Posted On: September 30, 2019
Lori Becker, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Communications and Development at Starkloff Disability Institute, was invited to participate in the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) St. Louis chapter’s Diversity and Identity Panel, which took place August 27 at HopCat STL in University City.
Businesses and community organizations continue to place increased emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Public relations professionals often work dutifully behind the scenes to nudge the conversation in this direction.
It is widely accepted in the PR field that identity should be understood and celebrated, but it’s also true that one’s identity isn’t always outwardly obvious. So PRSA convened the Diversity and Identity Panel to shed some light on the topic.
As one of three panelists for the evening, Lori shared her perspective as identifying as a member of the disability community. She explained to the audience that it is often complicated to identify as disabled when your disability is nonvisible.
“Suddenly, when people learn of my visual impairment, I become a superhero. I inspire them because I am so capable of getting around unassisted. Or people feel sorry for me. I sometimes think because they don’t have any prior visual cues, they are caught off-guard and don’t know what to say.”
“I was proud to be part of such a diverse panel of smart, accomplished professionals,” Lori says. “I told them how pleased I was that they included disability among the diversity threads, and how often we are not included. Even in corporate diversity efforts we are often excluded. This astonished them.”
According to Lori, the audience seemed thoroughly engaged, actively listening to a new voice.
“The information I passed on was very well received because they don’t often hear it,” she recalls. “I gave my personal experience along with a lot of good nuts-and-bolts how-to’s for PR professionals.”
PR strategists are experts in communication, and they have a keen understanding of the power of language. The PRSA crowd that gathered for the Diversity and Identity Panel were treated to an invigorating discussion of the difference between person-first and identity-first language in the disability community.
Lori fervently believes that SDI has a responsibility to make its voice heard at events like the Diversity and Identity Panel.
“I consider SDI the most progressive of organizations, dedicated to educating society on all aspects of disability, and fighting stigma that prevents the recognition of people with disabilities as equals in society,” Lori explains. “PR practitioners are an important audience to reach, as they influence and craft messages in media, including how people with disabilities are portrayed or overlooked.”