Looking at the disability economy in its current incarnation, we can see it as a natural extension of the social and political disability civil rights movements that have been instrumental in promoting greater inclusion and of active participation. Yet it is important to understand that the economics of disability, both in its abstract and practical forms, is fluid, and we need to be able to determine not just what that means, but how to think about envisioning a future reality. where disability is central to enhancing the human experience.
Currently, as we examine this new economic reality further, we find key themes that are at the forefront of the conversation. Ideas ranging from accessibility, diversity and inclusion to ESG investing are driving current thinking about how companies are redefining a new disability paradigm. The maxim “Nothing about us without us” is evolving into something beyond its political intent, but a clear call for the organizational culture to consider disability as part of the nomenclature of everyday business practices. It is this transformation that is the mechanism that opens the floodgates to realize the true potential of the market, from the perspective of employment, products and services to workplace design and management strategies. By reframing the world’s largest minority, the disability community can be seen as a vision of experiential learning that opens up a whole new world of possibilities and provides an approach for a company to leverage a tool for an advantage. competitive.
Yet even as this article is written, changes are happening in real time across the business ecosystem in advancing accessible technology, redesigning across a myriad of verticals, engaging with the disability narrative to provide a new perspective on the future of work. Companies can no longer afford to take the philosophy of disability economics lightly. Leadership must embrace professor and writer Adam Grant’s perspective on how to rethink when he states that a level of “…active open-mindedness is needed. It requires looking for reasons why we might be wrong – not why we have to be right – and revising our views based on what we learn. It is this level of vulnerability that will allow organizations to not only seek out other conversations within the disability community, but also see the potential of opportunities from a much broader perspective.
Even as we move forward in this new phase of disability economics, it is essential not to rest on our laurels, but to see that these recent developments only serve as a precursor to a promising future. The question remains, how can the disability economy continue to maintain its growth trajectory, and what does the future hold? To even begin to consider that we need to focus on building a culture where disability economics can separate itself from its roots of social change and political advocacy and see itself as an essential component of creativity and innovation. It is here that disability economics can both fit into the broader cultural milieu of business, but also be recognized as a long-term value game essential to growth.
The future growth of the disability economy depends very much on how society connects to the experience of disability. Businesses need to recognize that the disability narrative is inherent in the human story and the emotional connection is the pathway to establishing future market opportunities. French anthropologist and business consultant Clotaire Rapaille wrote that “emotions are the keys to learning, the keys to imprinting. The stronger the emotion, the more the experience is learned. It is this basic idea that will provide the context for the future development of disability economics. Seeing disability for what it is, part of human variability, opens the door for businesses to normalize disability in new ways to define a growing business opportunity that will continue to transform the way we interact with the world at several levels.
As organizations begin to explore the cultural and social nuances of the disability economy in a more serious way, the next step for leadership is to understand both the complexity and sophistication of what is required to realize its full potential. . The future of the disability economy will depend on leaders being open to change and recognizing that while there is an established disability community, experiencing disability is something they could very well do part, and it’s time to embrace this new philosophy as a function of future business thinking.