There’s a lot of excitement this week for the announcement of new Gerber baby. Apparently, each year, the Gerber company (baby food and baby products) chooses a baby as its poster child, and this year, the baby happens to have Down Syndrome.
I had conflicted feelings when I saw the news articles and the various posts within social media. I don’t like disability being cast in the role of emotional inspiration. (See Stella Young's Ted Talk.) When social media and other media forms promote the Gerber baby with Down Syndrome being so cute and so adorable, I wonder if we are measuring acceptance with appearance. Maybe this is a result of my cynical side creeping in, being a mom to two children with exceptional needs who are starting to garner more awkward stares than gushes in public.
I listened in to CBC’s the Current this morning and heard the words of freelance journalist David Perry from MN who offered some caution with all the excitement, “Although the Gerber baby is cute, I am very skeptical that it is a particularly significant moment in the long journey towards acceptance for people with Down Syndrome and inclusion for people with Down Syndrome or people with disabilities more generally.” He was speaking specific to the idea of whether or not the Gerber baby choice will impact decisions made regarding the genetic testing of a baby pre-birth.
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I love it that more businesses are considering ways to visually express diversity and inclusion. Changing the Face of Beauty is a great organization that encourages the authenticity and accurate representation of our population. When major companies such as Target and Nordstrom show people with disabilities in their advertisements, they help to positively support the ever expanding social definition of normal.
My hope is that the Gerber baby will inspire conversations beyond pureed veggies and challenge strategic plans in the boardrooms. I hope Gerber's decision will feed (ha!) into the idea of someone with a disability being more familiar than freakish.
Wouldn’t it be awesome for the next company to take on similar visual presentation - and combine it with long-term sustainable impact? Canadian Tire has taken this idea seriously with their Jumpstart Community Accessibility Grants that help create or renovate spaces so all children can play.
So, Gerber… what’s your next step? I'm looking forward to this conversation.