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NAMED Advocates

Why We Need More Programs for BIPOC-Disabled Professionals

“Saying they can’t hire me because I have cerebral palsy really broke me because I can’t change that about myself.”

Lionel Migrino

It’s time to face the hard truth – diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords we should throw around to sound progressive.

Despite many efforts to promote diversity in the workplace, BIPOC-disabled folx still face many obstacles that hinder their career growth. For example, in 2023, the employment rate of persons with a disability in the labor force who identified as white was 22.8 percent in the United States. In comparison, 20.9 percent of the labor force that was Black and had a disability were employed in 2023.

Many BIPOC-disabled individuals struggle to succeed in their chosen fields due to a lack of networking, learning, and support opportunities. This affects their careers and personal lives and deprives industries of valuable insights. 

This is a call to action for change! We need to create inclusive programs where everyone can thrive because, let’s face it, representation and opportunity gaps still exist. 

The Accessible Plus Pathfinder Program at Coachella: A Model for Inclusion

A group of BIPOC individuals participating in the Accessible+ Program poses for a photo on the grass field at Coachella. They are all smiling brightly and having fun.

Accessible Plus is an absolute game-changer for BIPOC Disabled professionals. Unlike many initiatives that pay lip service to diversity, this hands-on program goes above and beyond to offer a comprehensive experience that empowers, educates, and opens doors in the live event industry.

The Program

The program’s success lies in its three main components:

1. Immersion

The Accessible Plus Program is not your typical learning experience. Instead, you get to dive headfirst into one of the largest and most dope festivals ever – Coachella! Not only do you get to be a part of the action, but you get to break down barriers and challenge stereotypes about disability and race in the professional world. The program is all about immersing yourself in the live event industry and making your mark.

We asked our participants “What did you enjoy about your Accessible+ job shadowing experience?” and here’s what they had to say:

“The job shadowing experience at Coachella was invaluable. I learned a lot and had the privilege to see behind-the-scenes access that other concert-goers don’t have.” (Kyle Morris)

“Getting 2 hours of 1-1 time with each of the mentors and being able to ask questions was another very exciting moment. I feel like I got VIP access not just to the festival but also to the operations and behind-the-scenes of the festival, amazing top-tier access!” (RJ Jimenez)

2. Community Building

A+ actively fosters an environment where shared experiences can blossom into solid support networks within the live event industry. And the best part? You get to learn alongside other awesome BIPOC and disabled folx!

3. Leadership

The Coachella Pathfinder Program is super special, all thanks to the amazing leaders who run it: Keri Gray, Sabeerah Najee, Kieron Sampson, and Ashley Edwards. These leaders are proud members of the BIPOC community, bringing their unique perspectives and experiences to the program. Keri Gray, the founder of the NAMED Advocates, is thrilled to see her consulting company play a crucial role in curating the Pathfinder Program. This work is deeply rooted in the NAMED Advocates’ commitment to empowering BIPOC people with disabilities, ensuring their voices and talents are at the forefront of the live events industry.

We asked one of our mentors, “What did you enjoy about the mentorship/job shadowing A+ program?” and here’s what they had to say:

“I enjoyed getting to connect with someone very close in age to me! It always makes me happy to learn that I have things in common with a stranger, and to know that we have shared values and goals gives me hope that there’s lots of great people out there also pushing to make things better in our industry.” (Annie Lai)

Building Accessible Job Shadowing Programs for BIPOC-Disabled Professionals

Accessibility is not just a convenience; it’s a necessity that opens doors to talent and diversity. Here are the steps to build an accessible job shadowing program for BIPOC-disabled professionals:

  1. Develop Inclusive Recruitment Strategies

Outreach and Communication

“Accessible+ (A+) is an immersion opportunity for BIPOC people with disabilities to experience the Coachella Festival, build community and learn about professional opportunities in the live event industry. We are the first of our kind, as we are led by experts and leaders who are a part of the disabled BIPOC community. Our mission is to amplify the intersectionality of BIPOC people with disabilities by providing a unique opportunity to participate in the Festival experience.”

  • Clear Messaging: Ensure all promotional materials communicate the program’s commitment to inclusivity and accessibility.
  1. Design an Accessible Application Process

Simplify Procedures

  1. Cultivate an Accommodating Environment

Physical Accessibility

  • Workspace Adjustments: Modify workspaces to be wheelchair accessible, including desks, doors, and common areas.
  • Transportation Support: Provide information on accessible transportation options or offer transportation assistance if needed.

Technological Accommodations

  • Assistive Technologies: Equip workspaces with necessary assistive technologies like screen readers, braille displays, or speech-to-text software.
  • Digital Accessibility: Ensure all digital content related to the program is compatible with various assistive technologies.
  1. Foster a Supportive Culture

Mentorship and Guidance

  • Pair with Inclusive Mentors: Match participants with mentors trained in inclusivity and can provide guidance sensitive to their experiences, like The NAMED Advocates!
  • Regular Check-ins: Schedule frequent meetings to discuss any issues or additional accommodations that might be needed.

Questions for Program Leaders to Consider

The effectiveness of inclusive programs often depends on the commitment and judgment of those in charge. Here are some questions for program leaders to think about:

  1. How do you ensure that the program is fully accessible to BIPOC-Disabled professionals, taking into account the wide range of disabilities and the need for various accommodations?
  2. In what ways do you actively promote a culture of inclusivity within your program, and how do you address any potential biases or barriers that BIPOC-Disabled professionals might face?
  3. Can you describe the measures you have to facilitate meaningful mentorship and networking opportunities for BIPOC-Disabled participants within your organization?
  4. How can you guarantee that the job shadowing program is working well for BIPOC-disabled professionals and find ways to improve it?
  5. Are you getting input from BIPOC-disabled folks to improve your program and create a truly inclusive space?

Language Access: Ensuring Inclusive Communication

Members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH) community often face challenges in professional spaces. To address these challenges, resources such as ASL interpreters and captioning services should be prioritized in program activities. These provisions can bridge the gap between individuals with disabilities and those without.

While ASL interpretation is indispensable, it’s essential to remember that only some people use sign language. Other communication devices or technologies can enhance accessibility for these participants. For example, hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices (ALDs), or speech-to-text apps can be vital tools.

Find ASL interpreters for your program here!

Benefits for Mentors and Participants

Job shadowing programs for BIPOC-Disabled professionals can offer benefits beyond just the participants. These programs can create a mutually enriching experience for mentors and the participants, resulting in life-changing insights and experiences.


By guiding BIPOC-Disabled professionals, mentors gain insights into accessibility issues, fostering empathy and sparking advocacy for change within their respective fields. This unique experience can:

  • Broaden their perspective beyond the traditional professional lens.
  • Encourage them to create more inclusive environments within their own organizations.
  • Enable them to serve as powerful advocates for change, armed with firsthand knowledge.


For BIPOC-Disabled professionals mentored in these programs, the benefits are multifaceted and impactful. Beyond gaining industry knowledge and networking opportunities, they are exposed to successful role models who mirror their own experiences – an essential element often missing from traditional mentorship programs. 

This exposure can:

  • Bolster their confidence as they see similar individuals thriving professionally.
  • Enhance their resilience in navigating potential barriers within their career path.
  • Encourage them to envision a future where they are successful and valued in their chosen professions.

By bringing in diverse perspectives, we can tailor programs to meet the unique needs of BIPOC-Disabled communities. This will make programs more authentic and add some much-needed insight.

When we create these programs, we’re not only helping out BIPOC folks with disabilities, but we’re also getting all sorts of new perspectives and skills in our organizations.

As a society, we need to build a future that is open to everyone. We need to ensure that everyone—especially BIPOC-disabled folx — has access to opportunities for growth and development.

So let’s get to it, people!

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