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.

Living Life on Your Own Terms

“The sheer relief of finally being able to do what so many people take for granted was a special moment I won’t forget.”
– Colin Hughes

For disabled people, getting through the day can be a daunting task.

One of the biggest challenges is that oftentimes, we’re dependent on others to assist us with certain tasks and lose our sense of independence.

Between physical environments that might not be accessible to those in wheelchairs or scooters, audio concerns for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, or negative attitudes people can have towards those of us with disabilities, we also have to think about our technology needs as well – will we have access to assistive, adaptive, or rehabilitative devices throughout our day?

Apple has learned our frustrations and is raising the bar with its accessibility features to assist us to take back our freedom and take charge of our day on our own terms.

What might have once seemed like a futuristic home gadget or ‘back to the future technology’ are now becoming more universal and are making lives easier for everyone – disabled or not.

Apple is setting the precedent for what universal design should look like.

While these things were initially created to help the disabled population, they’ve turned into features that help virtually everyone at some point in their lives.

  • Closed Captions for the deaf or hard of hearing
  • Automatic Doors for those with wheelchairs or crutches
  • ScreenReaders for the blind or visually impaired
    When Apple designed the LED flashing when the phone rang, or a message came in, I was able to breathe a small sigh of relief—no more missed calls or messages because I couldn’t hear the ringing!

It’s these small changes that make the biggest difference.

We’ve come so far over the last few years, and it doesn’t look like advances in accessibility will stop anytime soon.
The work never stops.

There are so many other accessibility features that help support vision, physical, motor, hearing, and learning needs. Really, the list gets longer and longer with every new update! 

For example, Apple has stepped up its game with enhancements and updates, especially its iOS 16 software. Voice control is now easier to use than ever, the software is getting better and better at understanding human speech, and you can easily control almost your entire home by voice if that’s what you choose to utilize.

Companies like this that are leading with accessibility on their agendas are presenting our communities to be more productive and lead overall more fulfilled lives.

We deserve to go through our day easier, with less stress, and on our own terms. And thanks to companies like this, we can. Keep leading.

Amazon Has Gifts Worth Giving This Year

Workforces that are disability-inclusive clearly enhance the corporate culture.

Last week, I went to my local Amazon Hub to pick up my package of books…but they couldn’t locate my boxes. There was some confusion, paging, and calling of management to try and find my boxes. And then, I noticed something that would change the rest of my day…

A sign on the counter stopped me in my tracks: “Hello. I’m Deaf. Please have patience while I assist you”.

It turns out that the woman assisting me was deaf like me. Talk about things coming full circle! Ironically, I’m here picking up my books, and my chapter is about my journey as a deaf woman. If interested, you can read more about that here.

By this point, the supervisor had come over to try and help, and she had her boss on the phone. However, the store was noisy, and the phone had a poor connection. I couldn’t make out a word. What was I supposed to do?

The younger Lori would have been afraid to ask for help.

These days though, I’m not insecure and am proud to say, “I am deaf and cannot hear you. Can you please assist me?”

While the supervisor went back to talking to the boss and finding my boxes, the employee and I shared a smile and a whole conversation about our journeys, where we went to school, our families, and more!

It’s time to stop labeling ourserves as we have so much to offer the world and the workforce.

To see another individual like me doing her job, serving her customers, being authentic, and surrounded by a team that treats her with respect, is a heartwarming feeling.

We never know another person’s story or journey but watching this one unfold in front of me reminded me to continue being authentic, which will continue to allow others to be as well.

Authentic connections were made that day. Empathetic conversations were held. Access was delivered. Loyalty will continue. Leaders like this are leading. Staying true to yourself is the most transformational gift you can give the world. Amazon proved that being in a place of belonging is the new customer loyalty, A gift worth giving.

Come Fly Away With Me…

Empathy, Awareness, and Access are Needed Today and More Than Ever Before.

Passengers with disabilities represent one of the fastest-growing traveler segments, and we need airlines to be committed to removing barriers to safe, accessible air travel*. As a deaf woman, I have had my fair share.

The following is a true story:

I’m on my way home to say the final goodbyes to my grandmother who was dying.

My flight was delayed, which meant I was stuck wandering around the airport and constantly checking the clock at the restaurant I was waiting at.

I returned to my gate early only to find that no one was there, and the stewardess was in process of closing the door.

When I asked her what was going on and gave her my name, she instantly recognized it.

They had been paging me for the last half hour…I had missed my flight and was told I had to look at going on a later flight.

Thinking I was stuck in the airport and not headed to my family, I started crying and explaining how I’m hard of hearing and couldn’t hear any announcements. I expressed the urgency that I had to get on the plane before they departed. 

The stewardess was firm that I couldn’t get on, I asked her if she had a grandma,  and saw her taking compassion on me, started talking rapidly into her walkie – I was able to lipread everything she was saying.

She explained to the flight crew that I was a deaf passenger, absolutely had to get home, and needed to be on board.

Next thing I know, the door is opening, and I’m being assisted on board and on my way home.

Had it not been for the compassionate stewardess, I would have missed saying goodbye. 

Incidents like this happen every single day.

Empathy, Awareness, and Access are needed today, now more than ever.

I was lucky that I came across an empathetic crew member, but that’s not the case for everyone.

It’s time for more travel companies to get on board with awareness and access for their travelers.

I’m ready to travel the world without accessibility issues.

Healthcare Discrimination Exists in 2022!

Doctors – Do you hear us?
Nurses – Do you see us?
Insurance Companies – Do you feel our pain?

There are 1.8 billion of us living with disabilities, and that number is growing daily.

It’s been over 30 years since the passage of the ADA act, and yet a new study has shown that some doctors are still harboring biases against people with disabilities*.

Not just being biased against them, but also actively avoiding accepting them as patients as well!

We’re less than 60 days away from 2023, and it’s time to bring empathy and disability awareness to the medical community.

It is long past time for doctors, nurses, and insurance companies to facilitate access to programs and care to protect people with disabilities from being discriminated against in crisis situations.

Taking the extra time to address any barriers a patient may have – attitudinal, physical, communication, or financial – will allow disability inclusion to achieve better health and well-being.

It all begins with adequate education, training, and resources for our healthcare systems and insurers.

Now is the time for us to stand up and collectively ask for a more inclusive system.

A system that doesn’t discriminate or make it harder than necessary to get the healthcare and other services that we need.

The time is now for this global movement.