Approximately 15% of the world’s population is living with a disability, according to the World Bank. While some individuals face challenges brought on by physical disabilities, others are living with varying cognitive disabilities. As much as it cannot be denied that living with any disability will impact your life, it is important to reiterate that a disability does not have to mark the end of someone’s entrepreneurial ambitions. There are, in fact, a number of very inspirational and acclaimed entrepreneurs who are leading successful, fulfilling life in spite of their disabilities.
Author and activist Glenda Watson Hyatt is living proof that a cerebral palsy diagnosis does not have to stand in the way of your success. There are different types of cerebral palsy; Glenda has a serious speech impediment and has to contend with the severe muscle tightness and mobility restrictions that are commonly associated with spastic cerebral palsy. She relies on computerized voice technology for communication. She wrote her entire best-seller, I’ll Do It By Myself, using only her left thumb to type. This impressive feat affectionately earned her the nickname, ‘left thumb blogger’. Although Glenda commenced her school career as part of a small special education class, she was placed in a standard class in high school – and excelled. It is thanks to her own determination, resources made available by cerebral palsy-focussed networks, and the support of her family and friends that Glenda has been able to live a quality life and reach great heights.
During the 1990s, Daymond John made a name for himself as head of the fashion company FUBU. In 2008, he was approached by the ABC network to star as an investor in their new show, Shark Tank. When watching the confident, astute John on the small screen, it is hard to imagine that he is living with a learning disability. Throughout his entire school career, he struggled with reading and spelling. It wasn’t, however, until he was in his thirties and sought out professional medical assistance, that he was diagnosed with dyslexia. John did not allow his dyslexia to stand in the way of his dreams, and believes he became the well-rounded individual he is because he was, unknowingly, forced to develop other skills to compensate for his shortcomings.
Ralph Braun, the late founder of the Braun Corporation, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in 1947 when he was only seven years old. Upon his diagnosis, the family was informed that young Ralph would probably never be able to live an independent life. Being the strong-willed individual that he was, Ralph set out to prove everyone wrong. Before he turned 20, Braun both designed and manufactured the world’s first wheelchair-accessible van with hand controls. In 1991 his company, BraunAbility, also created the first fully-accessible minivan. Braun dedicated his life to making life easier for individuals living with disabilities. He made such an impact on the world that, before his death in 2013, he was named a ‘champion of change’ by U.S. President, Barack Obama.
Living with a disability undoubtedly has its challenges. As long as you remain determined, it is, however, possible to reach great heights and achieve your ambitions – whatever they may be.
The WorkFlow podcast is hosted by Steve Glaveski with a mission to help you unlock your potential to do more great work in far less time, whether you're working as part of a team or flying solo, and to set you up for a richer life.
To help you avoid stepping into these all too common pitfalls, we’ve reflected on our five years as an organization working on corporate innovation programs across the globe, and have prepared 100 DOs and DON’Ts.