President Barack Obama on 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

As we continue to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I thought I would share the stories of three young activists leading the charge in the disability rights movement. Storm, Hari, and Noah are working in their communities––at their schools, places of work, neighborhoods––to advocate for a future that is more inclusive and accessible for all people.


As an African-American woman working in creative who also happens to be deaf, it was a chance to discuss the intersection of diversity and inclusion, the failure to include people with disabilities in the workspace and in advertising, and to identify ways to increase accessibility.

Storm Smith has had a journey unlike any other. As the first deaf woman to work at leading advertising agency BBDO, Smith spends her days transforming big ideas into creative content — always reflecting her ideals of inclusion and representation — for a whole host of well-known brands.

The Invisibility Has to End”: Four Artists with Disabilities on the Importance of Building Community and Diversifying Cinematic Language

With the launch of our Outreach & Inclusion and Impact, Engagement and Advocacy programs at Sundance Institute, we’ve collaborated in the field to convene and support artists with disabilities whose creative practice and work explores access, justice, neurodiversity, sound, and vision. Our inaugural Impact Intensive did just this, workshopping strategic outreach and engagement campaigns for projects by artists with disabilities.

During the Impact Intensive, we talked to O’Daniel and three other artists with disabilities—writer, producer, and actor Josh Feldman; director, producer, and writer Rodney Evans; and BBDO LA producerand advocate Storm Smith—about their work and about their vision for making the film industry more accessible. Here’s what they had to say.


Throughout the month of July, our Instagram channel had been transformed into a Black Creatives Showcase, highlighting an underrepresented but far from underskilled segment of our creative community. And while all of the people we've featured have been incredible and their work inspiring, we wanted to close out the month by shining a spotlight on one Storm Smith, an artist who has thrived in our industry, where being Black is uncommon, but being Black and Deaf? A rarity indeed.

AFI DOCS Forum Panels on Netflix’s CRIP CAMP

This year’s AFI DOCS Forum brought together filmmakers, industry leaders, journalists, film subjects and activists for thought-provoking and informative discussions, including two AFI DOCS Forum panels featuring Netflix films: CRIP CAMP: A DISABILITY REVOLUTION and ATHLETE A.

Winner of the 2020 Sundance Audience Award, CRIP CAMP: A DISABILITY REVOLUTION is a rare combination of personal story, cultural touchstone, and policy-focused documentary. In the DOCS Forum panel titled CRIP CAMP’S Ongoing Disability Revolution, moderated by Natalie Bullock Brown, filmmakers Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht, along with  Andraéa LaVant and Storm Smith, discussed the long-range planning behind the film’s impact campaign.

Creating An Inclusive Environment: Q&A With BBDO's Storm Smith

 In advance of her session, the ANA’s group executive vice president, Bill Duggan, interviewed Smith.

Storm Smith is an African-American art director at BBDO, and also happens to be deaf. Smith is a believer in the business opportunities that exist for accessibility and inclusion, and a passionate advocate who shines a positive light on critical societal issues.

How do you sign ‘Black Lives Matter’ in ASL? For black deaf Angelenos, it’s complicated

But the death of George Floyd and the national uprising that has followed caused many black deaf Americans to once again reconsider the phrase. As with everything in American Sign — a language that many hearing people have been exposed to regularly since the outbreak of the coronavirus — nuance shows up in translation. 

“It’s how they process and convey the message and how they translate — not just the wording but the meaning behind it, the tone,” said Storm Smith, a native Angeleno and a producer at the ad agency BBDO Los Angeles. “We need to see all the different levels of information, especially during this time.”

Creating an Environment of Inclusion What I learned while presenting at NAB

There, I was invited to be a speaker for not one but two sessions at this year's NAB Show. The invite was made possible through NAB's partnership with FMC (Future Media Concepts).


The theme for this year's expo was "Where Content Comes to Life." This shows these messages are needed. This shows people listen. And even though we still have much work to do, when we work together to do the right thing, we can change the world and better bring the stories for our clients' brands to life.

In addition to elevating new sounds and cultures, Adenuga is also passionate about engaging with other women in similar fields and paying it forward to the next generation of creators. On Tuesday, ahead of Women’s History Month, the DJ hosted an intimate roundtable discussion at a sunny luxury loft in New York City's Tribeca neighborhood, highlighting female success and empowerment across creative and technical fields.

Featured speakers included Pei Ketron, an accomplished iPhone photographer with over 800,000 followers on Instagram and campaign credits with the likes of American Express, Mercedes and Turkish Airlines; Storm Smith, an art director and first-ever deaf employee at global ad agency BBDO; Marisa Hordern, founder and creative director of jewelry company Missoma; and Molly Proffitt, CEO of game design company Ker-Chunk and an outspoken advocate for building games that empower women as players.

Roadmap for Inclusion: Changing the Face of Disability in Media

This white paper details the current issues regarding lack of authentic representation of disability in the media. Examples drawn from the experience of other minority groups, such as Asian Americans and the LGBTQI community, offer some insight into steps that can be taken to induce change. Finally, we provide clear recommendations, including supporting a specific entity dedicated to the inclusion of disability in the media, for funders interested in taking critical steps to achieving authentic representation of disability in the media.

How People with Disabilities Are Breaking Down Hollywood's Door

How people with disabilities are overcoming barriers to working in the media industry

There’s a well-worn path to becoming an ad agency creative. Undergrad, portfolio school, internship, entry-level—deviate and the industry becomes much more difficult to break into.

But for the past three years, BBDO New York has been quietly running an innovative program to recruit talent from beyond the usual pipelines. Initially conceived as a diversity program, the Creative Residency has expanded its purview to cover diversity of thought and experience—DJs, science fiction writers or creatives who had never considered advertising as a career— while shepherding 12 people into full-time jobs. And this year, the program is going national.

This year’s residents include Raymond Li, a painter and photographer who’s worked on new business accounts at MediaCom, and Storm Smith, a deaf filmmaker and motivational speaker. The third resident, Andy Deaza, has a more traditional advertising background, with experience at Miami Ad School and agencies like JWT, FCB, McCann and SpikeDDB.

Inspiration Matters : Storm Smith Interview

“The biggest challenge I have had though is not only the communication barriers, but with others’ assumptions.” - A prominent deaf art director and impactful storyteller

Meet a Deaf Art Director Taking The World by Storm

Storm Smith grew up inspired around anything arty and creative. Today, she is taking the world by storm as an art director and motivational speaker as she shares her story on facing adversity and aiming high

This One-Of-A-Kind Summer Camp Is Giving Deaf Teenagers A Chance To Be Filmmakers

The representation of deaf and hard of hearing people in the film and television industry is an important facet in the ongoing conversation around diversity in media. In recent years, films and television series such as A Quiet Place and Switched at Birth have been praised for their casting of deaf actors, while the issue of closed captioning for deaf moviegoers has earned attention on social media.

Of course, more work can be done across the board, but there has been significantly less mainstream discussion about deaf people behind the camera. A unique program called Deaf Film Camp is working to change that. 

The two-week camp gives students lifelong skills in story development, filming, editing, directing, and acting. Further, students learn the value of their contribution to the world of filmmaking as deaf artists and just how important their perspective is for all audiences. 

Video produced by Columbia University - Watch the video online

Storm Smith, '10, has carved out a name for herself as acclaimed visual storyteller and filmmaker within the deaf community. And it all began with a gentle nudge during her senior year from Dr. Jane Norman, '68, director and curator emerita of the Gallaudet University Museum, that would alter Smith's career path forever.

Published by Gallaudet University

Finally, in August 2017, I was boarding a flight from Los Angeles to Syracuse. A quick drive later, and I was back at Deaf Film Camp! Once again, I was able to connect with peers who had a desire to learn as much about the film process, from acting to directing, from a dedicated, life-changing group of teachers.

This year, I also had a surprise with a new passion of photography! Clare Cassidy is a photographer who taught us that art form this year, and I fell in love with it. Another favorite teacher, Storm Smith, teaches editing. Even though she is a wonderful editing teacher, she is also someone who truly gets us as students. I relate with her on a spiritual level, which is something I can’t always say about other teachers at home.

Published by Limping Chicken

About 26 teens, ages 13-16, spend two weeks immersing themselves in the art of deaf filmmaking, learning everything from acting all the way through finishing a film. The campers learn from acting coaches, professional videographers and professional producers. 

Published by Observer-Dispatch 

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