I would like to challenge the community of persons with disabilities (PwD) and all stakeholders associated with the community.  The stakeholders include families, friends, wounded warriors, and baby boomers that are aging and acquiring disabilities for the first time in our lives.  Plus people not impacted by disabilities that believe that this is an important social issue.  PwD deserve to be fully included in all aspects of society, especially in the employment arena.

 We need to change our buying behaviors and document and track our stories.  My challenge to the community: Help me tell our stories so we can PROVE that we are a buying power to be considered and catered too. 

Studies show that the community of PwD is a huge, untapped market place with access to trillions of dollars in discretionary income.  According to a recent report by Gartner, PwD are an underserved market segment with one billion people worldwide. They and their immediate friends and family have an annual disposable income of more than $8 trillion.

“People with disabilities make up 15 percent of the world ‘s population and some of the assistive technology marketed to people with disabilities can also be sold to the other 85 percent of the population that is “situationally disabled” by their environmental conditions, at work and at play,” said Andrew Johnson, managing vice president at Gartner.1

The numbers speak for themselves but we need more proof that this community will change our buying behavior because a company does or does NOT include us.  I am eager to capture these stories for my next book.

We need to prove to the world that we will actually take the time to shop, purchase and spend money at establishments that hire persons with disabilities, make their products and solutions accessible to us and market to us by using models that include PwD and use appropriate language that empowers our community.  We also need to prove to politicians that we will VOTE them in our out of office if they do not support our community.

My family is an average size family for the United States.  We have four members of our immediate family which includes parents and two grown children (daughter and son).  We are also like many other families because our daughter has a disability.  Our oldest child a daughter was born with Down syndrome in 1987.  At the time we did not realize that we were joining 1 in 3 families in the United States that have a family member with a disability.  This is not a United States phenomena because according to the World Health Organization 1 in 7 people globally have a disability.

Our daughter Sara Ruh has been a gift in many ways to our family.  She has helped us be a tight knit family that appreciates our blessings and are grateful for each other.  We recently included another person to our family our son Kevin’s amazing girlfriend Emily.

When Sara entered Middle School we realized that her employment options would be limited to non-existent.  She worked at a Wendy’s as a dining room attendant for several years during high school.  However when testing was done the “experts” told us she could not hold a real job with competitive wages because of her Down syndrome.  That confused us since she had been making a marketable salary at her job for three (3) years.

Sara now works at Nordstrom’s and has been there for over 8 years.  She also works with my firm Ruh Global Communications and speaks to large audiences all over the world about disability inclusion. She is working with Kevin and Emily to author several books about her life.  Her books will be a series about how she sees the world.  Her brother is working a series of books for siblings of persons with disabilities. Emily is illustrating all the books so these books are a family affair.

I have authored several books including a one on using Social Media to tell your story.  It is geared towards baby boomers that want to make a difference but do not know where to begin on Social Media.  My book explains how the community of persons with disabilities can tell their stories in a powerful way to attract supporters and funders.  Find Your Voice using Social Media”  http://ow.ly/kxglR

My second book will publish in August or September 2014.  The title of my 2nd book is: “Uncovering Hidden Human Capital: How leading corporations leverage multiple abilities in their workforce”.  The book follows multi-national corporations on their journey to employ PwD in their workforce. The book is being edited and published by G3ict with foreword by Axel Leblois. 2

I am working on a third book about Consumer Buying Behaviors. I would like to capture stories of families and individuals that have changed their buying behaviors because an organization included or did not include persons with disabilities.  My goal is to prove to companies that we will vote with our money.  We will buy your products and use your services if you include our community in a meaningful way.

Let me tell you one of my stories.  I frequented the same pharmacy retail store for many years (over 35 years and in multiple states).  The retail/pharmacy chain was amazing, great personnel, decent prices, good selection and caring pharmacists.  The problem was that they did little to nothing to include PwD in their marketing and employment efforts. Plus their website was terribly inaccessible to many of my friends that are blind or cannot use their hands.

I knew of Walgreens efforts to include people with intellectual disabilities in their distribution centers.  They are a huge success story and are paying these employees marketable salaries and benefits.

Plus they were making other efforts to assure accessibility of their products like large print on prescriptions and talking prescription bottles.  I decided that I had to change my buying behavior to reward their efforts.  My steps:

  • Turn left at a light instead of right into the old store parking lot
  • Meet the new pharmacists and her team members
  • Transfer our prescriptions
  • Update my insurance information
  • Lose my points on my valued customer card from old retailer
  • Open a new rewards card with Walgreens
  • Notify our doctors to send prescriptions to new pharmacy
  • Learn the stores layout
  • Help my family change their buying behaviors
  • Tell former pharmacy/retailer why I was leaving
  • Let Walgreens manager know why I was changing to their location
  • Write a letter to the CEO of Walgreens explaining my efforts

These seem like small points but it is amazing how much effort it takes to change a habit of 35 years.  I am also one of those impulse shoppers.  I understand that these retailers put the pharmacy in the back of the store so I will be tempted every minute of my journey to the pharmacist.  It works – I never leave the store with only my prescriptions. I am an ideal customer.

We not only have to make the change but we need to let both firms know why we are making the change.  I wrote a letter to my former pharmacy/retailer letting them know that I loved their team members, pharmacists, great service and store layouts.  However was switching to Walgreens because they were making a major effort to include my community.

So this is my challenge to other families like our family.  Let’s tell our stories!!!  We do not have the consumer behavior data to prove that our community is a buying power, a voting force and a community that cannot be ignored.  I would love to capture your stories so please consider visiting my firm Ruh Global Communications and sending me an email with your stories.


More about Ruh Global Communications and Debra Ruh.

Ruh Global Communications is a Strategic Marketing and Communications firm helping private and public organizations strategically include Persons with Disabilities (PwD) in all aspects of society.  Before becoming an entrepreneur I worked at the executive levels in the banking industry for over 25 years.   My firm understands the multifaceted opportunities, risks and interests of Corporate America and Multi-National companies.

We believe that it is critical for organizations to connect with and integrate the community of PwD and their families into their corporate culture.  We use this same paradigm for other impacted stakeholders including Wounded Warriors and Baby Boomers that are acquiring disabilities for the first time in their lives.

Companies know that PwD represent a very large demographic group that is underserved within typical corporate strategic, diversity and market programs.  My firm can help adjust plans already underway or help to develop new plans that fully include and integrate this community.

Join Debra Ruh on Social Media: twitter, linked-in, facebook, pinterest, tumblr, Google+


  1. http://www.itworld.com/mobile-wireless/398692/8-trillion-reasons-make-your-technology-accessible
  2. http://www.G3ict.org