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The Disabled List

We are the Original Life Hackers.

Our passion and drive, and most importantly, our creativity, have been known to change the world. And the world is beginning to see us. But nobody knows how to reach us. Or talk to us. Or be with us.

We acknowledge that collaborating with us requires bravery and communication, but you will be on the front lines of innovation with us.

We’re here to show you the power of the exception.

The Disabled List features creative disabled people who are available to collaborate on projects, ideas and products. If you are interested in speaking with anyone on The Disabled List or if you would like to be featured, please reach out. To get to know members of The Disabled List, follow on Twitter and Instagram.

We can’t wait to hack life with you.

Shannon Finnegan

Shannon Finnegan

Describe your headshot. In this portrait, I’m facing askew from the camera and smiling slightly. I have medium-length wavy blonde hair. I’m wearing a shirt with a pattern of white squiggles on black paired with bright blue dress pants.

What is your craft? I’m an artist. My practice involves a mix of drawing, typography, graphic design, installation design, and writing. My focus is always on how to surprise and connect with viewers.

What are you working on? I’m getting ready to re-open a site-specific installation I created for the Wassaic Project called Anti-Stairs Club Lounge. The lounge is a response to the inaccessibility of the Wassaic Project’s exhibition space, which includes seven flights of stairs. I’m designing a line of museum furniture (working title: Do you want us here or not?). For example, a wooden bench with large text reading “This exhibition has asked me to stand for too long. Sit if you agree.” I’m interviewing fellow disabled people working towards a series of portraits. Each portrait will be a set of hand-drawn snippets of text based on the person’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

What’s your favorite life hack? Sending postcards when a friend is going through a hard time.

What is disability? For me, disability is a way to better understand myself and how my experience is linked to a community.

You can find Shannon on Instagram, Twitter and her website!

Sugandha Gupta

Sugandha Gupta

Describe your headshot. I am facing the camera with a big smile on my face. I am surrounded by my work.

What is your craft? I create immersive experiences for my audience through dramatic sensory elements embedded in my textiles and wearables. I want to push boundaries by creating tactile pieces that transform through touch over a period of time. I hope to break the stigma of experiencing art only through sight. I believe that we gain a holistic perception of the world through all our senses and therefore must have more ways of learning and seeing, which are not just sight centric, but involve other senses.

What are you working on? I am investigating and transforming different kinds of and materials such as, wool, paper, rope, silk, cotton and banana fibers to create elaborate shapes and textures. Using fabric construction, manipulation and embellishment techniques, I produce textiles and wearables that engage two or more senses at a time. The overemphasis on the use of sight has prevented us from acquiring information through the engagement of all our senses. Through these multi-sensory textiles, I hope to be more inclusive and have an audience experience work in a new way.

What’s your favorite life hack? Born with Albinism a genetic condition, I have photophobia, low vision, and sensitivity to sun’s rays. Growing up with a disability in India (that was visible), I had to constantly adapt myself and find alternate ways of handling various situations. While in my undergrad I was faced with the challenges of learning textile processes such as sewing, weaving, cutting fabric, embroidering and making print and patterns. In a country with a rich heritage of textiles with such fine fabrics that can even pass through a ring and embroidery so fine that it camouflages with the fabric, the standards of what is beautiful were set high.

My first life-altering hack was to understand accept my limitations so that I could find my strengths. The next step was to understand what are the existing products that I could relate to with my vision. Some such products are rugs, baskets, coarse furnishing textiles and quilts. Then I figured what kind of yarn thicknesses, tools I can work with to unlearn the approach being taught and re-learn it my way. The final step was execution and delving into the process. When you jump into the ocean the only way to survive is to swim. Therefore, determination, do or die attitude and hard work were the key ingredients of my hack recipe. When I combined all these steps and ingredients, I created a system I like to call ‘working with workarounds’. This is how I now function in my day to day life when faced with any challenge or a difficult situation

What is disability? Disability for me is the ability to see beyond the conventions of what the world defines as normal. My normal is that I have low vision, which allows me to ignore all the unwanted details that sighted people can see. I have been gifted with the vision to find beauty in imperfection. I feel that disability actually is an opportunity to explore one’s body to find its best potential. Disability is synonymous with diligence, persistence, resilience, endurance and courage.

You can find Sugandha on Instagram and her website!

Jerron Herman

Jerron Herman Dl

Describe your headshot. Jerron faces camera head on wearing a grey shirt and a full beard, his brows slightly furrow

What is your craft? I’m a storyteller and I straddle between dance and theater, but in very different ways. In dance, I am a performer, front facing and onstage; as a writer, I am more a facilitator, happy to construct narratives I do not have to play myself. Eventually these two will coalesce, for now I’m glad for their silos.

What are you working on? I’m a principal dancer with Heidi Latsky Dance and we are continually creating a public art installation called ON DISPLAY, a commentary on the body as spectacle featuring 15-35 diverse performers as sculptures in a garden that has different iterations for different populations/environments. For example, we do ON DISPLAY GLOBAL every year in honor of Intl Day of Persons with Disabilities at the UN & NYU; 25 cities joined us last year by replicating ON DISPLAY in their community.

I just wrote a play, 2 Bodies, for the inaugural The Apothetae/Lark Play Development Lab Playwriting fellowship and am working on getting a reading of it. The play largely takes place in a rock-climbing gym and exclusively features 3 disabled characters.

What’s your favorite life hack? I pre-button or pre-roll sleeves on my right side prior to putting the shirt on

What is disability? Disability is a state and for those who remain in it longest or never new otherwise, it is an atmosphere. Disability is a call to adapt, not specifically to the world’s design, but through one’s own entrance. It spurs the creative mind to create hacks, edits, translations, but it is also a hum: internal knowing of one’s body – constant pain, erratic spasm, or the ecstatic feeling of relief/release.

Is there a question you wish I would have asked? If so, please ask and answer. Boxers or briefs? That’s inappropriate. Briefs, though.

You can find Jerron on Instagram, Heidi Latsky Dance and this Great Big Story.

Emily Ladau

Emily Ladau Dl

Describe your headshot. A white woman with curly brown hair in a ponytail and glasses is sitting in a power wheelchair that is partially visible. Her head is slightly tilted, she is smiling, and her hands are resting in her lap. She is wearing a maroon sweater with light gray polka dots and dark gray pants.

What is your craft? I am a writer, speaker, communications consultant, and disability rights activist. I am passionate about harnessing the powers of communication and social media as tools for people of all abilities to become informed and engaged about disability and social justice issues.

What are you working on? I write and speak regularly about a range of disability-focused topics, and work both with non-profits and a federal contracting firm. I serve as the Editor in Chief of the blog for Rooted in Rights, an initiative that centers and amplifies the perspectives of disabled people through authentic storytelling.

What’s your favorite life hack? I like to use what’s around me to make my environment work for me. My favorite example, borrowed from my mom, who has the same disability as me, is to use a pair of kitchen tongs to reach things that are too high up or that I’ve dropped. I often travel with tongs, which make for an interesting addition to my suitcase.

What is disability? Disability is a state of being. It is a culture, a community, an identity. It is also far too often misunderstood as a source of shame, a negative aspect of existence.

You can follow Emily on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

Andraéa LaVant

Andraea Lavant Dl

Describe your headshot: An African-American woman’s head is slightly tilted to the left (her signature pose). Her deep brown and caramel-colored highlighted hair curls are swept to the left. She is wearing modest eyeshadow and burnt orange lipstick. Her shirt is a seafoam green/blue sheath, and her beaded necklace includes bold colors such as yellow, teal, and hot pink.

What is your craft? I can’t say I’ve mastered this, but my GOAL is to empower all people, specifically people with disabilities, to embrace EVERY aspect of who they are. This may mean advocating through written pieces and public speaking, sketching designs for future disability-focused products, or spending hours in my closet putting together outfits or makeup looks that make me feel great and motivate others to do the same!

What are you working on? I’m always creating and attempting to make my voice heard. In my day-to-day, I’m creating and implementing quality programs for youth of all abilities. I’m also currently trying to figure out the best way to get some of my disability-focused fashions designed with limited resources. Lack of access to appropriate knowledge, people, and funding can be barriers for people with disabilities moving forward with their ideas…but, in the meantime, I’m always continuing to create.

What’s your favorite life hack? Taking items meant for one purpose and giving them a disability/mobility-related purpose. For example, I was having issues increasing my water intake due to my inability to hold a water bottle on my “weak muscle days.” I recently started placing a hiker’s hydration backpack on the back of my wheelchair, and now I’m drinking more than two liters of water a day!

What is disability? DIVERSITY. There is no better definition of diversity than disability, as you will find no one person whose disability looks or feels EXACTLY like their neighbor’s. Thus, disability is an impetus for creativity and open-mindedness. It challenges our ways of thinking, and I LOVE THAT!

You can follow Andraéa on Twitter and Instagram.

KR Liu

Kr Liu Dl

Describe your headshot: A white woman with short blonde hair and dark brown eyes, facing slightly away from the camera, but looking directly into it. Wearing a black shirt, a necklace and two earrings in her left lobe. Photo was taken at The White House.

What is your craft? I have a deep passion for helping others, combined with my work as a passionate advocate for hearing loss access, gender equality, and the LGBTQ community; it has given me the opportunity to push for inclusion for everyone. I lead talks at multiple events a year, having been invited to speak at the White House, the UN, and on Capitol Hill to push for a more accessible world for all. Diagnosed with severe hearing loss at the age of three, I have made it my life’s work to be a strong advocate and voice championing the way we connect in the world over the last two decades.

What are you working on? Being a voice for disability inclusion and equality for the hard of hearing and LGBTQ community in the workplace.

What is disability? Disabled people are the creative thinkers and the ones who look at the world differently. Because of that, we are some of the best change-makers in the world.

You can follow KR Liu on Twitter.

Lawrence Carter Long

Lawrence Carter Long

Describe your headshot. LCL is shown, on stage, seated on a stool giving a speech. Looking fired up and passionate about the topic, his right hand is outstretched at shoulder level, fingers extended. His left arm is resting on his right leg which is bent at the knee. His right foot is resting on a support bar of the stool. Left leg is extended to he side of the stool under his right arm.

What is your craft? People tell me I’m difficult to peg or to pin down – sometimes tough to categorize - and that’s the way I like it. Whatever I am working on at the moment feels like the most important thing. That’s how I keep growing as an artist, and as a person. My career path always seems to involve media and communications, but if I had to pick a constant it would be words. I love language. Absolutely adore wordplay. All the various things words can mean and the ever-expanding ways in which we use them. How all of that can change – whammo! – like that due to experience, context or geography.

What are you working on? So much! After six years in public service, I moved to Oakland California last Summer to join the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund as their first-ever Director of Communications. Loving it here. Learning a lot from my colleagues. Really enjoyed my time in government, but circumstances told me it was time to get back to my activist roots. Mix it up. I’m still transitioning but definitely enjoying more engagement with other activists, and the public. Really enjoying being out and about: Conducting workshops, giving keynotes, going to conferences, leaning into audio production, supporting others, discovering ways to make a meaningful contribution in this new environment.

What is your favorite life hack? I’m constantly shifting, searching, analyzing things so while it might seem counter-intuitive my favorite life hack involves slowing that process down. Meditating. Sitting with things that my mind doesn’t want to deal withm and often wants to escape. To people who have not done it, meditation has this stereotyple of being blissful, calming, but in my experience, it is nothing of the sort. Sometimes there is nothing more excrutiating—and more necessary—than sitting alone with nothing to distract you. Nothing to focus on but the static between your ears. I can’t explain the tangible benefits exactly but I seem to function better, be less triggered or reactive when I manage to mediate regularly. Ask anybody I’ve ever dated and they’ll confirm.

What is disability? Ahhhh, back to words! For most of human existence, to most folks disability was just a diagnosis. That was it. Something better off cured, cut out, or just plain ignored or erased. Thankfully, times have changed. These days the definition of disability has evolved to encompass much more. Today, we know that disability is a culture, a multitude of diverse communities, a key part of a person’s identity. Politically, we are a constituency. Multiple definitions exist, but one thing is certain, disability is no longer something people feel they need to be ashamed or rid of. Most of society has moved past that mess. And, as a result, the word has too. Fail to realize that and you signal to the rest of the world that your understanding of disability is stuck in the past.

In an topsy-turvy world, with many things tossed upside down, or when faced with despair, what keeps you going? Reminders that I am not alone help tremendously even from afar. Face time with loved ones. Being in the physical presence of others who “get it.” Sabbaticals away from events that dominate the news cycle. Consciously immersing myself in worlds that are not this one. Making time to learn from, enjoy, and appreciate words, movies, music, and perspectives that are not my own all make doing “the work” possible. Each nourishes and informs the other.

You can follow LCL on Twitter.

Jessica Oddi

Jessica Oddi

Describe your headshot. A candid portrait of Jessica from the waist up, sitting in her motorized wheelchair at a cafe with her work and laptop spread across the table. She is smiling and looking off into the distance while holding a coffee mug with both hands. Jessica has medium length dark brown hair, and wearing a teal blue high neck peplum shirt.

What is your craft? I’m a freelance graphic artist, focusing on design, websites, invitations, and illustration! While my day-to-day work involves helping clients achieve their branding goals, I also love getting involved in creative projects that promote disability awareness and empowerment. In my spare time, I co-run the The Disabled Life blog along side my sister Lianna, where we document the perks and jerks of our lives with disabilities through comics and humour.

What are you working on? One of the exciting aspects of my field is the opportunity to work for vastly different professions simultaneously. Currently I’m juggling about six projects, from wedding invitations to complete branding packages for a few start-up businesses.

What’s your favorite life hack? Using the talk-to-text function on my phone to dictate messages, which is especially useful when my hands are too frozen to function in the cold.

What is disability? Disability is as unique as each individual’s personal life. For me, it’s been empowerment, empathy, acceptance, and a chance to see the world in a an unconventional way. It’s such a part of me, and yet so much bigger than that. It’s a community of amazing individuals that connects us all through sharing such vast perspectives and experiences.

What are some unconventional talents that people might not think of? My ability to predict and navigate through the movements of able-bodied people in crowds, to avoid any collisions. As well as finding unique ways to handle accessibility issues. Examples include: using my head to hit door open buttons that are too high, or disposing of gum with flawless aim through the art of spitting them into garbage cans that are out of arm’s reach.

You can find Jessica on her website, her Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

Elise Roy

Elise Roy Dl

Describe your headshot: Elise smiling, in a dress shirt with short hair.

What is your craft? Inclusive design strategy. I help organizations identify gaps that exist in their services or product and design solutions around them. Often the result is not only a more inclusive service or product but also a better solution for everyone.

What are you working on? Everything! Advising the first full accessible downtown in the U.S., advising companies on how to adapt products to be more inclusive, delivering workshops that teach Human-Centered Design from a disability perspective and using this to help organizations focus on how disabilities can be an asset in their problem solving processes.

What’s your favorite life hack? That’s tough. There are so many great hacks out there. One of my favorite’s is using a bike to purify water. Safe water is so important in the developing world - 3.75 million people die each year from water related diseases.

What is disability? Disabled people experience the world in a different way and this allows us to see solutions that others would never recognize.

You can follow Elise on Twitter, and her website. Also, don’t miss her TED Talk.

Nicolas Steenhout

Nicolas Steenhout

Describe your headshot. Head and shoulder photograph of Nic looking forward. Nic is smiling and looking thoughtful. He has brown short hair and a beard. He wears a light blue dress shirt over a dark blue t-shirt.

What is your craft? I’m a teacher - but not in the ‘classroom teaching’ sense. I share my knowledge and passion for inclusion and accessibility. I’m a public speaker, a podcaster, a trainer, and a consultant. I love to see that spark of understanding in people’s eyes when, suddenly, they get why inclusion is important. Or when it dawns on them that accessibility is good for everyone. That it’s even good for themselves.

What are you working on? I have lots of irons in the fire! My biggest ongoing project is The A11y Rules podcast. The podcast is a series of conversations with people involved one way or another with accessibility. I also host a related series where people with disabilities talk about the barriers they encounter on the web. I do public speaking at corporate events and tech conferences. I’m also doing web accessibility audits. And I train designers, developers, and quality assurance testing teams.

What’s your favorite life hack? Using my mobile phone’s camera as a magnifier to be able to read the myriad of small text on labels and documents. This helps particularly when the color contrast isn’t good enough! I like using technology that was originally designed to help people with disabilities, which has since gone mainstream. Things like voice to text (think Siri), or large-handled utensils. I am fascinated by the cycle of products initially designed to create access, that go mainstream, and are then re-adapted by the disability community.

What is disability? A disability is a difference. I adhere to the social model of disability. Basically, a disability is when our environment forbids us from doing what we need to do. For example, using a wheelchair isn’t a disability. A building with no level access is disabling. I would like to flip on the head the negative perceptions of disability. To help people understand that disability is just another factor that is part of people. And that is true whether the condition is temporary or permanent.

You can find Nic on Twitter, LinkedIn and his personal website. Click here to check out his podcast.

Alice Wong

Alice Wong Dl

Describe your headshot: An Asian American woman wearing a mask over her nose attached to tube connected to a BiPAP machine. She has medium-length black hair and wearing red lipstick. She’s wearing a black scarf and jacket and behind her is a wall with brightly colored street art.

What is your craft? Interviewing, storytelling, Tweeting, and podcasting.

What are you working on? Building an online archive of oral histories featuring disabled people as part of the Disability Visibility Project®. Creating online communities for the DVP and as a co-partner in #CripTheVote, an online movement encouraging the political participation of disabled people.

What’s your favorite life hack? Saying no to unreasonable demands of my time and labor.

What is disability? To paraphrase Neil Marcus, disability is an art.

You can follow Alice on her personal Twitter account, the Disability Visibility Project Twitter account, and the Disability Visibility Project website.