Color & Control:

The Disability Collection

The Canadian Abilities Foundation chatted with Mike Shebanek, Head of Accessibility at Oath, as well as Rebecca Swift, Director of Creative Insights at Getty Images to discuss the new Disability Collection and why their collaboration is pivotal for diversity and inclusion.

Q Traditionally, diversity and inclusion have been overlooked when it comes to the images used by corporations and the media. What’s changing?

Mike: From our studies, we know that consumers increasingly prefer brands that are inclusive, socially aware, and act in line with their values. Sixty-two percent of consumers surveyed expect brands to publicly support equality and diversity. Getty’s 2018 Visual Trend Report also found relatable and authentic lifestyle storytelling to be key when connecting with today’s consumer.

Let’s face it…there are over 1 billion people in the world with a disability, a market the size of China. It’s a community that has relied on stereotypes for far too long. We are only now seeing some changes in the depiction of gender, age and disability.

Q We know Getty but not Oath. Can you explain a little more about the partnership and the rationale behind it?

Mike: Oath is a global media company that reaches 1 billion diverse consumers around the world through brands such as Yahoo, AOL, Tumblr, HuffPost, Makers Women and TechCrunch. We are leaders in accessibility with a longtime commitment to including people with disabilities in the design and function of our products and media.

Getty Images is Oath’s preferred photo provider. Global search data from 2016 to 2017indicates that searches for “wheelchair access” increased 371% year over year on Additionally, “disabled worker” was up 254%, “autism awareness” increased 196%, and “deafness” was up 144%. The Disability Collection project is guided by insights from disability-specific focus groups posted by Oath and the National Disability Leadership Alliance.

Q What is your short and long term vision for the collection?

Mike: Our hope is to change the way the world sees disability and to empower the media to be more inclusive by increasing the number of available images that authentically represent this sector.

Rebecca: Getty works with over a million clients globally. We HAVE to have the content that represents the world and it’s incumbent upon us that we use our position for change! Our long-term vision is to encourage content producers to hire disabled talent/models, not thinking “disabled lifestyle” or “disabled businesswoman” but thinking “lifestyle” “businesswoman” etc.

Q But why is it a separate collection, after all, we’re trying to be inclusive?

Rebecca: The photographs in The Disability Collection are part of Getty Images’ overall photo library, available for anyone to discover, license, download and use. They are also showcased in a dedicated light board as a curated collection so viewers can be confident all the images have passed through review by the NDLA and are considered authentic. The Collection is filed with everything else and will come up in general searches. We have also placed it in a collection so that we can signpost to our clients.

Q Do you have any research on the use of diversity in the media or marketing materials, or should we say the lack of it?

Mike: To understand the cultural context of the broader media landscape, it’s key to note that

disability is represented in only 2% of characters on screen. The USC Annenberg, “Inequality in 900 Popular Films” is a study found that people with disabilities make up only 2.7% of characters

in Hollywood films (compared to 18.7% of the population). Fewer than two percent of scripted television characters have disabilities and shockingly 95% of characters with disabilities on TV are played by non-disabled actors.

Q Is the collection cross-disability, meaning does it include persons living with physical disabilities and mental health conditions. Any age limits?

Mike: Disability is intersectional so there’s an intentional focus on diversity in every sense. Many of the images of disability that are traditionally used in the media reflect only the “heroic” or the “pitiful”— stereotypes of disability—when disability is much more diverse.

Rebecca: The Disability Collection will repicture disability in a way that is dignified, modern, diverse, authentic and human. The project invites photographers to portray disability as a natural part of someone’s identity, instead of portraying disability as something that needs to be “cured,” “fixed” or overcome. We are building this collection around ALL disabilities.

Q What is your advice for companies looking to become more inclusive with their illustrative materials?

Mike: Hire more people with disabilities. Ensure people with disabilities are part of the creative

process in front of and behind the camera. And, design with accessibility in mind, it benefits everyone.

Q Tell us about the photographer’s you showcase as part of the collection.

Rebecca: The collection is open to all photographers, anywhere in the world. We are encouraging photographers, especially those with disabilities, to join in creating and growing this collection. One of the photographers featured in the launch campaign is Jordan Nicholson, a Seattle-based photographer with Tar syndrome. He agreed to participate in the project because he believes it’s really important to have disability representation within the media.

Engaging Different Perspectives

In conversation with Susan Lang, CEO of Lime Connect and Daniel Tench, Real Estate Account Manager, TD Bank Group.

Searching for a job can be stressful. For people with disabilities the challenge is often greater, with unemployment rates almost double that of people without disabilities.

TD recognizes and values how unique perspectives make a better workplace and partners with organizations like Lime Connect to leverage the best talent and to open doors of opportunity to all.

Abilities: Susan, can you tell us about Lime Connect, and your role?

Susan: I am the founding President and CEO of Lime Connect. Over a decade ago, we noticed that there was a significant gap in the disability talent space among university students and alumni. For individuals with disabilities, the corporate recruitment process can be extremely intimidating. Many students will not attend employer receptions because of the fear of employers not wanting to or willing to accommodate. We started Lime Connect to connect the pool of high potential, sharp students and professionals who want to have great careers. We prepare them with coaching, webinars and connect them with partners, like TD.

Abilities: What makes Lime Connect unique to support candidates with disabilities in their career search?

Susan: We provide everyone who is a part of the Lime Network access to all resources, including webinars, networking, and advice, such as whether and when to disclose. We also focus a lot of time on our receptions where our partner organizations attend to meet with potential employees. Our goal is to make it personal and build relationships with everyone in the Lime Network.

Abilities: Daniel, can you tell us about yourself and how you got involved with Lime Connect?

Daniel: I have a mild form of cerebral palsy and dyslexia and was aware of Lime Connect through guidance and accessibility offices in both high school and university. However, my first real involvement with them was at one of the receptions that Susan mentioned. It was a small, intimate event which made it easy to talk about accommodations I would need to help me be successful. The reception was such a great way for me to network with both recruiters and potential employers. In fact, I connected with TD at a Lime Connect reception. I spoke to a TD campus recruiter who was very involved with Lime Connect. I mentioned in conversation that I was interested in real-estate and was then connected with the SVP of the National Real Estate group. He and I chatted for a long time at the reception and then I followed-up with him and he helped me secure my first co-op placement with TD.

Abilities: What drew you to TD?

Daniel: TD recognizes that to be innovative they need to engage different perspectives. They are open minded and innovative when it comes to their focus on talent acquisition and development. My managers are very supportive and there is a dedicated area of the bank that focuses on Workplace Accommodation and Assistive Technologies. I use text-to-speech software and the software was remotely installed on my device with no issues and at no personal expense. I am certainly glad that I joined TD!

Abilities: What is the best part about your job?

Daniel: I learn something new every day. The bank is invested in developing their people and there is opportunity for me to continue to grow my career with TD.

Abilities: Susan, what changes have you seen over the past 10 years in the Canadian talent acquisition space?

Susan: I’ve seen an expanded understanding of what encompasses a disability. In the past, there was a lot of focus on physical disabilities but I’ve seen a real shift in the depth and breadth of understanding of disabilities. Companies are also realizing how disability can be a real asset. For example, a person who is dyslexic may have excellent strategic thinking skills; a person with ADHD may have an entrepreneurial advantage; and a person who is blind may have incredible planning skills as they have had to navigate the world in a different way and are able to think ahead and translate that into the workplace.