October 1, 2023

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Top accessible brands 2023 | Ad Age

Every year in July, the U.S. celebrates Disability Pride Month, celebrating the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, which gave Americans legal protections from disability-based discrimination. Today, 33 years later, there is still much work to be done to ensure representation, access and inclusion for people with disabilities.

Part of that work can be helped by influential brands, putting their widespread audiences to use in furthering the collective goal of disability inclusion.

Lauren Murphy, UM
Lauren Murphy, UM

“Being disability-inclusive really begins with education and results in action,” said Lauren Murphy, VP and partner, integrated investment, at UM. She pointed out the common misconception that disabilities are always visible. Murphy noted that disabilities can range from, and are not limited to, developmental or intellectual disabilities. These might include autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and ADHD, as well as physical impairments including limb indifference, spina bifida, sensory impairments such as blindness and hearing loss, as well as anxiety, neurodevelopmental disorders and PTSD. 

Individuals with disabilities are often overlooked within DE&I efforts, yet disabilities affect people of all ages, genders, races and sexual orientations, Murphy said. Brands showing up for the disability community during July—but without action the rest of the year—run the risk of appearing opportunistic. However, campaigns and action on the part of trusted companies can have a compound effect, creating real-world change that others can then adopt and build upon, she noted.

This month, we spoke to industry leaders from the Amp community to see which brands are doing their part for Disability Pride Month and beyond, plus what it means to be truly disability-inclusive in 2023. 

The brands working to become more accessible

Advertisers in recent years have come a long way in disability inclusion, simply by featuring more models with disabilities in ads, and helping everyone be represented in the images that show up on our screens and billboards. But for Murphy, it’s the brands that have taken their commitment to inclusion further that deserve recognition, adapting their actual offerings and products.

She pointed to Sony’s accessible gaming controllers; Lancôme’s HAPTA, the world’s first handheld computerized lipstick tool for people with hand-motion impairment; and the new Lego Friends sets that include characters with disabilities like Down syndrome, anxiety, limb difference and vitiligo, as well as Tommy Hilfiger’s Tommy Adaptive line, which includes features like magnetic buttons and sensory-friendly fabrics.

[L]earned Media CEO Sam Zises also highlights Skims, Kim Kardashian’s line of shapewear, for a similar effort with its Adaptive Collection, launched in 2022.

Sam Zises, [L]earned Media
Sam Zises,
[L]earned Media

“Designed in the classic Skims style, the pieces were made with additional functionality for those with limited mobility via features like hooks in the front of items,” Zises said. “While we haven’t seen a Disability Pride ad campaign from Skims yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do.”

Zises noted that the lesson we can all take away from this month is assessing whether our products and services are easily accessible to all types of people, and taking action to make that so, regardless of campaign or time of year.  

Zises also commented that that consumers in recent years have become increasingly aware of brand authenticity when it comes to speaking out for awareness months, like LGBTQ+ Pride Month and Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month.

“When we look at these other months, we see that it is most critical that brands don’t just say something to sell something, but rather do something to advance the cause further for the represented group,” he said.

For Jake Lenze, strategist at Wondersauce, Apple has consistently put in the work to make inclusivity a reality in its products and offerings.

Jake Lenze, Wondersauce
Jake Lenze,

“Apple is an example of a brand that has shown a year-round commitment to disability-inclusivity,” Lenze said. “By continuously building products that prioritize the disability community and sharing the stories that those products enable, the brand has put inclusivity into action in a meaningful way.”

Lenze also applauds the work Google did this year, giving employees from its Disability Alliance resource group a platform to tell their stories.

“This work went beyond an advertisement or campaign and instead showcased the brand’s commitment to fostering a disability-inclusive company culture,” he said. “Google also ensured that members of the disability community would be able to experience the content for themselves by offering a version of the video with and without audio description, as well as closed captions.”


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