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Cordle and Smith Set Artificial Intelligence Narrative Straight on Prejudice and the Disabled

Through their combined efforts, Cordle and Smith hope that more people will see a person with unique abilities before they see their disabilities or the wheelchair that carries them.


Spann Cordle and Billy Smith are out to correct the AI (Artificial Intelligence) world’s misinformed bias towards the disabled and handicapped community. As a disability advocate, Cordle has observed that AI images representing the disabled have not adequately reflected its diversity, especially in the workplace. Since AI can only process existing information, Cordle and Smith wanted to create an accurate depiction of disabled persons at work. As a result, Cordle recently commissioned Smith to paint a new vision of handicapped workers. Their goal is to counter old prejudices by adding to the resources AI can draw from in the future. Cordle plans to use the painting in his many online platforms. It is Cordle and Smith’s hope that they will help influence a new and enlightened public perception of disability. By teaming up in this effort, Smith and Cordle plan to put forth a more accurate and diverse representation of the workplace as they both hope AI will interpret it.

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“The painting is a look into AI and how it can benefit the disabled once established,” Cordle said, ”AI has become a special interest of mine.” “I’m not an advocate for AI, but it seems to be the coming thing.”

Cordle has noticed a bias in AI creations depicting the handicapped in the workplace. “What I saw needed to be corrected and I decided to commission Billy Smith to help me set the record straight,” Cordle said. “The disabled and handicapped workers are valuable assets in workplaces of all kinds.” In his research of AI images, Cordle was dismayed when he found no images of workplace service dog teams. In 2007, Cordle and his service dog, Finn, became Walmart’s first service dog team. As a pioneer and advocate of these teams, Cordle wanted Smith to create a painting that reflected how service dog teams, as well as other disabled and handicapped workers, are valuable assets in workplaces of all kinds.

Artist Billy Smith took his own strong advocacy for the handicapped and applied it to Cordle’s vision. “Spann commissioned me to do a painting with my own spin on it,“ he said. “What I feel about this painting is that it gives people with disabilities some proud streets to tread upon.”

Smith creatively combined the ideas of computer circuits with avenues of access for the disabled community.“ With typical humor, Smith said that at times, instead of “computer circuits,” it felt more like a “computer circus” as he was working out his ideas for the painting.

Cordle, a 16-year Walmart employee, historically pioneered Walmart’s first Associate/Service Dog Team in 2007, making possible hundreds of service dog team jobs that exist today. As a nationally recognized spokesman for the disabled, Cordle is still featured on the Walmart webpage honoring their disabled workforce. He and his late service dog, Finn, are featured in Walmart training videos. Career highlights include being a featured guest speaker at Walmart’s 2008 national shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas and being featured in a video made for Sam’s Club. In 2010, Cordle was flown to Boston, Massachusetts to be honored as the Careers and Disabled Employee of the Year. He represented Walmart and was unanimously chosen over candidates from other major corporations such as Verizon, UPS, and AT&T.

Cordle continues to be a stellar employee for his company. He recently completed 109 months of perfect attendance and 15 years without a day late for work. Still for all his honors and notoriety, Cordle often faces prejudices because he is in a wheelchair. Someone recently remarked that it was amazing that “someone like him, in a wheelchair, could be given a job. He questioned whether Cordle would be able to tell him about the history of the company he worked for.” Despite those stinging remarks, Cordle graciously told the man about the founding of Walmart. What that man didn’t realize was he was talking with someone with a master’s degree who has actually made some of that Walmart history.

Through their combined efforts, Cordle and Smith hope that more people will see a person with unique abilities before they see their disabilities or the wheelchair that carries them.

By Kay Willingham Shiver: Former Editor, Career Pilot Magazine, Former News Editor Berry College Office of Public Information, Former Feature Writer, The Summerville News

Photos by Kelsey Cochran

South Summerville Baptist
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