Agencies Need to Better Connect Disability With Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

Rather than only thinking about it during the Paralympics

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With the 2020 Paralympics just around the corner, brands will soon start to plan and develop disability-inclusive campaigns. But are conversations about employing people with disabilities also top of mind among those agencies and other advertisers?

For some campaigns and brand activations, the Paralympics are a regular commitment that powers up every four years, and for others, this will be a first foray into disability inclusion. While much of the focus will center on disability portrayals in the creative, now is the time to consider disability beyond the campaign and also as a component of ongoing diversity and inclusion within talent recruitment programs.

Not considering outreach toward people with disabilities among employee candidates continues decades of second-class citizenry, misinformation and stereotyping.

As a disabled person in the industry, I’ve seen some advancement, but many conversations are stilted with minimal insights and sputtering commitments. I applaud the ad community for taking a stronger stance on diversity in so many facets, but disability continues to be marginalized mostly to topics surrounding ad creative, with little industry education or agency employment dialogue.

Not considering outreach toward people with disabilities among employee candidates continues decades of second-class citizenry, misinformation and stereotyping toward a group that many still consider unemployable.

In an industry that celebrates creative iconoclasts, hiring managers should consider people with disabilities for out-of-the-box ideas and as daily problem solvers. Recognize that many break the rules and the mold regularly and repeatedly, things brands want to achieve every day. One in four people (or 61 million) Americans are disabled, and many could translate into employees in the advertising industry. Whether talking about a career move or consumer purchasing power, people with disabilities can make a big advertising impact.

Collectively, Americans with disabilities have an annual disposable income of $188 billion. Beyond the bottom line and dollars spent, advertising has the power to drive brand affinity and social justice.

Employing more people with disabilities means agencies and brands won’t simply be thinking about inclusion every few years surrounding the Paralympics or during a particular month celebrating a certain cause, but instead have daily advocates and ambassadors willing and able to share advice and creative ideas toward greater inclusion. Other minority groups aren’t put on pause to only be discussed and included among infrequent campaigns during sports spectacles, and neither should people with disabilities.

More people with disabilities will be in ads when more people with disabilities are hired in the advertising industry. This can be the year when more conversations, conviction and commitment takes place to elevate advertising and disability.