According to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 26% of Americans are living with a disability. But less than 2% of media imagery features people with disabilities. As consumers are demanding wider representation from brands, it’s crucial that brands accurately reflect and engage this audience.
That’s where Christina Mallon comes in. As Head of Inclusive Design and Accessibility at Wunderman Thompson Global, Christina helps brands reach the 61 million Americans living with disabilities with authenticity and compassion. Her work has received nation-wide attention and she has been featured on PBS, Vice, Fast Company, CNBC, Vogue, Forbes, and YAHOO!. She has been asked to speak about Inclusive Design in numerous settings, from SXSW to The United Nations. More recently, her team won Designer of the Year 2019 by the Smithsonian and Ad Age’s 40 under 40.
Below, she catches up with us about social sustainability, why brand success is linked to representation, the importance of digital accessibility and why inclusive design in the era of COVID-19 is a human rights imperative.
What is social sustainability and why is it so important right now?
Social sustainability is the proactive way of making sure that the relationships between people, communities, and societies are staying positive and everyone’s getting what they need. So really social sustainability is just the focus on people and setting them up for success in the long term.
I’m a huge advocate of [environmental] sustainability, but no one’s talking about social sustainability. If we are not helping out the most in need people, we’re also wasting resources. If you think about it, we have a bunch of people with disabilities, and we’re trying to support them, but if we’re not giving them what they need, we’re just going to have to throw more resources at them. And if we frame it as social sustainability, people start to get it more. Disability support is considered charity, but social sustainability makes it more relatable.
Social sustainability is going to be a hot topic in the future, I believe.