Policies & Issues

Experts Discuss Disability Inclusion at WJA’s Las Vegas Breakfast

Policies & IssuesJun 07, 2023

Experts Discuss Disability Inclusion at WJA’s Las Vegas Breakfast

Members gathered Friday morning at JCK to hear from Diversability founder Tiffany Yu and Molly Kettle of Gamut Management.

Women’s Jewelry Association Generating Community Impact Breakfast at JCK in Las Vegas 2023
WJA members stand with GAMUT management’s Molly Kettle (second from left) and entrepreneur and disability advocate Tiffany Yu (fifth from left) following their panel talk at WJA’s second “Generating Community Impact Breakfast” at JCK.
Las Vegas—This year at JCK, the Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA) hosted its second “Generating Community Impact Breakfast” and the topic was disability inclusion in the jewelry and watch industries.

Members gathered in the San Polo Ballroom Friday morning to hear from entrepreneur and disability rights advocate Tiffany Yu and GAMUT management Chief Operating Officer Molly Kettle on the types of mindset shifts needed, from designing adaptive jewelry to marketing jewelry and timepieces for people with disabilities.

Yu is the founder of Diversability, a social enterprise to advocate for equality for people with disabilities. 

In 2020, she was the co-chair of the World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit. 

Started in 2019, GAMUT management is a consulting, talent management and accreditation company helping businesses to become “disability confident” in how they engage with, create adaptive products for, and represent people with disabilities. Yu is represented by the company as well.

To begin the breakfast, Yu presented and then the two joined a panel led by WJA Executive Director Jennifer Markas.

 Related stories will be right here … 

In her opening presentation, Yu recalled how, at 9 years old, she was in a car accident that left her paralyzed in one arm.

“You can either age into disability or it can happen very suddenly,” Yu said. “A lot of people will say that disability is one of these intersections and one of these communities that you can join at any time.”

Yu said disability is not just about the health condition; it’s the interaction with a person’s physical, external environment that creates a disability experience.

She cited the 2022 “Disability Impacts All of Us” report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimates that one in four American adults are living with a disability.

“We, as disabled people, actually control about $21 billion of discretionary income, which is more than the Black ($3 billion) and Latinx markets ($16 billion) combined,” Yu said. 

“We’ve got some money and we want to spend it at your companies.”

Yu showed the audience a video of how she puts on a necklace, demonstrating how clasps can be difficult for people with certain disabilities. 

She said adaptive design—things like curb cuts, electric toothbrushes, bendy straws and speech-to-text—while good for business, also are helpful for people, like moms with strollers, who don’t have a disability. 

During the panel discussion, Kettle echoed that sentiment, stating that while there does need to be a shift in product design and marketing strategy, there’s also “an innovation aspect,” that everyone can benefit from an easier clasp.

“If we’re all lucky enough to age, we will probably join the disability community at some stage in our life,” Kettle said. 

“If you want true change and you want to make more money, hire disabled people into your company.” — Tiffany Yu, Diversability

Also, people with different disabilities have different ways of engaging with products. 

As an example, Yu shared the story of a company that created a tactile watch for someone with impaired sight.

“It has little bumps all on it where someone who is blind is able to wear the watch and be able to tell what the hour it is,” Yu said. “The interesting thing about that watch is, I still can’t put it on. 

“What is inclusive and adaptive for one person might not be for another. And that highlights the diversity within disability. We all want to wear watches and we all want to know what time it is, but we all have different ways of engaging with that product.”

Adaptive products also should include cohesive marketing with disability representation.

“How inviting you are being? What kinds of products do you have to offer?” Kettle said. “There’s a whole new customer base you could reach by providing products those customers may need as well as targeting them in a different way.”

Yu prompted the audience to think, “If Tiffany is your archetype of customer, how would she engage with the product?” 

For true inclusivity, intentionality is necessary at every level, including internally.

“I spend most of my time talking about disability at work because to me, that’s the place I think will create the biggest type of systemic change,” Yu said. “So, if you want true change and you want to make more money, hire disabled people into your company.” 

Kettle reminded attendees that disability inclusion is a journey and a process, but what matters is the intentional effort and the willingness to listen to feedback. 

“It’s thinking about it in your day-to-day, in your plans, in your strategies and what it looks like,” she said. “Wherever you are is OK.”

The WJA breakfast was sponsored by the Natural Diamond Council, Jewelers Vigilance Committee, Guild+Facet, V&A Group, SHR Jewelry Group and the JCK Industry Fund.

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