One Mom Is 'Changing the Face of Beauty' With Back-to-School Campaign of Children With Disabilities

Katie Driscoll is the proud mommy of five boys and a daughter with Down syndrome. A few years ago, when it came time for her kids to attend school, Katie noticed not one of the back-to-school ads she saw featured a child with a disability. Well, that just wasn't going to work for this mom, who decided to create the nonprofit Changing the Face of Beauty, an organization with a mission to educate and encourage the inclusion of people with disabilities in general media and advertising.


"Self-esteem is generally lower in children with disabilities and we believe the media can play a role in helping to change that," says Katie. "It's hard for this community of children to feel valuable when they're virtually nonexistent."

In 2012, Changing the Face of Beauty received some great media attention for its back-to-school photo shoot that featured children with disabilities. "Back to school is a critical time for all children, not just my own," adds Driscoll. "What I realized was that I was anxious and could not imagine what parents of children with disabilities might feel when they're preparing for their children to return to school." The success of that campaign inspired a new initiative -- this time calling on companies to show their support for the cause.

This year's #ImGoingBacktoSchoolToo campaign unites Changing the Face of Beauty with Livie and Luca, a handmade shoe company that hopes to create a better world for kids. Together they urge retailers to see the importance in including children of all abilities into their advertisements.

"Children with disabilities generally go to school year around, are part of one of the largest minorities in the world, and yet remain the least represented in advertising and the media," reveals Katie. "The more children with disabilities can relate to everyday advertising imagery, the more confidence it will bring."

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In efforts to raise awareness and money for the cause, Livie & Luca has pledged to match donations, dollar for dollar, made to CTFOB.

With back-to-school season upon us, a campaign like this can be a soundboard parents can use to discuss special needs with their children. Kids with disabilities are often the target of unthinkable behavior -- including bullying. In fact, they are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their peers. Even if you feel your child would never be exclusive of others, it doesn't hurt to have a sit-down about the importance of being kind and open to new friends -- regardless of how they look, or the labels, like special needs, that are attached to them.

"If our world is exposed to these different types of minorities all the time, there would be less fear and more opportunity for everyone to live side by side through acceptance," notes Driscoll. "We encourage families to be open to discussing differences because children learn from their parents' reactions to anything that might not be familiar to them."

Hopefully more companies will include a greater amount of diversity in their advertisements. Over the past year, Changing the Face of Beauty has seen success with over 100 companies in four countries making the commitment to use a model with a disability in their 2015 advertising campaigns. "We asked for 15 companies and within three months had over a hundred," Katie points out. Even with the organization's success, she is well aware of the work that still needs to be done.

Changing the Face of Beauty hopes to make a lasting impact on various outlets of the media industry. Their goals include creating marketing packages that explain the benefits of including individuals with disabilities in discussions, as well as an educational program on the importance of imagery and media representation for schools across the country.


Images via © Katie Driscoll for Changing the Face of Beauty and Livie and Luca; Changing the Face of Beauty/Facebook

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