Molly Burke Tries Out Aira, an App for the Blind, Around L.A.

Starbucks partners on VIA video, as the power of disability influencers continues to grow

Creators with disabilities have made refreshing inroads as influencers in recent years. And a new campaign for a real-time visual interpreting service—used by blind and low-vision people—shows how they can bring charm and warmth to what's essentially a product demo.

Aira is an app that uses the smartphone as an interface to connect low-vision people with trained visual interpreters, who help them navigate their environment in real time. The app has been striking partnerships with retailers lately, including Starbucks and Meijer, and now steps into influencer marketing—with an engaging video starring Molly Burke.

Burke, 28, has become a popular YouTuber, amassing almost 2 million subscribers with her videos about life as a blind woman—including fashion and makeup tutorials. She has expanded into Instagram and TikTok, too, of course.

In a new video from Portland, Maine, agency VIA, Molly tests out the Aira app around Los Angeles, where she lives, hitting up a Starbucks—which has been offering free use of Aira in its stores for over a year—as well as Melrose Trading Post in West Hollywood. The content is a seamless fit with her unbranded videos, as she demonstrates how the tech addresses pain points in her navigation of the world, and just makes her life—and the pursuit of her passions—easier.

Teddy Stoecklein, creative lead at VIA, says Molly agreed to work with Aira as she's a fan of the technology and likes to promote any tool that can help low-vision and blind people live more independently.

"Molly has a wonderful way of inspiring others to be more independent and confident, especially those with low vision or blindness, but really, she inspires us all," he tells Muse. "We wanted to film Molly doing something that sighted people can take for granted, like going to Starbucks or shopping for an outfit. True to her personality, Molly would like to find something unique to wear, hence the Melrose flea market in West Hollywood. As you can imagine, a flea market's layout is ever-changing, which can be very intimidating to someone with low vision. The fact that she's able to combine the use of her guide dog, Elton John, with the Aira app, to find the perfect coat, something she can't really see, is truly remarkable."

Molly appeared this summer on The Daily Show, where she recounted her experience with a rare disease that slowly robbed her of her vision by the time she was a teenager.

"I lost all of my friends, I was very badly bullied, and all of a sudden society started treating me very different than how I was treated as an able-bodied person," she says. "And I was really angry for a long time. But my own journey, I realized, I can either be a victim and sit here and be angry that society does not understand, or I can actively be part of educating society and taking that ignorance and changing it."

For more about disability activists you should be following in social media, check out this list from Mashable.

CREDITS

AIRA
Sandi Marcus: VP Marketing
Kevin Phelan: Chief Revenue Officer

VIA
Christopher McLellan: Executive Producer
Layne Harris: Director of Technology and Innovation
Rebekah Nappa: Editor
Lauren Rodrigue: Creative Lead
Teddy Stoecklein: Creative Lead

Director/DP: JR Kraus
Production Company: PF-100
EP: Malcolm Wax
Producer: Joshua Jaedicke

Post-Production Company: VCL
Editor: Rebekah Nappa
Colorist: Stephanie Park for Rare Medium
Sound Mixer: Cory Melious for Alt Mix

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards, editor of Muse by Clio, and host of the podcast Tagline. He is the former creative editor of Adweek.

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