Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Are people with disabilities a new economic market?

Rich Donovan (above) was a trader for Merrill Lynch who started Lime Connect, a non-profit that helps companies recruit people with disabilities at the college and professional level.

Donovan is now CEO of Fifth Quadrant Analytics, which provides corporate clients with tools to capitalize on disability as an emerging global market. Here, people with disabilities are seen as consumers, talent and taxpayers.

"In the last U.S. census, 19.6% of the population thought of themselves as having a disability," Donovan writes in Essential Accessibility. "That's not a political or medical designation, but rather how people see themselves, and how their purchasing habits are shaped. If you include close relatives as well, people with an emotional connection to disability climbs to 53% -- over half of the population.

Read more about Lime in this Wall Street Journal piece.


People with disabilities are not a new market - they are an existing market that has only recently become more visible.

As stigma is removed from being a person with a disability and as more and more people with disabilities (both visible and invisible) come out of the closet, into the workplace and so forth, there is sure to be a reflection on marketing and advertising.

Look at Down syndrome, for example - the waves of viral appreciation from ads like the swimsuit company and target, for hiring models with Ds! Or Glee.

I really like Lime and what Rich is trying to do. Great post, thank you

Of course you're right Meriah -- this is an overlooked market, not a new one.

One day I hope we can share some of your expertise connecting people with disabilities with employers.


I fully support the efforts of Rich Donavan --it's pure genius. However, we can't ignore the fact that the majority of special needs children, in mainstrean schools, aren't making the grade.

Moreover, I have always possessed a gift for the written word, and have honed my talents, with your help, here on BLOOM. But, as an adult with a disability, who learns slighty slower than the average person (this is why I've been able to assist you with Ben), I can't succeed in academic upgrading classes, as they progress at a quickened pace. So, what does it matter, "If I can write like the dickens, but cannot earn a math credit to gain access to a PR programme?"

I'm no less brilliant.

Matt Kamaratakis

Hi Matt -- I agree that Rich's efforts only target a certain group of people with disabilities -- those who are university grads.

He seems to be pushing the "intellectual" talent of people with physical disabilities. To me it feeds into the view that only people who are super-achievers count.

There doesn't seem to be any place in his world for people with physical disabilities who don't have degrees or people with intellectual disabilities.

In fact, he's spoken about how from an economic standpoint we should be focusing on people who only need a "little" help rather than those with more severe disabilities.

So ... I agree that there are a lot of unanswered questions. He makes a joke about "special jobs for special people" but he doesn't address how he would bring people with more complex or intellectual disabilities into the workforce.

Perhaps he will read this and offer an answer.



As much as we would love a reply from Mr. Donavan, I know the answer to my question: "We need to look within ourselves and help one other."

For instance, our kids are failing in mainstream schools, but Holland Bloorview's School Authority has qualified teacher's at their disposal. Why not start a tutoring service? Moreover, there are plenty of educators reading this blog. I'm sure, "We could come up with something." For, all I require is, A math teacher and some high school material."

Afterwards, if no one wishes to give up their time, I'll begin educating these kids myself.

"I will always give back that which I have been given."

Matt Kamaratakis

Hi Matt: I don't think we can make a general statement that kids with disabilities are failing in mainstream schools. Some kids excel. It really depends on the disability and the kid.

Teachers at the Bloorview School Authority (separate from Holland Bloorview) teach inpatients who are hospitalized here from JK to Grade 12, and we have a small head-start program that integrates therapy into a full-day program for kids aged 4-7 who will then be integrated at their community schools. We also have a JK/SK that is integrated and partnered with the Institute of Child Studies at U of T. The school is small and does not have resources to spare without funding.

There are a number of tutors who market their services to youth with disabilities. There are also generic tutoring places like Kumon that work with children with disabilities.

Maybe some of our other readers could make suggestions if you're looking for a math tutor.

But tutoring is not going to solve the problem of employability for students with more significant and intellectual disabilities.

Yes, tutoring, alone, won't sovle the problem for those with severe or intellectual disabilities. But, nor will these kids achieve success, by merely being placed in mainstream schools, for the sake of inclusion.

Moreover, there is not that much difference between Mr. Donavan and myself, in terms of disability, but I know from experience, "We learn in two completey different manners."

Matt Kamaratakis