Mindset Matters: A Divergent Path Of Accessibility From The Political Landscape To Marvel Superhero’s
Within the past few weeks, the vision of Accessibility has been thrust onto the global stage where we are witnessing two divergent paths that highlight both the opportunities and pitfalls of influencing a truly inclusive society. Starting on October 31st political leaders from around the globe converged upon Glasgow Scotland to participate in the United Nation’s climate summit. Yet, Israel’s Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, a wheelchair user was unable to attend meetings on the conference grounds because the only options to get there from the gathering area where to walk or board a shuttle that was not suited for a wheelchair. As the Israeli Minister wrote on Twitter, “I came to COP26 to meet my counterparts in the world and advance our joint struggle against the climate crisis. Sadly, the United Nations, which promotes accessibility for people with disabilities, in 2021 doesn’t worry about accessibility at its events.” One can certainly describe this as ableism, but even more so, this was a glaring example of a lack of imagination and empathy and an abject failure of the UN’s mission statement to promote the rights and advancement of persons with disabilities.
Even as the world’s largest intergovernmental organization made a major faux pas in the realm of Accessibility, we are seeing a very different approach being played out across the world of entertainment and business amplifying the value of Accessibility by framing it in the zeitgeist of a larger cultural conversation. On November 5th Walt Disney releases their next foray in expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), The Eternals. This is not just a traditional blockbuster film but a transformational moment around the intersection of disability through the language of business and culture. The film features Makkari, the first superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) who is deaf, played by actress Lauren Ridloff who happens to be deaf herself. As Ridloff stated, “There is now a discussion about creating new signs for the MCU-name signs for characters. Sign language possesses space within that incredible fantasy world of superhuman skills and abilities. We are now part of that Superhero vernacular.” As deafness and disability are introduced into the lingua franca of the superhero mythology, Walt Disney and theatrical exhibitors are recognizing new business opportunities and the value proposition of Accessibility to connect the role of inclusion as a core element in this new developing business model.
Disney has taken this opportunity to reconsider the film experience by making content accessible to a broader audience by providing on-screen captions in theatres. During the film’s launch, Marvel Studios offered American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters at screenings as well as the premiere itself. This attention to detail has not gone unnoticed. Several of the largest movie theatre chains including AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas have recognized that there is substantial value in supporting open captioning in their theatres beyond The Eternals reaching an untapped consumer market of 430 million deaf and hard of hearing people around the globe. Accessibility, as an international business strategy, is in its nascent stage, but the opportunities are very real and ultimately very lucrative. Marvel’s The Eternals offers the first step in a proof of concept of the significance of engaging just a small slice of the value of Accessibility as a business tactic.
As the worlds of business and culture begin to embrace the significance of the Accessibility and Adaptive markets they also propel an ongoing dialogue of the importance of inclusivity and recognize a need for empathy and care, which is not only good business but a moral imperative. Perhaps this is a lesson that can be learned and practiced by international governments, illustrating that the power of inclusivity is central to problem solving, growth, and goodwill.
In the next Mindset Matters column, we will expand on the characterization and meaning of the Accessibility and Adaptive constructs as a business segment and a new cultural touchstone that will echo across the social and economic landscape of a society in transformation.