Taking The ‘Dis’ Out Of Disability

Carmen Jones triumphed over a crippling car accident to build a marketing firm serving disabled consumers

for the firm, which she operates from her home office. “As soon as I started doing that, and I got my brochure printed, and got my Website developed,” she recalls, “I started getting some calls.”

Her first client: From contacts she had within the company, Jones landed American Express. “That one client opened the door to others,” says Jones, who now identifies ways the corporation can target and attract disabled consumers. “For example, in [American Express] travel services, the software that is used to obtain information and make reservations [online] didn’t include information about a traveler with a disability.

“Whatever programs I build, I want to make sure they’re substantive and far-reaching,” says Jones. “I don’t believe in creating marketing programs that are fluffy, or window dressing to make a client look good so they can just check it off their list. I want to position my clients to create a relationship with the disabled community.”

Jones says her biggest challenge has nothing to do with being a female African American, or disabled, but with perceptions toward disabled people. To combat them, Jones does a lot of public speaking and networking. “I take all the opportunities I can to build a business case but, typically, after I speak, there’s always time to network, and those are the best chances to educate people,” she says.

Future plans for Jones include expanding the firm, even as her family grows. She gave birth to her first child, Marcus, in July 2001, and is now working on securing more contracts, including one with retail giant Wal-Mart. “I imagine expanding relationships, and getting people with disabilities more involved as consumers,” she explains. “To facilitate that, I’ve begun discussions with some disability publications and Web portals to publish articles on a monthly basis about companies that have extended a message to people with disabilities.”

Harvey believes that Jones’ inner strength helps her persevere. “I have absolutely no doubt that Carmen is, and will be, a success. She is a top-quality individual and she will rise above her adversity.”

Perhaps, with Jones’ help, disabled consumers will get the recognition she feels they deserve.

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