market with dignity. A firm that offends one disabled group may discover that all disabled groups will be upset with it.
An easy way to reach out to the disabled is to include a disabled individual in a television commercial or print ad. The disabled tend to respond positively to companies that include them in their advertisements. It is important, however, that the advertisements not be perceived as exploitative. Advertisements that work are those that show disabled inidividuals as “regular folks” (Ray and Ryder, 2003). Marketers must very sensitive to this market and – at the very least – not offend them. Nike’s advertisement that described handicapped people with spinal injuries as “drooling and misshapen” caused a big stir (Grimes, 2000). The winner of China’s first “Miss Internet” competition was Chen Fanhong, a disabled woman in a wheelchair. One official disqualified her because, in his words, she had lost her “spring bloom” and used a Chinese word for disabled that has the literal meaning of “damaged and diseased.” The media in China picked up the story and there was a big public outcry over this. Tin the end, Chen won the “Miss Internet” contest (Pottlinger, 1999).
The disabled include our own family members and, possibly, us. After all, we are all getting older. Creating the correct corporate culture, one that has compassion for the disabled and creates products that satisfy this segment, is the right thing to do and may indeed be necessary for firms that wish to thrive.
It is very difficult to define the term disability; definitions are a function of the purpose of the one defining the term. If the goal is to provide financial assistance, the definition will be different than if the purpose is for a psychological study. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), defines someone with a disability as “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” (U.S. Department of Justice, 2005)
There is also no easy way to measure disabilities. Census 2000 (Waldrop and Stern, 2003) used six questions to measure this, each item to be checked “yes” or “no”:
Does this person have any of the following long-lasting conditions:
a. Blindness, deafness, or a severe vision or hearing impairment?
b. A condition that substantially limits one or more basic physical activities such as walking, climbing stairs, reaching, lifting, or carrying?
Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition lasting 6 months or more, does this person have any difficulty in doing any of the following activities:
a. Learning, remembering, or concentrating?
b. Dressing, bathing, or getting around inside the home?