My blog today will be centered around one word, innovation. I have been thinking a lot about the relationship between disability and innovation over the past couple of weeks and thought that I would collect a few of these thoughts and put them into blog form. These may come out a little scattered, but that is the beauty of a blog. You can take what you want from it and leave the rest.
Before we go too far, however, it is important that I define my terms. To me, innovation is about thinking outside the box and pushing boundaries. It is about looking at the world in a different way and seeing opportunities that others may not. Innovators are the ones, in my opinion, that make a real difference for the people around them. Disability seems to play right into the same ideas.
In my mind, the concepts of disability and innovation are rather closely linked. When you grow up with a disability, in my case a significant physical one, you often have no choice but to be innovative. When society puts barriers up around you, you have to be innovative in figuring out how to tackle them. When you are discriminated against for employment because of your disability (and yes, this still occurs in 2015) you have to be innovative in the way you address that. Living with a disability means constantly adapting and developing new ways of doing things. That, to me, is innovative thinking.
There are some out there who may say that I am mischaracterizing innovation or disability. Some may say that living with a disability is not about coming up with new ways of doing things it's about changing society so that we get our rights taking care of like everyone else. But when you think about the great innovators of the world, whether it be in science or literature or some other discipline, did they not do what they did to change things on some level? Disability is the same idea and it is only through innovation that we will start to shift the perceptions of those in power.
Since starting my business, I've had a lot of people tell me that my approach to disability, which I am labeling as disability positive, is innovative. Whatever that means for them, I take it as one of the ultimate complements. I believe that disability is a source of innovation and that is a very cool thing.