Ben Trockman and Carlos Terrazas never asked to become the “disability guy” at their respective organisations.
But that is exactly what happened after they both sustained injuries in separate accidents earlier in their lives and became wheelchair users.
On day two of PRWeek’s PRDecoded Purpose+
conference in Chicago on Thursday, Terrazas, the first disability-inclusion manager at McDonald's and Trockman, a project manager for Change for Balance, shared their stories.
“What we have realized is that being ‘the disability guy’ is a significant role we can pave the way for in the future,” Trockman said.
Trockman previously worked at Old National Bank between 2014 and 2022 as a diversity and inclusion specialist. He said that he was hired by the bank to do a “made-up job” as it considered how to be more inclusive.
“We figured it out and did some good things,” he said.
Trockman said that he and Terrazas have realized they were given the opportunity to make an impact on communities and people’s lives in unexpected ways and added that authentic representation is important for any group.
“Every organisation and community needs their ‘disability guy’ because that is how we start making waves,” Trockman said. “Don't back down; have purpose in mind and go for it.”
Terrazas said he is proud that McDonald’s DE&I team, which he is a part of, has a strong focus on disability.
He makes sure McDonald’s avoids “inspiration porn,” which Terrazas defined as telling stories about disabilities in a way that is well-intentioned but is viewed more as charity.
“Telling the story of someone who is disabled and how hard their lives are is not the right story,” said Terrazas. “They are only going through that because of environmental barriers and ableism that has been invented in our society. Remove those and those challenges are gone most likely.”
Terrazas helped McDonald’s with a commercial that included someone with autism drawing the golden arches.
“I said take the disability out of the way,” said Terrazas. “It’s still a great story if you take autism out of it. The autism was not even mentioned in the commercial. It became a powerful message about how the kid loved drawing the arches.”