The Update: Designing strategically for all

The Update: Designing strategically for all

Guests
Catherine Courage, VP, User Experience at Google
KR Liu, Google Head of Brand Accessibility
Published
October 2020

In the season finale of the Update, Google Head of Brand Accessibility KR Liu highlights the necessity for marketers to prioritize accessibility and intersectionality in inclusive marketing efforts. Catherine Courage, VP of user experience at Google, joins for a deep dive on the company’s mission to authentically represent the disabled community in storytelling. The two experts discuss leading with empathy and the new opportunities for brands to elevate voices from the disabled community.

0:02

KR LIU: There is always this very famous saying

0:03

in the disability community that says,

0:05

"Nothing about us without us,”

0:06

and I truly believe that.

0:09

So, it's a journey we will do together,

0:11

and it will take time.

0:12

It won't happen overnight.

0:14

So, we'll work towards getting better

0:16

and being more conscious of

0:18

how to be truly inclusive

0:19

for disabled people.

0:24

CATHERINE: In this episode of The Update,

0:26

we have KR Liu with us,

0:30

who is Head of Brand Accessibility at Google.

0:32

We're going to talk about the importance

0:35

of accessibility and intersectionality

0:37

for our brands and marketers.

0:39

I'm guessing our listeners

0:39

out of the gate

0:41

may be wondering,

0:45

what is a Head of Brand Accessibility?

0:48

KR: My role at Google is to help us bring

0:52

a disability lens into our products,

0:54

our marketing content creation,

0:57

and also, mostly important to us,

0:58

is our storytelling,

1:00

so that people see themselves

1:02

in not only the products that we develop,

1:03

but that they see themselves

1:05

in the content that we create.

1:06

CATHERINE: The majority of your career

1:08

you’ve really been focused in this

1:10

area of accessibility and technology.

1:12

I'd love to understand

1:16

what brought you to this space.

1:17

KR: For me, it’s personal.

1:18

I have lived with

1:21

severe hearing loss my entire life,

1:23

and I grew up in Silicon Valley.

1:25

So, I've been surrounded by tech my entire life.

1:27

So, I wanted to think about ways

1:30

that I could take my life experience

1:32

and make product more inclusive

1:33

for people with disabilities.

1:34

And today,

1:36

we still don't see disability represented

1:38

that much in the marketing

1:39

that we see out there.

1:40

In advertising and in film,

1:43

disability is represented less than 1%.

1:46

CATHERINE: 1%. That's pretty remarkable.

1:47

So, we have a lot of work here

1:49

to do in this space,

1:50

and glad you're focused on it.

1:52

Can you tell us a little bit about

1:53

what it means

1:58

when we look at accessibility and intersectionality?

1:59

KR: Absolutely.

2:00

Well, when it comes to disability,

2:02

no disability is the same, right?

2:05

And then no person is the same, right?

2:09

So, for me, who I am is I'm a woman

2:11

with severe hearing loss

2:12

who is also gay.

2:13

So, it's important that

2:15

when we look at the stories,

2:17

we tell in the marketing that we create

2:18

that we think about

2:20

the intersectional lens

2:23

of who our audience is,

2:24

who they may represent,

2:26

or where they may come from.

2:28

And so, for us at Google,

2:30

and in Brand Studio where I sit,

2:31

we're really thinking about

2:33

bringing the community to the table

2:34

when we're looking at

2:35

different areas of our work.

2:38

CATHERINE: Why do you think that

2:41

accessibility and intersectionality

2:44

are important for brands and marketers

2:48

to really think about today?

2:50

KR: When you think about

2:51

just the number of people

2:52

in the world that have a disability,

2:55

you're talking about a billion people.

2:57

Everyone at some point in their lifetime

3:00

will experience disability in some form.

3:02

It can be permanent.

3:04

It can be temporary; temporary meaning,

3:05

you could break your arm.

3:07

You could scratch your eye;

3:08

you can't wear your contacts

3:09

for a couple days.

3:13

Or a situational disability.

3:14

An example of that is you could be

3:16

holding your child in one arm

3:18

and a bag of groceries in another,

3:19

and you're trying to open

3:20

your car door and you can't.

3:23

That is actually a situational disability.

3:25

So, when you think about that,

3:28

accessibility in products or in the world

3:29

that we live in and how you

3:31

experience can help everyone,

3:32

not just someone like myself.

3:35

Google has built for decades

3:38

that have had an incredible impact in the world,

3:39

but they've also been built

3:40

by people with disabilities,

3:42

and most people don't know that.

3:44

Like the internet, email,

3:46

text messaging, all created

3:48

for people and by people with disabilities,

3:51

and everyone in the world now uses them.

3:53

CATHERINE: Are there areas in your work in terms

3:55

of accessibility and intersectionality

3:58

where you've seen the many challenges

3:59

of 2020 impact your work,

4:01

and any interesting lessons

4:04

that are emerging?

4:06

KR: With the disability unemployment numbers

4:09

now from COVID at 60%,

4:09

six – zero,

4:10

CATHERINE: Wow!

4:13

KR: It’s an opportunity

4:16

for companies to look at

4:18

the incredible pipeline of talent,

4:20

now that we're able to

4:23

allow them to work from home potentially,

4:25

no matter where they are in the world.

4:26

So, if anything,

4:29

I think it's done two really wonderful things.

4:32

It's actually created more open-mindedness

4:34

to creating jobs and opportunities

4:36

for disabled people in different areas,

4:39

but it's also lifted the lens

4:41

of disability representation

4:42

in all the beautiful ways

4:44

that we show up in the world,

4:46

so that more people can see themselves.

4:48

I think the first thing I encourage people

4:50

to do is talk to the community,

4:52

build a relationship with the community,

4:53

invite them to the table,

4:55

invite them to the conversation,

4:56

invite them when you're thinking

4:59

about your campaigns or your ideas

5:00

of how you want to represent something.

5:03

No one better to ask than us, right?

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