Jason Clymo is a model citizen in the disability community. As well as modelling assignments, he recently auditioned for an acting role, is doing a podcast series on disability representation, and runs a marketing agency. He spoke to Kymberly Martin about working in these industries, and his ongoing efforts to facilitate more inclusion and representation for people with disability. Clymo lives in Moama, 2.5 hours outside Melbourne, and joined WINK Models in 2017.Being a wheelchair user has not stopped him from tackling the Australian fashion industry. He has been modelling for nearly four years and found his way into the industry through a friend. “Kate Radford is an amazing hair and makeup artist based in Melbourne. She was the one who initially made me think of working in fashion. At that time, I saw it as a fun opportunity to make some money, and maybe get paid to travel around Australia or the world. Once I started working in the industry, I quickly realised the many issues that are still present today.” Jason said his current outlook of inclusion, and the roles fashion and media play in forming people’s unconscious biases, is thanks to an organisation called Starting With Julius. “If the activist and model Angel Dixon had not reached out to me, I’m not sure that I would have the understanding and skills that I do now to facilitate inclusion.”  He admitted that, in the face of an ableist society, life for people with disability is never easy, and working in the modelling and fashion industry is no exception. He said this is slowly changing but despite the movement towards ‘inclusive fashion’ people with disability are still under-represented in mainstream media. He was one of the first models with disability to join a modelling agency, but it remains difficult to break into as persuasion is essential at every level. “You need to convince modelling agencies to include models with disability, as well as the clients who hire models through agencies, he said. “The entire industry has to be educated and this is hard to do. I come from a universal design perspective and believe that people with disability should be included within the mainstream fashion industry. I’m not a big fan of the term ‘adaptive fashion’ and while I appreciate it is about making clothes that give people with disability more options, I prefer to run with an idea or sentimentality that trickles through the whole industry, not just dedicating a specific section to people with disability. ”Clymo has worked with Stellar magazine, Target, Fashion Journal Magazine, and Melbourne Fashion Week. He said Target and Kmart arrived early at pushing the barriers, especially using young children with disability through their catalogues, online and TV advertising. He appeared in a Father’s Day catalogue for Target, who understand that when advertising features people with disability it should not be isolated. “Having a person with  disability wearing mainstream clothing is great, but it should not be a tokenistic focus of the shoot. ”Don’t ignore the potential of the market Employment is an issue, particularly for people with disability and there is lot of money to be made globally from the disability sector. According to Clymo, the so-called ‘Disabled Dollar’ is worth an estimated $2 trillion. “Unfortunately to get attention, whether we like it or not, money does power the world most of the time. Business needs to recognise the potential of people with disability and the rewards that can be made from being inclusive of us. “It’s a fact of life. It would be nice if we could simply appeal to people’s better nature, but that’s not the case. I accept people have to work to budgets and do their job, but what I and many others are trying to do is to show them that this inclusive approach is in their best interests.” While Covid has put the brakes on many things, Clymo recently auditioned for a TV show which could turn out to be his first acting role. He is also working behind the scenes on a podcast series about disability representation in TV & film, produced by the Attitude Foundation. He is still working on modelling assignments and runs a marketing agency, J2 Content Creation. “In my agency, we work with businesses to help them at every level of their marketing efforts. This means working on strategy, budgeting, websites, social media, content creation, accessibility solutions and much more. “Not everything I do is about inclusion, but I try to introduce elements of inclusion into what I do. I believe that every industry should have inclusion built into it. “The biggest issue or barrier for people with disability – as I see it – comes down to the attitudes and views people hold about us. Everybody has a level of ableism in them, as people have been brought up to value the non-disabled body – for whatever reason.“It flows into everything – healthcare, employment, education – which is why I am so passionate about using creative industries to try and change peoples’ perceptions of disability. If we can do that then the next time a person with disability applies for a job, the employer will be better informed and hopefully have a more inclusive outlook.“Change is moving in the right direction but obviously I would like to see it moving faster. When we look at it from a human rights perspective, there are still a lot of issues that need to be fixed. However, progress has been made and I feel we should celebrate this – as long as it does not diminish the fact that a greater effort is needed.

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