The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode · 1 month ago

Capturing Reality: Authentic Stories of Disability Students

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Despite fifteen percent of the world’s population having a physical disability, the disability community of students is often an afterthought in DEI-focused higher ed marketing. While some schools have made massive strides in telling these students’ stories, many others could do so much more - and it starts with building relationships.

Ryan Wilson , CEO of Team Trust Productions, tells us how colleges and universities can make top grades in authentic storytelling for students with disabilities.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Why higher ed is lagging behind in disability inclusion (8:54)
  • Approaching storytelling for the disability community (20:00)
  • How schools can close the gap with students with disabilities (26:24)

Check out these resources we mentioned during the podcast:

To hear this interview and many more like it, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website or search for The Higher Edge in your favorite podcast player.

You're listening to The Higher Ed Marketer, a podcast geared towards marketing professionals in higher education. This show will tackle all sorts of questions related to student recruitment, donor relations, marketing trends, new technologies, and so much more. If you're looking for conversations centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. You are listening to the Higher Ed Marketer podcast. My name is Troy Singer with Ring Digital and my co host Bart Kaylor is with Kaylor Solutions. Each week we meet an interview high ED marketers that we admire. Today we talk with Ryan Wilson. He is the founder of Team Trust Productions. We talked to him about how marketers, especially in higher ED, can be more aware and be better about accessibility within their marketing. I think sometimes we overlook the disability community, and today we get a little bit deep about that conversation. Ryan really does a great job kind of bringing that to the forefront. He's a funny, entertaining type of conversation. I really enjoy getting to know him and it's been a pleasure to have him on here, and I think he does a really good job of kind of bringing authenticity to the conversation. Um. You know, sometimes I think it's a it's a conversation that everybody wants to have, but but we kind of, I know, at least I approach it kind of awkwardly. Sometimes I really liked Ryan's just approach of his humor, his just being authentic and real, and you can kind of tell how he leads by example in that with with Team Trust productions, and how the rest of us can really you know, provide that in our marketing and that authenticity in our storytelling. He is humorous and he is authentic, but he gets the message across. Here's our conversation with Ryan Wilson. Ryan, we are excited to have you on the podcast, And before we get into our conversation with you,...

...if you could share with our listeners if there's something that you have learned this week that you would deem interesting enough to share. Yeah, Troy and Bart, thank you for letting me onto your podcast today. I appreciate a Troy, I know that was your seventieth take with the intro. So all right now, one interesting thing I learned this week is that honestly, winter is here. Everybody it's snowing. Where I am at, we have maybe an inch or two of snow on the ground, and higher up in the mountains you've got maybe a foot. So not a good day to be roaming the streets of the roads and a powered chair, but a good day to be talking with you guys. Thank you, and uh, we know that you are in Colorado Springs. Is that correct? That's correct. So even though there's snow on the ground, I'm sure it's beautiful. A beautiful view outside your window. Yeah, there's never a bad view here. I moved here from Illinois last August. I woke up one morning and I realized I'm tired of looking at cornfields. I just left Illinois moved to the Springs, and I don't see any corn fields in sight. They do exist, but not where I'm at. Ryan, if you would please tell everyone a little bit about you and then also start to introduce us to Team Trust. I run Team Trussed Productions. So Team Trust is a production company that produces films and video consents. And what are the main goals of what we do is to authentically showcase and tell the stories of the disability community. A lot of times with higher education in particular, and even in hospitals for being honest, the...

...main focus of any contents, whether it's written or visual, on disability is the disability itself. Like maybe you can tell this through audio, but I doubt it. You know, I have a a disability myself, so I'm in a power chair. And when I grew up, I always saw kids who looked like me on TV. But man, they were always in the hospital. I don't know what the deal was. We were always wrapped in bandages like a mummy, plugged into a number of devices, and surrounded by friends and families. If the end is near and the reality is you know, I know what that experience is. Like. I mean, I almost didn't make it out of last year. I had a pretty significant surgery. But that reminded me that, you know, the individuals with disabilities, we do have challenges, but at the end of the day, we also play basketball, do Marathon's earned PhD s. We're stars and engineering. You know, we we do all these great things. And if we take a moment to highlight those great things, not necessarily in an inspiration away, but in an authentic way in which we acknowledge the reality of the person's experiences and it's really going to change a lot of lives. Dude. It would have inspired me when I was younger too become an athlete younger. Um, I probably would be playing basketball today if I had seen somebody like me playing basketball when I was younger. Ye, tell us about that. You mentioned a little bit about that with being a kid watching the NBA as as a kid, but not having the context of seeing you know, basketball players and adult players like yourself playing. Tell us about that. Yeah, So I was and...

...still am a huge Shaquille O'Neil fan. So he was, in my eyes, the best basketball player in the world. I followed him from probably the age of eight or so even now, and so when he was in the NBA, I watched every single game of his that I possibly could at at hotels, at home, you name it, got to find the game. But you know I've extreme, of course, nationally is as any kid would of playing alongside Shack winning all sorts of championships. Uh, Naturally, racking at a bunch of dough doesn't hurt. But also, we're not talking about pizza don We're not talking about Papa John's. No, No, we're talking about money. Let's be honest, we're talking about money. What's with with shack? It was also winning championships, making the Hall of Fame. But for me, you know, I'm only three feet tall, so almost four feet tall, and right now sixty pounds call, but maybe sixty two after that pizza just eight so sixty pounds or so. But you know, I eventually realized and it and I will say this was influenced by seeing kids in the hospital who looked like me. You know, I realized that maybe it's probably not safe to achieved the dream that I had, and that dream was playing basketball. Um. But if I would have seen somebody who has my disability um playing basketball on TV, it would have just made a world of a difference. And I didn't know of the Paralympics so sports for adaptive athletes until maybe second year of college. So I went to community college, and...

I did not even know about wheelchair racing. I knew wheel share basketball, but I did not know about all these athletes with disabilities who could have six pack abs and who could lift two three four pounds. And so once I saw that, I knew I had to work on my six back abbs. Well, that's great. So one of the things that I'm thinking about. We've had UM several guests on the Higher ED market are talking about UM, you know, disability, about d e, I about all kinds of things like that, And I know that there's a common theme that I'm hearing and and I know Courtney Cannon was on She's she's a deaf individual and shared with us some things from her perspective. We had Katie Jensen from the University of St. Thomas who put together the d Islands. Uh if you find her and so UM. One of the things that you mentioned earlier is this this level of authenticity and telling our stories, showing showing the film, showing the the production of photography of of everything that we're doing. Talk about that from a from the authentic perspective. What kind of grade would you give Higher ED? Well, I didn't receive the best grade when ilands in school, so I can't say I'm the best teacher, but I will say I think in higher education there are some universities doing better than others in terms of showing diversity or disability and ads and marketing, but there are some that are relayed significantly behind the market and so if we were to average those outah, I think I would give higher education overall kind of a C plus and that there is a significant area of growth and opportunity of growth or marketing and diversity and off...

...enticity. And you would say that that's been improving over the last couple of years. Is that correct? Yeah? I think generally it is. Yeah. Yeah, I think that's an important part. And and I I always tell people and and and I guess I'm going to say this just and get your feedback on it. Is sometimes sometimes I think that we get stuck in in especially in high red marketing and especially in different levels of marketing, where we just want to be able to check boxes. Um. And I think that, you know, that's gotten a lot of schools in trouble. I remember twenty years ago about you know, photoshopping people into crowds because they wanted to show diversity in some kind of a Yeah, a really bad idea. But I mean I think that as I'm as I'm talking about that, I always go back to the fact that, you know, let's not talk about it in terms of percentages or checking boxes or all this stuff, but let's talk about it in the terms of just how would I feel, what would I want to see if I were a students looking for this and I was in this particular group or had this, um whatever, A little bit more of a gold rule type of thing. I mean, is that? Is that a little bit of the authenticity that you're talking about in the way that you approach it. Yeah, yeah, I think you're exactly right. Um. Higher education is so interesting and complex. You know what. What is fascinating and almosto unfortunate is that you know, twenty five per cent, So that's one and for students with disabilities drop out of college after the first year, and then after the next year it's thirty five percent. Um. So those are not good numbers, but there are numbers to really pay attention to you. And I think the reality is and I'm not, you know, bashing anybody, I'm just stating the facts. You know. The reality is, disability is not necessarily top of mind for anybody until let's say we have a personal relationship with someone who as a disability, used as a chair,...

...used as a walking stick, a service dog, whatever. But then there's the other side of the spectrum of disability is not necessarily top of mind until WHOA, we have this big problem going on with our campus and it's not a t a compliant. We need to do something now. And so what we try to do with Team Trust is we try to be proactive instead of reactive. You we we look at how can we address disability from these these respectful and empathetic angles so you don't have any problems down the road. When let's be honest, they're going to be more individuals with disabilities coming through your campus, whether their alumni, current students, you know, choose your students, whatever. And so you know, when we talk about authenticity, you know, it's also going beyond just doing a video on somebody like myself or somebody who has a disability on the campus. Is it's let's take this beyond the video and let's spend some time with the verse. You know, Let's let's show up to a disability student group. You know, let's tap into these local nonprofits that have all these connections and just build a relationship and and make sure that they know we care about Then we will be right back after a word from our sponsor. Today's podcast is brought to you by our d O Education Solutions. Our DO helps colleges and universities increase access to education while giving students and families financial peace of mind. Our dayo's Loan Repayment Assistant programs, known as l raps, help students with modest incomes repay their federal student parent plus in private loans. Are dao's l raps give students the confidence they need to enroll and or a win win for your institution. To learn more...

...about our d O and see case studies from institutions like yours dot org. That's a r d e O dot org. Welcome back. Let's rejoin the conversation right here on the higher ed marketer. I love that just that empathy, that empathetic let let them know that we care about them is so critical. I know one of the big things that a lot of campuses are talking about we kind of referenced earlier, is you know d e I university equity and inclusion. How do you feel, um, you know that is addressing accessibility because I think sometimes we get so caught up in d e I focused on race and gender issues that that I think a lot of times, you know, accessibility and those individuals with disability tends to get lost in the and what I would consider making it too political. How do you feel like all that fits in with with all this talk about d EI. Yeah, well, just short and sweet diversity includes disability telling stories, capturing the reality of the world, and the reality of the world is you know, of the world's population has a disability. And so what's interesting is that with the E I, disability is starting kind of to find its way into the same talking points around the I. But it's still very much afterthoughts. You know, maybe there's a reference or two about it, but um, it's it's it's definitely not something that has talked about often. And I think part of that is because you know, I don't, I don't. I cannot think of, at least in higher education, one university president or one head of marketing...

...who has a disability. And maybe if that was uh not the case, we would see disability featured more often at at any university. Yeah, yeah, that's a good point. Ryan. Earlier in the conversation, you mentioned that if you would have seen people with disabilities doing athletic things earlier that you could have aspired to do, that you would have seen yourself. It would have been easy for you to up follow that, and uh, I think it wasn't until you got to the University of Illinois and saw the wheelchair basketball team and hanging out with them, and it kind of changed your paradigm. What are some other ways that you use or that you recommend for people too have a change in paradigm. The University of Illinois was significant for me. It led to a massive change in perspective because I I immersed myself into things I didn't know UM classes, I didn't know anything about UM. But I think, UH, a lot of times with universities, it's okay, disability is a good idea. Where do we start? How do we start? And so you know, I I think it would be beneficial at the very least. You just, you know, look up some of these big disability focused nonprofits UM and just kind of see what they're talking about. What do you what do they what matters to them, what do they value? What do they you know, kind of struggle with And a lot of these big disability nonprofits have local chapters and state chapters and offices and you could just check out their content online or even go up in person. And there are all...

...sorts of disability student groups UM when I was in college I started. I believe it was and still is the only adaptive sports specific radio program in the country, and so we head on all sorts of world class athletes. We talked about wheelchair dancing, visually impaired alpine skiing because nobody else was UM, and so it opened our eyes or listeners eyes too. Well, there's wheelchair dancing out there. How do I drive this? Where do I learn more? And you don't need to allocate N nine percentage of marketing budgets too, shake somebody's hand or follows somebody on slow FA media. It's just, you know, I'm showing that you can and trying as best as you can to be open minded to you, you know, the belief and the reality is that and everybody lives the same way you do. It's a great, great point. I love the fact that, too, that so much of this comes around and goes back to that empathy, that authenticity, that just us being real. I mean, so much of our our culture and has been polarized, and I think that we often forget sometimes that we're all humans and that we're all you know, we're all on this planet for a moment, and we happen to be on it at the same time in that moment, and I think that a lot of what I'm learning from you, Ryan is just this idea of let's just talk about that, let's get to know each other, and let's out of that authenticity, a lot of the marketing and a lot of the ideas is going to happen. And I'm just curious to hear more about your thoughts on you know, if you were a marketing director,...

...you know you mentioned earlier, you know there hasn't you don't you wish there were more presidents or wish there were more marketing directors. If you're a marketing director at a school and there's a lot of schools listening, what would you do If I was a marketing director in the university, I would be assessing what we're doing already and who was our audience um and what do they struggle with? The disability to community struggles with the same thing everybody else does. You know with universities, I mean there's a massive tuition fee. I mean it's incredible, but you know, individuals with disabilities are thinking about that too, and they're also thinking about if I go to this campus, you know, will I be safe? Will I be comfortable and secure? Um? And so what I would be doing if I was a university marketing director is tapping into the student groups and assessing what what made them choose my university, our university? UM? What brought them here? And then the same with the alumni. You know, what do you what do you think about us now now that you're you know, five, ten fifty years out, UM, And so I'll just try to assess, you know, what the needs are on your target audience. And within that target audience is the disability and community. You don't have to you know, create any specific planned plan just for the disability community to begin with. UM. But I would also want to make sure that, well, let's be honest, the content is accessible. You know, do we have captions on our main events utilizing a SL interpreters, etcetera, etcetera. Courtney mentioned that a little bit with with...

...her you know, a SL interpreters, and we've had some other people talk about, you know, the captioning and things like that. Talk to me a little bit about just from a from from your experience arriving on a college campus. You know, do you go ahead of time with the website to be able to see, you know, the accessible ways around campus. How how does that work from just a practical way that somebody could say, we want to make our visit as accessible as possible. Well, it's different for everybody with a disability. To every single person. Um. You know, I had the luxury, I suppose, of being within driving distance of the university. I went to the University of Illinois UM, and so when I was initially working at the uf I, it was the top of mind from me was and my parents was accessibility. You know, where are we accessible bathrooms? Can I get into you? At the time, I was chasing a journalism degree, So can I get into the journalism building? Can I get into my dorm? Okay? Now you know what do I do for transportation on a super snowy day? And so when I visited campus with my mom, we were both of course going through the tour and all that, but we both had our eyes out for ramps, elevators, you know, maps of what I needed and where they were, Where are the accessible bathrooms were, um, and so a lot of things like that that really mattered to me. And and I think that's a very universal for anybody with a disability. It's if I go to this campus and I live here for four...

...or five plas years, will I be safe and will I be able to live out my dreams? Guests will have to find out and and sometimes the campus at the university's website. That's not exactly answer every question. I maintained too, that they can't answer everything. We could do more, but it gets down to the relationships too, of being able to have those conversations just like just like normal conversations. So, Ryan, can you give us examples of some of the work that Team Trust has done. A priority for us is telling the stories of the disability community um and, so we've primarily worked with nonprofits, universities, colleges, and government agencies and so universally across all three of those industries. It's, you know, let's address the disability community. Uh and and the way you're already doing so integrating the disability into your current marketing. We don't have to reinvent the wheel um and So interestingly, one video we did, just a short little piece we did for a community college, well it's on me, not that I want any video to be on me, but it was an opportunity to showcase how this community college and their alumni are helping the disability community. And that's something that I think applies to any university, whether you know it or not. I mean you, you, you are changing the lives of the disability community, hopefully in a good way. Um, I had a good experience. I think you would lie. And so that's one thing we're really leaning into. It's, you know, don't have to reinvent the wheel here. Let's just let's just take...

...a moment to really acknowledge and many celebrate what you're doing for your students with disabilities, and then you can really capitalize on that and you know, do more. That's great. I love that. That's a really good wise thing to end on. Wow. Nice. Um. We end our episodes by asking you, who have given so much over the past half an hour, to give just one more thing. And that would be if there's a tip or a piece of advice that you would offer that someone listening could implement soon after hearing, something that you would recommend for them to do at their campus. What would that be, campus, I would recommend taking a moment to look at your student groups. Let focus on disability and maybe that's just spending some time, maybe an hour or so. Uh and and and hang out with the Disability Resource Center whatever you want to call it, the building, the program, the department that helps the students with disabilities out the most at your campus. Just let them know that you care. And then just by being around them and hearing conversations, reading signs, whatever you may, you know here all sorts of fascinating ideas about well this could be a lot better or wow, I didn't know we were doing this, so I mean, there are all sorts of opportunities at your disposal if you just take a moment to hang out with my friends, that's allesome. Yeah it is Ryan.

How could someone reach you and get more information about you or Team Trust if they would like to, You can go to our website. It's Team Trust Productions dot com. Uh. Currently you will see a way too big picture of me on our websites, and if you navigate around on that website you'll find my contact info and we can I work up some magic from there. Thank you very much. Enjoyed our conversation, and I'm walking away with a bigger awareness for disability than I had before I got here. So thank you for joining us today. Ryan. Yeah, thank you, Troroy and Bart. To Troy, you said you're walking away, but your Acthlee is still sitting still. I'm trying to trying to think about this one, but that will. We appreciate your time and thank you all for listening. It's been our pleasure. Bart. Do you have any comments you like to make before we close out the show. Yeah. I just want to highlight a couple of things that Ryan has said that I think are so important. And I really love the fact that so much of this has been around authenticity and about, you know, being real, And I think that starts with being real in our relationships, being real in the approach that we have and and even I mean we talk about authenticity and our marketing authenticity and our photography and our whatever we are trying to communicate in our content, but I think it needs to start with our authenticity even in our hearts and how we approach to really kind of build relationships. It's been great to build a relationship with Ryan through this podcast. I've had the same with Courtney and several other ones that that um I've really valued, and so just his authenticity and being able to encourage us to ask the questions. Meet with the folks on your campus, you know, whether you have a formal disabilities group that already meets, or if...

...you want to just kind of find that and and find out the alumni and and the friends and and other people, do yourself a favor and start to build those relationships to to like choice and build the awareness and and be able to be a lot more of a better person and a better marketer. And I think also just kind of doing what is right. I when it comes down to that, I mean we there's a lot of acronyms. There's there's alphabet soup out there about all these different things that we can go on and on about. I mean we talked about D E, I A, D A. It comes down to doing with the right thing, doing what we would want somebody else to do if we were in that position. And I think that's a really good place to start. So Ryan, thank you again for being on the on the podcast and being our guest. Of course, thank you. The Hired Marketer podcast is sponsored by Kaylor Solutions and Education marketing and branding agency and by Ring Digital, providing significant lifts and yield by following your list with precisely targeted ads. If you like the show, we would ask that you please subscribe and maybe tell a friend about it. We're trying to spread the word on behalf of our wonderful guest Ryan, my co host Bart, and me Troy. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to the higher ed Marketer to ensure that you never miss an episode, Subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you're listening with Apple Podcasts, we'd love for you to leave a quick rating of the show. Simply tap the number of stars do you think the podcast deserves. Until next time,.

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