From the CEO: The Importance of Representation

All Announcements

Photo by Kera Cervoni

“People are more than just the way they look.” Madeleine LEngle

I received a vacation booklet in the mail last month and tossed it away, even though it highlighted a few trips that my husband and I have considered. He asked why I dismissed it so quickly and I said, “The pictures were all of old people. I want a more active trip.” Now, I have long passed the point where I could be considered in my youth, but I knew that I was looking to join a group of people who were not all retirees with great grandchildren. I was looking for an image that represented how I saw myself. I wanted to fit in and belong.

Imagine being a person with a disability and seeing every commercial, every store insert, and every vacation brochure filled with only able bodied individuals no one like you. No one visually impaired, no one in a wheelchair, everyone with four functioning limbs and no one with one of the myriad of diagnoses and syndromes who make up 20% of the countrys population. Advertisements are more diverse than what I saw growing up, but todays more diverse ads primarily address racial diversity until recently.

Look now at the ads and catalogs from local manufacturer Matilda Jane or perhaps Target, Nordstrom or Gap. These and many more companies are redefining diversity. Fashion companies are leading the movement and there is one powerful woman who is helping to shake things up Katie Driscoll and her non-profit organization Changing the Face of Beauty (CTFOB). She knows that people with disabilities are the biggest untapped minority in the world and thus is encouraging all companies to show people of all abilities in their advertising.

AWS Foundation was able to do one small thing to help advance Katies vision earlier this year. With our disABILITIES Expo in May, we held a CTFOB head shot photo clinic. One of the obstacles in getting people with varying abilities in advertising and stock photography portfolios is the barrier of getting possible models in front of advertisers. With a wonderful group of volunteer photographers, 37 area young people were able to get professional head shot photos completed at nominal cost to themselves. Through CTFOB, these images will be shared with modeling and advertising agencies to help identify a larger pool of models; models who may not match that traditional image of “perfection.”

A special thank you to all the volunteers who helped make this special event possible. Each of you moves us one step closer with providing a more accurate portrayal of special needs people and promotes inclusion and awareness. Just as I wanted to see a person like myself in that vacation brochure so does the person with a disability seek the image of the person like themselves as a consumer, an athlete, a student, a musician, as a member of their community as portrayed by the media.

Thank you to our CTFOB volunteers:


  • Michelle Snyder
  • Erica Brown
  • Steve Vorderman
  • Kera Cervoni
  • Jill Kocian
  • Bonnie Manning

Hair, Makeup and Clothing Experts:

  • Abby Miller, Matilda Jane Trunk Keeper
  • Sarah Richendollar, Hair Styling
  • Alicia Lewis, Noonday Jewelry