some wish they could hear the characters speak on the movie screen.
Some wish they could fly like Peter Pan in their wheelchair. 

Disney is leading the charge on becoming more sensitive to people with disabilities.

Disney is working on animations that are more sensitive to those with deafness.
The work never stops. Collaborating and hiring people with disabilities with the life-experience knowledge is how we can create the most memorable adventures.

Dolls in wheelchairs and other mobility aids are featured during ride environments.

Disney characters have been recorded by the public using sign language in the parks.

After all, Disney has it’s own share of disabled characters:
When Ariel lost her voice to be able to experience the world, she became disabled.
Dory had short term memory loss, another disability. 
Elsa had a sensory issue that prevented her from touching things.

It’s important that people see this representation, especially for kids. Providing access on and off screen is what every consumer deserves to make it memorable and user-friendly. The importance of inclusion by including portrayals with disability helps minimize the stereotypes and enhances self- esteem.

We build empathy and identity through our storytelling and we all know that Disney shares the stories that touch our world.

We Still Have a Long Way to Go

Does advertising have a responsibility to be inclusive?

Have you seen or heard any memorable ads from your favorite brands lately? Chances are, probably not.

Interestingly, a few clients pinged me recently to comment on an ad they saw. The common denominator – the ad featured a person with a disability. Not because of their disability but showing empathy towards it. How novel.

Advertisers cannot afford to miss out on this potential $21 billion market of people with disabilities, their families, and friends. In 2021, ad spending, including people with a disability and disability-related themes, totaled $57 Million.

Still, only 3% went to ads featuring disabled people or including disability themes in the creative. We have seen some progress this past year, and I have a hunch that unless the powers do otherwise, nothing will change in 2023—a perfect opportunity for brands to lead authentically to reinforce a sense of belonging.

Are you Ready! to expand your media footprint in 2023?

This needs to change. Ads need to be more inclusive of the disabled. Not because of their disability but because of who they are as a person. The disability is a small part of them; it does not define the totality of who they are.

To the brands at large, I’d like to encourage you to cast actors with disabilities in your commercials. They, too, have talent, heart, and a fervent commitment to their craft. If you do this with empathy, seeing them for their exceptional talent, you will make a positive contribution, and your commercials will be more memorable. What’s not to like about having your ads become more memorable for its heart?

Apple just launched a new “The Greatest” campaign celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities showing off its latest accessibility features. This is a great start to innovation, but others need to engage with this untapped market to broaden their companies to think ALL ACCESS.

Please know this is not just about putting someone in an ad or creating products and services that are accessible. It is about supporting (through your products and services) a substantial segment of the buying population – 15% of the world’s population happens to be disabled. It will continue to grow as we continue to age as well.

Collectively, we can change and shape society’s attitudes for the better. We can adjust our mindsets and create opportunities to remove the ignorance of ableism we confront daily.