The Creator Economy: Democratizing Access to Employment for Disabled People
The rise of the creator economy has opened up new avenues for Disabled people to participate in the workforce and escape the poverty cycle that Disabled people are often forced to be caught up in. Social media platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and Instagram provide Disabled creators with a platform to showcase their talents, connect with audiences and earn a living wage, whilst changing the way the world views and defines disability.
For many Disabled people, traditional employment opportunities can be limited due to physical, communication, attitudinal and social barriers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for Disabled people is nearly double that of non-disabled individuals. However, the creator economy removes some of these barriers and allows Disabled people to work flexible hours, from home and on their own terms. They can monetize their content and earn income through brand partnerships, sponsorships, merchandise sales and more.
This has proven to be game-changing for many Disabled people who have been chronically dismissed by traditional employment. According to the World Bank, Disabled people are more likely to live in poverty compared to non-disabled people and a 2019 report estimates the poverty rate for Disabled people is nearly three times that of non-disabled people. The creator economy has enabled many Disabled people to break free from the poverty cycle and become financially independent. Moreover, the creator economy has provided Disabled people with a sense of community, identity, creativity and self-expression, which has been transformative for mental and emotional well-being.
Despite the democratizing effect of the creator economy, there is still much work to be done to ensure that social platforms are accessible and that brands are truly inclusive when they work with Disabled creators. Many social media platforms are still not designed with accessibility in mind, making it difficult for Disabled individuals to use and participate in the creator economy. Furthermore, algorithms used by social media platforms can perpetuate ableist biases, further limiting the visibility and reach that Disabled creators could have. This, combined with the challenges of accessing healthcare, benefits, SSDI and more, creates significant obstacles for Disabled people making a career in the creator economy
Brands also have a role to play in promoting inclusiveness and accessibility in the creator economy. According to a report by GLAAD, only 3.5% of characters are portrayed as Disabled mainstream media. It is estimated 95% of those character portrayals are incorrect or negative portrayals. Brands and agencies must take steps to ensure that their marketing campaigns and collaborations with creators are inclusive of Disabled talent. This will not only promote diversity and inclusiveness but also benefit brands by tapping into the large and untapped market of Disabled consumers, their families and friends. It is estimated by the Return On Disability Group report that this market has over $13 trillion in annual disposable income.
In addition to the employment opportunities, the creator economy has also enabled the Disabled community to connect like never before. Imani Barbarin (also known on social media as @CrutchesAndSpice) once quoted, “They call us the ‘chronically online,’ those who ‘need to touch grass,’ the people who need to ‘log off,’” but for Disabled people, online spaces have been a lifeline in a world that seeks to erase and eradicate us. Even prior to the pandemic, platforms like Twitter helped us to feel less alone and gaslit by our experiences and allowed us to contextualize our experiences in a way that gave us peace.”
In conclusion, the creator economy has the potential to revolutionize access to employment for Disabled individuals. However, more needs to be done to ensure that social platforms are accessible, that algorithms are not perpetuating ableist biases and that brands are inclusive when working with creators. Work with Disabled-led groups and companies, like C Talent at Whalar, that represent Disabled creators and help companies make and meet bold disability inclusion and accessibility commitments. The world will be a better place if everyone has the opportunity to participate in the workforce and improve their lives.
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Here are nine ways your brand can become an ally to Disabled creators and increase the employment of Disabled people:
1. Set Disability representation targets so Disabled people are included in all advertising and campaigns, not just those that are Disability specific.
2. Ensure Disability Pride is recognized and celebrated with authenticity from the Disabled perspective.
3. Invest in Disability and accessibility training for creative teams.
4. Address algorithm bias: Ensure that algorithms used by social media platforms do not perpetuate ableist biases.
5. Ensure there is pay equity for Disabled creators.
6. Factor accessibility into all budgets.
7. Brands, take the initiative to hold your agencies accountable if they are not hiring 15% or more disability representation within their campaigns.
8. Place Disabled people in decision-making positions.
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9. Take the opportunity of representation with authenticity and integrity. Go beyond ticking boxes and going beyond compliance.
Remember and recognize intersectionality in your work and when you hire and that people can belong to multiple marginalized groups and their experiences of oppression are shaped by the interplay of these identities, rather than just a single axis of oppression.