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Judge Spotlight

What’s Your Why with Keely Cat-Wells: On Centering and Empowering Disabled Talent

We spoke with Anthem juror Keely Cat-Wells, CEO of Making Space, about what shapes her work in helping disabled talent access employment and career advancement.

What’s Your Why is a new series by The Anthem Awards team. We’re asking Anthem jurors to explore the guiding principles that have, and continue, to shape their journeys in social impact.

Centering disability justice should, and must be, at the core of efforts to build more equitable industries. For Keely Cat-Wells that fight begins within media and entertainment. As an entrepreneur and advocate, she has created a pipeline for disabled talent to advance their careers through Making Space, an accessible talent acquisition and learning platform to help companies train and retain disabled talent.

As the 4th Annual Anthem Awards’ focus is to elevate impact in all of its forms, we’re not only exploring the work our Anthem Jurors do but also why they do it–and most importantly, who they do it for.

Read on to learn from Cat-Wells on why she’s committed to ensuring disabled talent achieve career and financial mobility.

Can you tell us a bit about the work you do? How long have you been working in social impact?

I acquired my disability when I was in my late teens, after many years of medical trauma and misdiagnosis. When I came out of hospital and stated exploring the world as a newly Disabled person I started experiencing ableism, this eventually led to the founding of my first company, C Talent. C Talent was a talent management and consultancy company that represented Deaf and Disabled creators, actors, directors, and writers. C Talent helped creators land brand deals, negotiate fair contracts, scale their businesses, and more. It also provided disability and accessibility consulting to high-profile brands. In 2022, C Talent was acquired by Whalar, a well-known creator commerce and talent management company.

Since the sale of C Talent, I founded Making Space, a venture-backed, accessible talent acquisition and learning experience platform for companies to train, access and retain disabled talent pools. Designed to bridge the education-employment gap, Making Space creates tangible pathways to employment and career advancement through employer-supported education. In collaboration with award-winning TV Host, Author, and Disability Rights Advocate Sophie Morgan, I co-founded Making Space Media, a division of Making Space. They produce film, TV and promotional content that centers the Disabled voice. Making Space Media has secured a first-look deal with Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine.

I am also passionate about legislative and policy change and have been working on issues including the elimination of section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. An outdated statute, in effect for over 80 years, that perpetuates discrimination by allowing employers of Disabled workers to pay subminimum wages.

Making Space and Netflix partner to expand education for disabled graphic designers. Credit: Making Space

Why were you drawn to this cause or social issue? Do you have a memory or moment that sparked your interest?

When I moved to the USA I secured a job working within the media industry, but when disclosing my disability I had that job taken away from me. That was a pivotal moment and since then I have been on a mission to change the stat that Disabled people are 2x more likely to be unemployed than non-Disabled people.

Who do you do it work for? Which communities are you interested in uplifting through your projects and why?

Making Space addresses disabled worker unemployment by providing accessible, free, employer-backed courses tailored to industry needs, coupled with advanced technology to match talent with careers, career mobility & advancement opportunities. The platform promotes long-term success, diversifies workforces, and challenges disability bias, establishing a benchmark for inclusive employment.

Making Space prioritizes providing jobseekers and existing employees with the skills and education they need for career growth and mobility that they have historically not had access to.

The platform has features such as a video player with an American Sign Language (ASL) toggle, transcript with auto scroll options, closed captioning with color, size and font adjustments, keyboard preferences and audio description. And the employer can customize visibility of the content uploaded to be either “public” for talent sourcing or “private” for existing employees only.

 

Keely Cat-Wells on what serves as her North Star for this work: 

We want to change the way the world views and defines disability.

Making Space ensures more people with disabilities are given better opportunities to earn family-sustaining wages and achieve career mobility.

Today, the Making Space platform provides value by bridging the gap between talented, qualified jobseekers, employees and employers plus by accelerating hiring cycles, aligning job-candidate matches and boosting retention, which is important because onboarding new employees can take up to six months and often involves team productivity loss during that time. Making Space aims to reduce that burden by supporting training ahead of hiring, so employees are already equipped with role-specific knowledge.

In social impact, the work is long and the road isn’t easy. What is your North Star, principle or philosophy that keeps you going? What keeps you rooted?

We want to change the way the world views & defines disability.

Can you share three bodies of work that inspire your own?

Elevate Your Impact in The Anthem Awards. The Early Entry Deadline is Friday, May 24th – Enter with Preferred Pricing. 

The Anthem Awards is judged by the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, a membership body of intellectually diverse leaders and executives across the impact industry. To have your initiatives reviewed – and amplified – by experts like Keely Cat-Wells,  reviewed

To have your work seen by experts like her, submit your work in the 4th Annual Anthem Awards by the Early Entry Deadline this Friday, May 24th!

Patagonia – Don’t Buy This Jacket

Patagonia has put social impact at the core of their brand mission and values from the start, and their iconic Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign demonstrates how brands can use their platform to make an impact — or better yet, to help reduce our impact. This 2011 ad ran in the New York Times on Black Friday, making a lasting impression for its bold message addressing the issue of consumerism head on and asking readers to take the Common Threads Initiative pledge to reduce, repair, reuse, recycle, and reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.

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NEWS & ANNONCEMENTS

Ad Council’s Love Has No Labels Movement

Love Has No Labels is a movement by The Ad Council to promote diversity, equity and inclusion of all people across race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age and ability.

Read our Q&A with Heidi Arthur, the Ad Council’s Chief Campaign Development Officer on the team behind LHNL collaborates with partners to combat implicit bias—from crafting PSAs to driving viewers to take action, to how brands and companies should approach corporate social responsibility with authenticity.

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