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Debra Ruh: “We’re better when we’re together”

Debra Ruh with RespectAbility staff and Fellows

Debra Ruh with RespectAbility staff and Fellows

Rockville, Maryland, July 10 – Debra Ruh’s expression of “we’re better when we’re together” is not only a Jack Johnson song, but the encompassing message given to RespectAbility Fellows. On this warm July morning, Ruh made a lasting impact on these future leaders. She actively believes in the influence of the coming generations, promoting the power of the internet and of young leaders to bring about global difference. In her talk with the Fellows, she advocated inclusion as the key to changing the world. Not only did she want to include people with disabilities, but also young people and the greater world’s communities. She made it clear that coming together as one, our voices are made stronger and louder.

As the CEO and founder of Ruh Global Communications, an internationally recognized keynote speaker, a global influencer and a published author, Ruh’s long list of achievements comes with numerous lessons learned and experiences had. In her passion for inclusion, she noted social media as one of the most powerful tools. Social media is a tool for unity, she said, noting it allows for anyone to join the conversation. It allows anyone to have a voice. And, it allows anyone to make a difference. It is an easily accessible and free tool that gives each person a platform to take a deliberate stance.

Debra Ruh and Christina Revilla Chacon

Debra Ruh and Christina Revilla Chacon

Ruh smartly utilized social media by cofounding the #AXSchat, which has become the second largest Twitter chat in the world. Twitter users collaborate to discuss and provide knowledge about both accessibility and inclusion. Ruh’s hashtag receives 10,000 tweets in an hour, showing the breadth and reach of its use. By having these conversations online, participation increases to allow for more ideas, without the constraints of time and location.

Furthermore, Ruh has made her own major strides to extend the conversation toward inclusion from online to IRL (in real life). Ruh joined the conversation when her own daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome, with doctors saying she would never walk or talk. She wanted to empower not only her daughter, but also the greater community, most specifically young people. In 2001, she created a company focused on creating accessible technologies for employment. In the following years, she founded Ruh Global Communications, where global disability inclusion strategies, digital marketing and branding took center stage.

As the leader of her own companies, Ruh now is able to educate major corporations on inclusion.  Her recent books, Tapping into Hidden Human Capital: How Leading Global Companies Improve their Bottom Line by Employing Persons with Disabilities and Inclusion Branding underscore her work in this sector. She actively strives to point out the advantages of including people with disabilities in the global market. Ruh brings attention to brands like Tommy Hilfiger, who has begun creating accessible clothing for people with disabilities. She noted that when she buys clothes for her daughter with Down syndrome, she is more likely to buy clothes for her own family as well. Ruh advocates for inclusion in and outside corporations.

The bottom line of this talk? Inclusion is necessary. It opens doors and opportunities for those that may not be able to obtain them otherwise. Ruh brought attention to the idea of including people with disabilities, young people and the world. We are better when we are together because inclusion allows new voices to be heard, she stressed. Social media lends itself as a helpful tool to bring these groups into the conversation and amplify their voices. To start change, we need to start conversations.

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RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. This summer, 11 Fellows had the opportunity to learn from a variety of guest speakers. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact BenS@RespectAbility.org for more information.

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