1 out of 4 people have a disability, yet the disabled community is one of the most undermined groups when it comes to business opportunities.
It’s time to normalize the inclusion of all groups of people in all aspects of life & Jillian Mercado has a plan on how to do just that.
Who is Jillian Mercado?
Jillian Mercado is a Latina actress and model from New York, NY who was diagnosed with spastic muscular dystrophy when she was young.
As a young girl, she always wondered why everyone didn’t look like her, and she still has that question today, but she is asking it in a different way.
She wonders why brands and companies only promote a one-dimensional look to represent the beauty of the world when there are so many different colors, shapes, and sizes of beauty that she sees walking down the street every day.
None of the models or actresses used in campaigns looked like normal, everyday people and she saw an issue with this.
Mercado had a passion for fashion early on and after her internship with Allure, she was hired for a campaign with the denim company, Diesel, in 2014.
This was her first gig and it definitely put her on the map because the following year she signed with the agency IMG!
After she signed she was featured in:
- Calvin Klein
- Teen Vogue
- Tommy Hilfiger
- Beyonce’s Formation Campaign
- The Blond’s Fashion Show (NYFW)
- AND MORE!!
She stated in an interview with Buzzfeed that she started to receive so much love from the disabled community that included messages of hope –hope that they could also follow their dreams as Jillian Mercado did.
Mercado is doing her best to make that dream possible for so many in the disabled community and next we’ll discuss what exactly she’s doing to make that happen!
How is She Making a Difference?
Being that Jillian Mercado is a proud advocate for representation in the industry, she has made sure to hire as many people with disabilities to her team as she was able to give those around her the opportunity that Diesel gave her.
She noticed how this incident motivated everyone to not only fight for justice, but for representation as well. So she created this platform for creatives of color to easily connect with companies and brands to bring about more inclusivity in the industry.
After the protests happened, many brands were preaching that they are choosing to stand with the movement and planned to create a more diverse platform.
Black Disabled Creatives gives us the chance to hold these brands accountable and if they go back on what they initially promised, it shows that they were not planning to be more inclusive from the start.
Not only does this allow for people of color to hold these brands accountable, but it also gives the disabled community a voice and provides more opportunities for them!!
If you are interested in applying as a creative or you are a brand looking for a creative, click the link below to head to their website!
The site is fully accessible as it has accommodations for people hard of hearing as well as for individuals who are blind!!
Why is Representation So Important?
For decades, society has held up a specific look to be the pinnacle of beauty when in reality there are so many forms and different versions of beauty which makes it impossible for their to only be one standard.
By providing more representation, you are not only empowering those who have been undermined and left out of the discussion, but also helping to put a stop to discriminatory practices.
Whether it comes down to your skin color, your religion, your disability, or your sexuality you should not be given less of a chance EVER.
“If your whole team looks like you, that’s a problem. The world is so diverse, and that should be celebrated. There is not one type of look. It’s a positive thing to include those people and to speak up for those people who don’t have access.” – Jillian Mercado
By having more representation, you set a whole new standard and you throw out the misconceptions around being different and instead can solely rely on the talent that many people have!
Representation allows society to accept that it’s okay to be different and it sells the hope of being able to achieve anything to those who have not been offered a seat at the table.
It is vital and should have always been offered. But it is our job to help create a safe space so that everyone can feel appreciated and seen.
How to Make the Disabled Community Feel More Appreciated?
1. Advocate for Widespread Accessibility
Whether you work for a company or you are your own boss, you can always advocate for there to be more accessibility.
If you have more accessibility at a company, you are opening up more possibilities for the company to expand and to build a more diverse team!
Don’t be afraid to step up and advocate for a little change. Your voice can help to empower and uplift so many others.
2. Educate Yourself on Diversity & Inclusion
If you do not have a disability, I highly suggest you educate yourself on what they have to endure on a daily basis.
There are so many ways you can do this such as through books, youtube channels, movies, etc.
By putting yourself in their shoes, you are changing your own perspective on the disabled community.
Alongside that, it’s important to also educate yourself on diversity and inclusion.
If you think you know the feeling of being excluded, then you are absolutely wrong.
You don’t even know half of it and it’s important to read up on books on the history of inclusion in the disabled community as well as how to promote more inclusion and diversity in your life.
3. Stop Discriminating
If you have never had or been around someone with a disability on a consistent basis, then you naturally will discriminate against them.
I know this seems harsh, but it’s the truth.
Whether you would like to admit it or not, you unconsciously discriminate against those who are disabled because society has labeled them as individuals who are not capable of doing what a non-disabled person can do.
You have to break that stigma by not only changing your mindset, but also correcting those around you who discriminate against the disabled community.
A great way to stop is to do what tip #2 says AND if you have time, volunteer at a community center or hospital that has disabled patients.
You could also find disabled creatives and ask them if you can shadow them for the day!!
Anything you can experience and learn from is a great way to get a better understanding of how amazing these individuals are!
4. Hire Disabled Freelancers
Did you know that 19.3% of the disabled population was employed in 2019 in comparison to 66.3% of non-disabled?
And to top it off, the Black and Hispanic groups were the highest ones out of that 19.3% that were unemployed. (Source: BLS).
Due to this, many people with disabilities do freelance work or own their own company.
So, if you ever need to get a small or big task done, make sure to look into hiring from a company that is owned by someone with a disability.
It’s a small gesture, but it will definitely go a long way.
5. Promote Their Work
If you do happen to hire a disabled freelancer, make sure to promote their work!
You have the power to really boost their business which will help to bring in more opportunities for them!
You never know who may come across it!
Also, if you ever see a disabled person who is pursuing a career such as an actress, singer, athlete, artist, model, etc. then you should definitely show love and promote their work as well!
Like I said before, you never know who may come across it and even if it doesn’t reach the most influential people, you still:
- Showed your audience that you support the disabled community
- Made a positive impact on that individual
- Created more space for representation
6. Support Brands That Hire Disabled Creatives
Lastly, you should support brands that proudly hire disabled people.
Just like people ending their support for brands that didn’t support the BLM movement, the same energy should be here as well.
There is no reason for any brand to not be including more people with disabilities. Every 1 out of 4 people has a disability which means this is our normal.
The disabled community is important and should be represented in campaigns for big brands.
So if they are not showing support, then maybe you need to kick that brand to the side.
I promise there are millions of other amazing brands that have high quality products AND are proudly providing representation for the disabled community.
All in All
All in all, we all deserve a fair chance and as someone who is a Black woman and works with children with disabilities, I am very passionate about this.
Do your part and help to create a voice for those who have been silenced for so long.
If you enjoyed this article, make sure to share this on your socials and with your loved ones!
What are your thoughts on representation in the workplace? What are your experiences when it comes to this? Feel free to share in the comments!!