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THINKING - October 2012

I've spent a lot of time lately on my new project, Plus Black, and, thinking about providing goods and services to women with changeable physical needs, I have become horribly aware of the wide and varied skill-set required to:

  • identify where existing product falls short
  • provide creative input in finding palatable (I.e. normalised) solutions to said product gap, and,
  • design and make prototype product to assess the workability of new ideas.

And, all this is even before reaching the point of considering size, volumes, production, marketing, distribution and selling to the wider public.  Wow, no wonder the disability market is so badly serviced – massive range of specific-to-the-individual problems AND considered unprofitable!

Lucky for me, I am not even considering going to the extreme ends of such problem solving but am focussing on style that is able to accommodate some of the more common physical problems – such as, dexterity/mobility issues, swollen limbs and bodies, incontinence products and managing health inconveniences whether short or long-term – don’t get your hopes up though as it’s a slow process and can’t all be done at once, sadly.

As I was considering the best way to progress, I realised that I need a people hub – to commission services for a project or on a pay per hour basis.  So, I went online and, of course, there is one for freelancers:  People per Hour.  Great looking hub and there are others too.  I could use it but what I really want are people who understand the problems I am trying to solve and I know that’s not most people.  What to do?

It occurred to me that the UK could do with an online hub where people with disabilities sell their services, like the people per hour.  It would empower both parties, generating income and job control for people who find regular employment tricky for whatever reason and it would work a treat for a lot of entrepreneurs, like me and my mates.  Is it discriminatory to be pro-disability in this way?  I have no idea.

With my start-up idea, I’d actually prefer to use people on an hourly basis working from their own home on a contract basis.  People who might only be able to work part-time, unsocial or erratic hours, who need flexibility and, most of all, who get what I am trying to do.  As a person living with chronic illness and severe physical impairment, I understand and am able to work around these things.  Win-win, no? But even if I were not disabled myself, this would be a mechanism to provide employment that, OK, is a bit outside the box but there are a lot of freelancers who aren't disabled so it's not that far out there. Why not extend the benefits of self employment to all and encourage employers and entrepreneurs to give disabled workers a chance they might not otherwise get? Potentially, it might break down so many barriers on both sides of the employment divide.

At the back of my mind, I remember that one of the most important factors in empowering Black Americans during the civil rights movement was in establishing funds for black people to set up businesses and then for the black population to choose to spend their money in these businesses.  Whilst I am not saying the generic positions of civil rights and disability are comparable there is the germ of something here that is relevant to servicing the product demands of physical difference especially when considering consumer demand versus the basic essentials of need.

I would love to find other people with disabilities to help with the creative and practical aspects of my product/project.  I think they’d be really good at it and I’m sure there are many with relevant ideas and skills out there. I really do think there are other employers and entrepreneurs who would be willing to try employing on this basis and who knows where it might lead. But how to put them in contact?  Disability hub.

Designers in clothes, accessories, shoes, equipment; illustrator, photographers, web geeks, marketeers, oh, and so many others.  Disability, illness, accident, change – it affects us all.  If you understand where I am at, know people who might be interested, contact them, me, do what you can.  It’s good to share and better to make a difference. Empowering – why would we not?

creative thinking
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