Carolyn Anderson and her 4-year-old daughter, Maren, were recently spending the day in Leesburg, Virginia — visiting shops and enjoying time together outdoors. It’s a simple enough activity, but the two haven’t done as often as they’d like this summer.
Maren has a rare disease caused by a genetic mutation, and only recently started using a wheelchair. Her mother, Carolyn, told TODAY that her daughter is still getting used to it. “This evening in particular, she was showing a lot of confidence, which is not typical of her. And so we were just so excited and letting her go and cruise and drive her wheelchair, and then all of a sudden she stopped,” Carolyn told The TODAY Show.
Maren had spotted a line of ULTA Beauty Posters — one, in particular, catching her attention. It was a model in a wheelchair. Her mother recalling the look on her daughter’s face. “You could just tell that she identified with it from the get go. And for her, a 4-year-old child … to sit there in awe at this photo for close to a minute was pretty profound.”
That feeling of joy was quickly joined by ones of empathy and sadness as she realized how her daughter’s fascination was likely due to how rare ads like this are in the media.
“Our hearts sort of sank because it’s such a wonderful feeling to see her do that, but then it also is somewhat saddening that this is so profound for her to see in public because of the lack of representation for the disability community, particularly for children.”
Carolyn’s post went viral by the next morning as she woke to thousands of messages of support, including one from ULTA Beauty. The brand behind the ad telling Washington, D.C. affiliate NBC4 “We love that this family shared such an amazing moment and were touched to see Maren looking at the image in our window — it makes us incredibly proud.” ULTA says they’re also working on arranging a meeting between Maren and the model in the ad.
While the ad and the gesture are a great start, Carolyn looks forward to more companies following ULTA’s lead and becoming more inclusive in their marketing. “We appreciate that there is progress being made with accessibility, with inclusion, with representation, but there’s still a really long way to go,” she said.
“There’s a lot of families out there that (are) going to have potentially a child that’s disabled. And right now, there’s just not a very large place for them to go to seek support, to know that their kid has a place in this community and in our society. Because that’s really what it meant when Maren saw this photo the other day,” Carolyn added.
“It just really spoke to us saying that she feels included, and she feels like she identifies with that, and belongs here just like everybody else.”