Storm Smith discusses advocating accessibility in corporate spaces during online event

Photo of Storm Smith Zoom
Kate Finman/Staff
The online event was hosted by the Berkeley Forum and UC Berkeley's creative strategy agency ImagiCal. Storm Smith, a queer, Black, deaf woman, currently works at BBDO Worldwide, a prominent advertising company.

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On Thursday, Storm Smith shared her experiences in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in advertising and creative spaces with UC Berkeley students.

The online event was hosted by the Berkeley Forum and campus creative strategy agency ImagiCal. Smith, a queer, Black, deaf woman, currently works at BBDO Worldwide, a prominent advertising company. According to Smith, she is the only deaf person currently employed by the company.

One of the most important lessons Smith learned over the course of her career, she said, was to advocate for herself. Smith finished her education and later got a job at Gallaudet University, a university in Washington, D.C. for deaf students, which she said was a “safe haven” for her. When she went to work at BBDO, however, she had to figure out what accommodations she needed on her own.

“It was a new experience to be a self-advocate for myself,” Smith said at the event. “Whether you’re deaf, whether you have a disability, whether you’re fully abled and you’re Asian, Spanish, Latina, Black, it doesn’t matter. You have to know what you want and do your best work.”

For Smith, this was not easy. She told stories about colleagues who refused to spell things out for her, meetings she attended without an interpreter and people resistant to change.

Despite these challenges, Smith said she was able to receive the accommodations she needed, which include a permanent interpreter, through self-advocacy and continuing to remind people of her needs. She added that she is working with BBDO to improve the accessibility of the corporate space and of advertising.

“Accessibility is a human right at the end of the day,” Smith said during the event.

For Smith, part of increasing accessibility is portraying a diverse range of people in advertisements, including people with disabilities and people of color.

She said her most meaningful advertisements, including one she did with Apple Inc. displaying two deaf students learning how to code, inspired people to change the norms and overcome adversity.

“The fact that you can tell a story from the lens of a Black, deaf woman like myself, that’s powerful right there,” Smith said at the event. “There’s still many stories that haven’t been shared.”

Contact Kate Finman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.