Elizabeth Ralston: Making Marketing Accessible to All

This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart’s interview with Elizabeth Ralston on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!

KEYWORDS

people, accessibility, disability, arts, universal design, marketing, consortium, Elizabeth, accessible, thinking, important, Seattle, masks, talking, listeners, thought, space, programs, barriers, cochlear implants

Erica Mills Barnhart  05:22

Welcome to today’s episode of the Marketing for Good podcast. With me today is Elizabeth Ralston. Elizabeth has more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofits, government agencies and academic institutions. She has a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Michigan and a certificate of nonprofit management from the University of Washington, a certificate that is near and dear to my heart because I taught in that program for so long and I met so many amazing people. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi. And that’s where Elizabeth experienced firsthand the powerful impact a person can have on another person’s life. She’s devoted her life to public service ever since. Her work to showcase an organization’s story and impact in a compelling way attracting more program participants, volunteers, donors and community partners, and any and all other stakeholders that are important to the organizations that she’s working with. That’s really the core of her work. Now, Elizabeth does all this and she is deaf and she uses two cochlear implants to hear. One of the core tenants of Marketing for Good is accessibility. And so I was so so grateful to Elizabeth when she reached out and said, “Hey, I think we should talk about how marketing impacts or doesn’t those who are deaf and hard of hearing.” So that’s part of what we’re going to talk about today. Elizabeth is also an avid patron of the arts. So we’re going to drill down on that a little bit. She founded the Seattle Cultural Accessibility Consortium (that’s a mouthful!) which is a grassroots effort to connect arts and cultural organizations with the information and resources to improve accessibility for people of all abilities. The consortium is the first of its kind in Seattle. I’m really curious to hear, Elizabeth, if there are others that you modeled this after. It’s a first for us here in Seattle, to address inequities in accessing arts events, programs and spaces. Welcome to the show, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Ralston  07:30

Hello, It’s so nice to be here. Thank you for that wonderful introduction. So, yes, this is the first the first kind in Seattle and I basically modeled it after the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium. So there are many different consortia around the US. There’s about maybe 15-17 consortia around the US and a friend of mine said to me…well, it’s a long story. I’m sure we’ll get there at some point…you need to start something Seattle. And I realized that there was nothing like this in Seattle, based on my research. So it was definitely a journey in terms of figuring out how unique we want to be and how we want to follow in the footsteps of other organizations around us.

Erica Mills Barnhart  08:29

I would assume that was part of the questions that you asked yourself is how much do we want to be like Chicago or these other 15 places versus unique to Seattle. Okay, I want to get there. I’ve got lots of questions about the consortium. I find it really fascinating. Can we start with having you share with us how you got started in your accessibility journey and what what led you down this path?

Elizabeth Ralston  08:57

So as you mentioned earlier, I’m deaf. And I read lips and I use cochlear implants to hear. And I say that because there’s so much diversity within any disability community, and so many people think I sign and I don’t sign. So there’s a continuum, right? Some people sign and some people do cued speech. So I make that distinction purposefully because I want people to understand that I don’t sign, and read lips, etc. So growing up, my parents were very avid art and theater goers. And so they took me everywhere. They took me to musicals and they took me to museums, and of course going back then, I’m not too old but back then, there was no captioning, there were no assistive listening devices, no interpreters, there was nothing. And so I grew up taking script to a play or a musical. And that’s fine. But I did run into many barriers doing that. It’s kind of a pain looking up and down and up and, I would often get scolded by other audience goers because of my tiny, tiny light, right? A pen light that I was using to read the script. Anyway, fast forward. I just became a really big lover of the arts thanks to my parents, and I got a season subscription to one of my favorite theaters in town. And I started thinking, you know, I can only go to one Captioned show per round at the show, and I’m a busy person, sometimes I can’t go to that one particular show. I started thinking with my public hat on about equity and accessibility. And so that’s how I got started. And thinking about, well, how can we make the arts more accessible to people of all abilities? Not just hearing loss, but people with vision issues, people with neuro-diverse conditions. It’s all kinds of disabilities you name it.

Erica Mills Barnhart  11:30

Okay, I have a question about words. In your bio, it says people with all abilities, or actually that’s pulled from the information about the consortium. Will you share your opinions about the terminology of people of all abilities versus the word disability?

Elizabeth Ralston  12:03

That’s a good question. Um, disability is a fine word to use. I use people of all abilities to make it even wider. Because people don’t often see themselves as having a disability. So I wanted to make sure I included those people as well. Yeah, that’s pretty much how I see it that way.

Erica Mills Barnhart  12:26

So you’re not offended by the term disability. It’s more like, “Oh, hey, I don’t think of myself as having a disability. That’s weird that you do, because I don’t think of myself that way.”

Elizabeth Ralston  12:37

That is interesting, because when I grew up, I tried so hard to fit in. I wanted to be like everyone else and so for long, long time, even after accepted it, I had a loss and I was much more forward about it and open about it. I still wanted to be seen as a professional, a health educator, a mom, a storyteller. I didn’t want to be known as that person who had a disability. And, um, you know, it took me a while to realize that, Oh, wow. It’s actually an asset that people, you know, understand what it means for anybody experiencing barriers to accessing anything. And I chose the arts because it’s something I’m passionate about. And it’s something that I’m quite familiar with, because I have my nonprofit background, and I have been in an interim leadership role at Spectrum Dance Theater. I already knew people in the arts community and thought would be a good place to start.

Erica Mills Barnhart  14:07

Do you dance?

Elizabeth Ralston  14:10

I love to dance…in private. I love dancing. I need to do it more often. And I’ve thought about actually taking some of the classes, but I just didn’t have time.

Erica Mills Barnhart  14:28

That’s great. My daughter’s a dancer. And I periodically will say like, well, maybe I should take a dance class. Now she’s almost 16 she’s like, go for it, Mom, you do you, But before she was like, oh, not at my studio. And I was like “oh it’ll be great! I’ll take hiphop, honey!” <laughing>

Elizabeth Ralston  14:50

There was a class at Spectrum of people who were over the age of 60 in a dance class. It was so inspiring.

Erica Mills Barnhart  14:58

I now I’m tempted to change just talking about dance, I really do find it such an incredible art form. Like I love Spectrum Dance, my daughter dances at ExitSpace, and there’s just a lot happening in the dance community right now around inclusivity around diversity, around anti racism, around accessibility, and it’s like, it’s just making me so proud on so many levels, so, okay, um, speaking of that…diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, all of this has been gaining traction over the past few years. And now of course, is front and center. Finally, I mean, even a few months ago, words like racism, anti blackness, white supremacy, I mean, we were tiptoeing around those words pretty delicately. And now, we’re not because that’s no longer okay to tiptoe around them. If you can’t say them, you’re not going to be able to address them because everything has changed. With that, I would love to hear your thoughts on where does the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community fit into all of this into this, this movement and this energy towards diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility,

Elizabeth Ralston  16:16

I can only speak from my perspective as one individual. I can’t really speak for others, but I think the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have really laid bare the barriers that exist for people, whether it is black people, whether it’s people with disabilities is really kind of opened up this can of worms that’s been that’s been needing to open for a long, long time. So I think that one of the things that I’ve learned through this journey is when I first started, I was thinking about accessibility for everyone, just broadly all people with disabilities. But over time, I’ve realized after meeting people, mostly BIPOC that I have privilege as a white woman. And so I was only seeing it through that lens. Even though on the other side, I am part of a marginalized community, the disability community, because I’ve faced lots of barriers too, but people of color and black people face especially difficult barriers and that. So issues of intersectionality are really important to highlight during this time. And I think that this is something I’ve really committed myself to do. Going forward is to amplify and highlight BIPOC with disabilities and the barriers that they face when it comes to accessibility and civic life and the arts.

Erica Mills Barnhart  18:13

That’s beautifu. I want to go back to the Consortium for a minute, the Seattle Cultural Accessibility Consortium. I don’t know how many syllables that is, but it’s a lot of syllables.

Elizabeth Ralston  18:24

I knew you would bring this up because of the Wordifier. And I knew I should have done that before I came on, and you’re not going to believe it but it used to be called the Seattle King County Accessibility Consortium. And I said, I can’t deal with this. I had to shortened it. So we’ve just shortened it by two words. I hope that’s okay. <laughing>

Erica Mills Barnhart  18:50

So the mission is to connect arts and cultural organizations with information and resources to improve accessibility for people of all abilities. So, when you created this, what was your vision? Like if you could wave your magic wand? What does the consortium make possible?

Elizabeth Ralston  19:13

I think the Consortium has made possible a dialogue about what accessibility could look like from a universal design perspective. And it’s really a good time. Right now, as you know, the arts sector has been particularly hit hard by this. And as they start to prepare, what is that going to look like? What is that new normal gonna look like? And here’s a beautiful chance to use universal design principles, to create something that anyone can enjoy. And not just that this person or that person and not having to think about access for different groups of people, but just creating spaces, programs, and events for people, for anybody. So I’m really excited about how we have entered into this dialogue about what this could look like.

Erica Mills Barnhart  20:21

And can you be specific when you say enter into a dialogue, who’s in the dialogue?

Elizabeth Ralston  20:29

So enter into a dialogue with community partners, with arts organizations, with staff, with funders, you know,

Erica Mills Barnhart  20:40

Anyone who cares about arts and making it accessible to all?

Elizabeth Ralston  20:44

I mean, arts is a human right. We all know from a public health perspective, that if you engage in the arts, you’ll be happier, you feel like you’re part of a community and so it’s kind of a no brainer.

Erica Mills Barnhart  21:00

I agree with you on so many levels about its importance and its historical role in terms of civic life. And yet I find it so interesting that it is thought of as a luxury. And I’m not sure when that happened, but I feel like with COVID and the pandemic and everything that’s happening, it has just sort of again brought to light this, or not brought to light, but this idea that arts is sort of like a nice to have, as opposed to a must have. It feels like that’s coming up again. And I’m curious if you think this is an outlier perspective that I happen have, just one one person’s perspective, or are you hearing that come up in conversation?

Elizabeth Ralston  21:58

I’m hearing that. It’s supposed to be for everyone, but not everyone can afford it. And it’s not accessible from a socio economic perspective. And yes, I hear about that, right. And educating people that people with disabilities and other low income people, they can’t pay $50 per ticket for a show. So yeah, there’s a lot of inequity within that. Public art is probably the cheapest way to access it. But even then, that’s not always accessible because you have people singing and they’re no interpreters or, you have paintings or you have sculpture and someone who is low vision can’t access that so there’s lots of different issues in that I believe.

Erica Mills Barnhart  23:05

I want to go back to this idea of or the concept of universal design. And I’m hoping you can share a bit more with listeners, what that really means. And then I have a follow up question. But will you start with explaining to us what universal design means? It’s sort of implied by the name, but I think that there are some principles to it that are important.

Elizabeth Ralston  23:27

So universal design is founded on the basis of equity and access, it levels the playing field, and it takes into account a space…I’m talking more about physical space…let’s start with that. When you create, let’s say you’re creating a new architectural space. You’d have to be thinking, Okay, we need elevators for people with physical disabilities and you need a mom and baby cry room, you could be thinking about everything like how can this space can be used by everyone, and I’m not an architect. So I can’t really dive into specifics of that. Bu it’s more of a concept that involves all audiences in the planning and design of the space or even the program. So you know, the expecting nothing without us. Nothing for us without us something like that…I was forgetting that. And so you always have to include people with disabilities and anyone that you’re designing something for in that process, to make sure that is inclusive of everyone.

Erica Mills Barnhart  24:56

My understanding, which is limited I want to say, but when I was reading up on universal design, one of the things that really stood out to me was…and what made me think of this as I was reading about it as a relates to architecture and building out spaces, was we think of it as an accommodation. But in fact, when you apply the design principles, it really makes the space better for anybody who’s in it. So it’s not really an accommodation, it’s an elevation of the space. Right?

Elizabeth Ralston  25:29

So if you put that beautifully. Yeah, just not thinking about accommodation just thinking about things that will make it useful and enjoyed by anybody who accesses that space. So if you could, if you think about all the different kinds of people there are, you will make sure okay, can this space, you know, be inclusive and welcoming? And that’s a key word being welcoming to anybody who enters in that space.

Erica Mills Barnhart  25:59

Okay. I will not get this quote, right and I, and I wish I could attribute it. So with that really great preamble, or, disclaimer, there is this quote, which goes something like:  it’s not that you’re welcome here, it is that we built this with you specifically in mind. And there’s a difference between, you know, we created this space, whatever the space may be virtual or in person, and you are welcome to enter the space that we have created. And the difference between that and we created this space because we were so hoping you would be part of this community that you would come here. So we actually had you in our minds and hearts as we were building it. And that feels very substantively different. And although I didn’t come across that in the context of universal design, that’s kind of what it feels like and what I think of when I try to think about it concretely.

Elizabeth Ralston  26:53

Yes. And if we’re gonna be talking about marketing, that’s a perfect example.

Erica Mills Barnhart  26:59

Yeah, let’s go there.

Elizabeth Ralston  27:00

Yes, of how you can really draw people in. Because if they understand that something was designed with them in mind. How perfect can that be? Another example, not really an example of universal design, but a theater that includes people with disabilities in their musical in their plays will be more likely to get people of a much more diverse audience, for example. The hiring practices and even having an accessibility statement on the website will be very powerful.

Erica Mills Barnhart  27:42

Yeah, yeah. Okay, let’s do talk about marketing, because this is a show about marketing! But I feel like the the context is so important. And I’ve learned a ton from you already in this amount of time. So thank you for that. Let’s look at a very specific example of marketing that missed the mark in terms of diversity, equity, inclusion and access and specifically the message that was sent to Deaf and Hard of Hearing consumers. Okay, so this was in 2017. There’s a South African dancer model and former beauty queen Simone Bopha Welgemoed. And she was part of an advertisement for Virgin Active, which I had not heard of, but turns out it’s part of the Virgin Empire, the Virgin Brand. So it’s a chain of high end fitness clubs. And she’s a dancer, professional dancer, and so she was part of effort. Now, for background, notable is that on the Virgin Active website, they say they believe in catering to all, being a force for good, and making sure every one of their 1.4 million members is treated with adequate care, respect and attention. So Miss Bopha Welgemoed wears cochlear implants and she has since she was 22 months old. So imagine her surprise and indignation when without her permission, her implants were airbrushed out of the picture for the advertisements. And here’s what she had to say about that. I quote: “They just went and without my permission decided to edit the cochlear implant out because why? It doesn’t fit with their pretty little picture of portraying the perfect life that is virgin active. Well, guess what? Life isn’t perfect. No one is perfect.” I don’t know Miss Bopha Welgemoed, but I love her. Yeah, I mean, she went right to Instagram and was like, absolutely not. You know, and then they course corrected. There are so many things to learn from just this one example. Um, and I know you just have one perspective, but I’m pretty confident you have tracked this more than I have over the course of your life. That is kind of horrifying. That they would just…I know airbrushing is very common, and we have a whole sidebar on that. But to just not tell her, and to, in essence erase her identity in that way feels so invasive. Sort of editing for the sake of perfection and pursuit of perfection. What’s your experience with this? Have you seen other examples of it? When you hear that, or are you surprised in any way or are yo more like, yep there they go again.

Elizabeth Ralston  30:30

Yeah, that’s a fairly typical story that we see because disability is seen as something to be fixed. And not something to be highlighted. So that’s partly why they took that implant out of the picture because that mars the photos somehow. And so I totally get why she would react that way because it’s part of her. That’s who she is. And, and if you take it off, it doesn’t really make sense anyway. Because yes, it just doesn’t make sense as part of her. But I don’t know if you know they actually issued an apology.

Erica Mills Barnhart  31:15

Yeah.

Elizabeth Ralston  31:16

So I’m glad that they did the right thing and yes, I think there’s so much ignorance and ableism thinking out there that things are developed with ableist thinking and this is a perfect example of how this universal design principle can come in because you do away with the ableist thinking of how something should be a fear…

Erica Mills Barnhart  31:47

Will you explain for listeners what ableist thinking means?

Elizabeth Ralston  31:52

So an able bodied person has a certain way of thinking and thinks as an able bodied person without considering that there are other people who don’t have this similar situation. So able bodied comments that are dismissive about a person with a disability might face. So ping me again later to see if I can come up with some examples. But it happens to me a lot, oh, I guess an example would be going to the cashier line in the supermarket and paying for my stuff and a cashier will start signing to me, and so they’re ableist view is that I sign, so this is how they’re going to treat me without really seeing without really realizing that I’m speaking to them, so they could speak back to me, but is that they choose to sign so it was very dismissive and marginalized that way.

Erica Mills Barnhart  33:03

That makes perfect sense. Yeah. And Virgin did issue an apology, which is great. And they reissued the advertisement, unedited, un-airbrushed. But part of what really jumps out at me is, you know, just to reinforce your point, is this assumption that seeing those implants would make people uncomfortable, and that was more important than honoring her identity and who she is fundamentally. It was more important to make people feel comfortable. And I feel like, you know, this is marketing. We’re having a moment in so many ways. And I hope, I’m hoping so hard, that with conversations like this, that we will sort of shift this mindset…marketing is about optimizing. It’s about optimizing for target audiences, that is all true. And there’s an awesome opportunity for it to be less about being perfect and more about being real. In pretty much every episode I talked about radical realness. I imagine a world 5, 10, 20 years from now, where no one would blink an eye at seeing a cochlear implant. They’d be like, sure, but of course, right? And that norming of it. And the other thing that then gets lost and you mentioned this at the beginning, but I really want to go back to it is that you view it as an asset. Right? So it to say like, Oh, that’s a disability and to not simultaneously see the strength and to have that asset frame on it, is demeaning, and also just a missed opportunity.

Elizabeth Ralston  34:52

Right, I think I had to go back and do a bit in my journey in terms of realizing that this was an asset. In my professional life. A few years ago, I was trying to figure out what was next. And so I left this job, feeling pretty confident that I could find another one. And it was around the same time that I did that nonprofit certificate program at University of Washington. I have an impressive resume. I’ve been in the Peace Corps. I’ve written lots of articles, I’ve managed programs, I’ll get a job, no problem. And two years later, no job. I was doing a little bit of consulting here and there, but nothing was really sticking. And so I thought, okay, what is going on here? Okay, is this is this some sort of ableism going on? Is it ageism? Who knows what it is? I mean, I’m a very young at heart person and you can tell when you meet me, right. So I have a lot of good experience. And I started thinking about, okay, what are my real assets? Right? What? Because something’s not working. And so that’s where I got on the track. Oh, I really have a lot of experience talking to people about barriers and educating people about stereotypes. And, I mean, I used to do the trainings, diversity trainings, and do I really want to go down that road because there’s so many great people that are doing that work. And they should do that work. So I guess where I’m going with this is coming down this road has shown me that I can really be an ally, for other people with disabilities who may not have a voice for whatever reason, because of society’s perceptions of them. So, by starting the Consortium I thought, okay, now I can do that I can say, I know what it’s like to have a hearing loss. There’s just no way you can dispute that. I don’t know when it’s like to be blind. But I have the resources to find people to educate others. I’m a community connector, I know how to find people and connect people with one another. And getting them the resources they need to make their programs. meaningful to, to participants, to donors to volunteers, to everybody.

Erica Mills Barnhart  37:41

But it sounds like that was a journey and maybe a bit of a mind shift to embracing this. As truly, and by this I mean being deaf, as an asset and saying I’m going to really live into this.

Elizabeth Ralston  37:57

Maybe it was a mid-life crisis. I don’t know

Erica Mills Barnhart  37:59

Yeah, I mean, you know, whatever. They’re not mutually exclusive. Ha!

Elizabeth Ralston  38:10

But getting back to this notion of an ally, when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement, you know, and talking about intersectionality of people with disabilities, and the whole ally thing, I think it’s really important that able bodied people or white people become allies even much more so now than ever before. And there’s so many concrete ways that you can be an ally. But that’s a whole other conversation, I guess.

Erica Mills Barnhart  38:42

It’s an important conversation. And it’s not one conversation. It’s sort of The Conversation. I think society and certainly if we’re going to talk about marketing for good and make good on that, it’s the conversation that we need to be that we need to be having again and again and again and again. Which brings me to a question. So I think people can wrap their brain around I hope after hearing you and thinking about Black Lives Matter and all of these other things that they can consider, it’s easy to like conceptually get to a place where you’re like, Oh, I could apply universal design to our marketing campaign. Now, translating that into concrete action steps can be a bit trickier, I think. So how can accessibility be integrated into every aspect of an organization’s marketing?

Elizabeth Ralston  39:37

Well, I think you should hire me to find out.

Erica Mills Barnhart  39:41

Okay, we’re laughing but Elizabeth, you are making a really important point. And so I want to elevate it, if I may, which is there and actually, we just had this exchange on LinkedIn about the new organization that Akhtar Badshah and Sandra Archibald started and I’m pausing because I’m forgetting the name of it, but it’s the mask initiative to wear masks in Washington. And you saw that on LinkedIn. And this is just such a classic example. It had not occurred to me that for someone like you who reads lips, it’s like masks are real problematic. Right?

Elizabeth Ralston  40:19

I thought about showing up wearing a mask because I wanted you to see that I had these masks they have a clear panel in the middle but I just bought this face shield. Face shields are so much better than that, because they don’t hide your face and your glasses and much more comfortable. And they really have been shown to be preventive against COVID.

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:46

But yeah, we laughed about it, but your response which was beautiful was, Okay, you know, what can we do? And you’re like, well, they should ask, they should ask me and this point of if you’re not sure, reach out to folks who you want to be all inclusive, who you want to bring in and ask. And I think there is a hesitation around that. And some of that is very real, you know, for black folks and BIPOC, and everybody who for years has been trying to educate those of us who walk through the world with a lot of privilege. And that work needs to be done. We can’t keep asking them to educate us. So I feel like that’s a bit tricky, and folks maybe aren’t quite sure when can I ask and it’s okay, and it feels like I’m bringing you into the conversation. And when is it, like, “Really? Did you do the basic research?” Like, don’t ask me again to educate you again.

Elizabeth Ralston  41:48

I guess at the beginning, yes, I did the basic research, I talked to people and I realized that if any of this is going to take hold, then the leadership needs to be on board. The Board and the leadership. You know, they need to understand how critical it is to make things accessible for everyone. I don’t know if you’re talking about masks, but I’m talking about the arts, okay, I’m just being really specific about that. And it kind of know if we could broaden it to include masks, and that the first step into integrating accessibility within the organization is get the leadership on board and the board on board. Because if they’re not, then they’re not going to be a budget line item. It has to be a budget line item. And when it comes to marketing, when it comes to fundraising, when it comes to programs, everything has to have a budget line item for accessibility.

Erica Mills Barnhart  42:54

In the words of the esteemed Vu Le, “your values are in your budget.”

Elizabeth Ralston  43:00

Exactly, yeah. And so I have a lot of ideas about how accessibility can be integrated into marketing specifically. So, first of all, if you don’t market that you are accessible, nobody’s going to come. Right?

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:21

Right.

Elizabeth Ralston  43:23

Actually, you will get more people, if you market that you’re accessible, and it makes amazing business sense when you think about it, one in five people had a disability.

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:37

One in five people has a disability.

Elizabeth Ralston  43:39

Yes, one in five people in America has a disability. And that is only going to increase as the population gets older. Right. And so, in 2030, which is 10 years from now, we are going to have one in five people who will be 65 years old, older. That’s 10 years from now. And so, businesses and organizations have to rethink who their target populations going to be. And so that’s why accessibility becomes really, really important with our population.

Erica Mills Barnhart  44:17

There’s no true downside from a business perspective to making things inclusive for all. In fact, it sounds like you would you would increase possibly by 20%. Just out of the gate if you really looked at that.

Elizabeth Ralston  44:30

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. So having that accessibility statement, front and center, making your website accessible for people who have low vision, having captions and to add clips for people who are deaf blind, who rely on transcripts and people who are deaf rely on captions just lots of way is to make videos and social media access. And, yeah, I mean, really sending the message that you are welcoming to people is going to be a really important part of that marketing message.

Erica Mills Barnhart  45:18

I’m seeing a new step. So you know the Claxon method, but I’ve really been thinking about this, and, you know, revisiting it and wondering in what ways can it be made more accessible and explicitly anti racist. So it’s: 1 )what does success look like. 2) Who’s your target audience? And I think in there, you know, it would just go so far to when we get to the third step, which is how are you going to reach your target audience, asking this question: is this accessible to everyone, right? People of all abilities. Will whatever we’re doing be accessible to people of all abilities? I mean, I can sit here and think back on hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these conversations that I’ve had with clients. And you know, I haven’t asked that question consistently in any way. So I’m going to commit to starting to do that today and encourage others to do it, because then I can take those conversations and play out how we might have been, you know, we might have seen that a certain way of phrasing something and definitely where you place it, you know, in terms of website or Instagram or a pamphlet or whatever it’s going to be wasn’t accessible to all and the course correcting that could happen if that’s asked in the planning phase and not after things are done. I think that can be really powerful. So, thank you.

Elizabeth Ralston  46:46

Yes, and I commend you for that, by the way. I think that’s fantastic. I think another population that tend to be left out are the people with neuro diverse conditions. People with autism, people with other intellectual and behavioral challenges. Now that everything is switching to virtual, programming is very challenging, especially for those kind of folks because, I mean, they actually prefer that than having to go out somewhere. But there’s a lot of things that you have to be aware of to make it to the to experience accessible for an autistic person, for example, many of these people need to move around, they need to do stuff in the context where they with their hands so that many people can’t sit for long periods of time they have invisible disabilities and that another sector of the population we have to consider. So, commiting to all abilities, it is really important because hearing loss, blindness, and other physical disabilities are the top three that people recognize immediately. And not those other two.

Erica Mills Barnhart  48:07

Yeah, I can imagine some listeners at this point, you’re like, ah, overload. I can barely do my marketing as it is. And now I have to factor all these other things in. So I want to underscore and reiterate this point that you made earlier, which is taking this approach of universal design and applying that to marketing, actually, just across the board is going to improve your marketing. So I say to listeners of this point who are already doing so much because every single one of them is making the world a better place. And that’s a big task. Just to bear that in mind. That it may feel a little overwhelming. Change is always hard. And there’s no there’s no downside.

Elizabeth Ralston  48:57

Yes, I think I see the light bulb going off? I think so exciting. I did want to mention what the Consortium does. I realized I did not mention that earlier.

Erica Mills Barnhart  49:10

Oh, yes. We talked about the magic wands. Yeah.

Elizabeth Ralston  49:14

The magic wand back to that. Yes. So what we do is we do workshops and training around a variety of topics, because people are hungry for the information and they don’t know where to find it. And lots of arts administrators and staff operate in silos. I thought that may change but the new normal and so I want to be a central clearinghouse resources so that people can go okay, how do I make captains for my videos? They can go to the our website, which will hopefully be in existence by the end of the summer. Fingers crossed, fingers crossed. Yeah. And how do I talk to someone who has a disability who comes through my doors. You know, there’ll be a sensitivity training, we provide accessibility audits, sensitivity trainings for staff and board and creating an accessibility plan that you can roll out over time and talk about what it means to market in an accessible way. So there’s sort of those kinds of consultation services that we provide, as well as free and low cost workshops. But we do depend on donations to keep them going. As you know, yes, we’re basically sponsored by Shunpike. And we’ve gotten a lot of generous funding from the City of Seattle, which is fantastic. And our next project is going to be a podcast and I think you have inspired me to do a podcast where I am going to interview BIPOC, and by the way, there’s been four black indigenous people of color, with disabilities about their experiences accessing, you know, civic life and the arts.

Erica Mills Barnhart  51:16

I 100% hope that this happens. And I will talk it up on this podcast for sure. Because, you know, podcasting, like a lot of things we’re hearing some different voices but it’s pretty white, it feels pretty white, and pretty ableist and gender norming and you know, a lot of things. So I love where you’re going with that. So podcasts aren’t, I mean, you alluded to this, but they’re not really very accessible naturally. And just so listeners know this, you’ve been so wonderful about this, because I’m like, we’re gonna have transcripts, well now I have to learn all about that, Oh, it’s service and oh, they’re not perfect, and then you were so generous because I was like, you know, this is my ignorance, but I really didn’t know. Do they need to be 100%? Or, you know, 100% accurate, or is it the case that it’s like, close enough and you’re like, “They need to be hundred percent accurate, Erica.” I so appreciate that but these are the, you know, these are the things that I’m certainly still learning. So can you share with us as you think about your podcast, what are ways hat that they’re not naturally accessible to deaf and hard of hearing or deaf blind audiences? And what are some solutions?

Elizabeth Ralston  52:30

There are a lot of resources out there. There are websites, I guess, that will do that for you.

Erica Mills Barnhart  52:45

The transcription services?

Elizabeth Ralston  52:46

Yes, yeah. Thank you.

Erica Mills Barnhart  52:49

I’ve been scoping those out!

Elizabeth Ralston  52:51

Yes, yeah. And you’re the one with the words so I can be wrong on that. And there are apps like Otter.ai. I guess that you can, you can go in and they’ll do a transcript, but you have to go in and clean it up a little bit. If you, not necessarily for a podcast, if you do a video, you can upload it to YouTube. And YouTube does automatated captions. But again, you have to go in and correct them though. They’re not that good. But at least you have something to start with. And it’s really easy to fix. So there’s lots of great resources and I want to do a shout out to Rooted in Rights. They are wonderful disability advocacy organization that puts out amazing resources and how to do things like that.

Erica Mills Barnhart  53:46

I think it’s rootedinrights.org. But we will definitely put that in the show notes and all the other resources that you’re mentioning for sure. Yeah, I mean, I learned about them as a resource. And I instantly went there and was like, Oh, yes. Wonderful. Yeah. All right. So at the end of every interview, I ask guests the same question which is, so it’s about inspiration and motivation. And the root of inspiration comes from the idea of breath, and to breathe in. And then motivation is about action. So we need both inspiration and motivation to take action. What inspires you and what keeps you motivated to do this work?

Elizabeth Ralston  54:32

Well I am a very goal oriented person. I need to feel like I’m making an impact every single second of the day. So I have to have something to work towards because I find that very tangible and very inspiring to see something good come out of whatever I choose to do. I’m also very inspired by, by my kids, I learn something from them every day, I mean, my kids are a continual inspiration for me. And they make me want to keep doing the work that I do, because I do it partly for them, because they both have hearing loss as well. And so they have to navigate this new normal as well.

Erica Mills Barnhart  55:23

I bet you’re an inspiration to them to Elizabeth, you are definitely an inspiration to me. I so appreciate you joining me today for this conversation. I was really looking forward to it. And I’m un-surprised at how much I have learned. I’m sure listeners have too, just help us think differently about access and inclusion and diversity and a whole gamut through this very unique lens that you can offer us. How we can make our marketing more good or gooder, or by offering some of the practical ways that you offer for including those who are deaf and hard of hearing into our marketing And for me, I really feel like you gave us an invitation to think about making marketing inclusive and accessible for all and for all as part of the planning. Not it’s just sort of like a thing you thought of after.

Elizabeth Ralston  56:14

Yeah, exactly. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. And I really, really appreciate you having me on your show because I love talking about this and I love talking to you. And I hope that some of what I have said makes sense. There’s a lot more I can say, but I think we touched on some really good points in this conversation.

Erica Mills Barnhart  56:37

I think so. Tip of the iceberg. Well done. But yeah, there’s so many other trails that bunny trails as I call them, that we could have hopped down,

Elizabeth Ralston  56:45

So maybe a part two!

Erica Mills Barnhart  56:48

Exactly part two and part three. I can’t wait for your podcast to come out whenever it does. For now, I’ll thank listeners for joining us and for listening and say: Do good, be well and we will see you next time.