When people from underrepresented communities talk about inclusion in the media, we often think about some of the groups on the forefront of that battle like the black community and the gay community. While these groups do have media representation, these groups still fall short of having equal inclusion. There is still a lot of work to do.
While the media does need to do a better job at promoting these groups of people, there are others that have even less representation in the media. One such group is the disabled. Often when we see disabled people in the media, the attention is on them as a disabled person.
True equality would have us see disabled people in the media as simply people who just so happen to be disabled. This is a benefit other groups are given. That is why it was so powerful when a young girl in a wheelchair finally saw someone who represented her in a new Ulta ad.
Inclusion is an incredibly powerful thing and there is no better proof than this story. Carolyn Anderson was out with her 4-year-old daughter Maren in Leesburg, Virginia when they saw an Ulta Beauty ad that would impact little Maren in a huge way. Maren is in a wheelchair because of a rare disease, and since she's only recently been in a wheelchair, it is still a very trying time for her. The reason why the Ulta beauty ad was so impactful is because it featured a model who was also in a wheelchair.
Carlyn Anderson made sure to capture the moment on camera and write a social media post about it. In her viral Facbeook post, she says, "Well Ulta, you absolutely stopped my girl in her tracks this evening. It was mesmerizing to watch her stop, turn and gaze at this poster. So thank you."
Anderson spoke with TODAY, saying, "This evening in particular, she was showing a lot of confidence, which is not typical of her. And so we were just so excited and letting her go and cruise and drive her wheelchair, and then all of a sudden she stopped. You could just tell that she identified with it from the get go. And for her, a 4-year-old child ... to sit there in awe at this photo for close to a minute was pretty profound."
On the other side of the coin, the fact that a wheelchair-bound model is still a rare sight shows that we have a lot farther to go. ""Our hearts sort of sank because it's such a wonderful feeling to see her do that, but then it also is somewhat saddening that this is so profound for her to see in public because of the lack of representation for the disability community, particularly for children."
Ulta Beauty reached out to Maren to see if they can have Maren meet the model in the ad. An Ulta Beauty spokeswoman said, "We love that this family shared such an amazing moment and were touched to see Maren looking at the image in our window - it makes us incredibly proud. We feel even more inspired to continue to feature amazing people that help us shape how the world sees beauty."
Anderson's Facebook post went viral, being shared more than 79,000 times. It came as a surprise to her and her family, but they are hoping that this spakrs more companies to use models with disabilities. "It just really spoke to us saying that she feels included, and she feels like she identifies with that, and belongs here just like everybody else."