• Olawale Ogunlana

We are all Disabled Persons



Oh yes, gotcha! You read that right.

But stay with me, hear me out.

What comes to mind when you hear "disability" or "a disabled person?" Unfortunately, chances are highly likely for you to quickly assume a shallow limit to such a person's output and contribution to any given interaction deemed normal in non-disabled persons. By definition, disability is primarily a physical, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person's ability to engage in specific tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions. However, this definition broadly applies only to people born or living with high degrees of disabilities.

What comes to mind when you hear the term “disability” or “a disabled person?”

For instance, going by this definition, how should we classify a 45-year-old "non-disabled" man who developed a sudden severe stroke and is confined to assistive rehabilitation? Or how should we call a 50-year-old "non-disabled" woman who experienced a sudden loss of vision, as 73% of older adults (aged 50 years and above) will experience vision loss/sight as they age, requiring visual assistance? Or a 20-year-old young man who needs a pacemaker for his heart to function correctly? Are they disabled? No?

You see where I'm going with this already.


It takes me back to the title of this newsletter. People with high degree of disabilities are among the most neglected and disenfranchised people on the planet. The reason why this hasn't changed much is because of our current worldview about disability. But then, as you probably understand, disability is relative, as it should be. We are all (and can become) disabled persons with varying degrees. And it's not much of a disability problem as it is an accessibility problem.

Disability is relative

According to the World Health Organization, by 2030, over a billion people will require an assistive product; however, only 1 out of 10 persons have access to an assistive product today. That a person was born with a high degree of disability shouldn't be a reason for them to be disenfranchised from life's most significant opportunities. And you know what can help us all, across the spectrum of disability, to level up? You guessed right. Technology.

This is why I am excited about the Assistive Technology Industry. It is reshaping the narrative about disability. Companies today are leveling the playing field for people with disabilities, using technology to provide them the necessary tools they need to interact with the World as we usually would. And this is a growing trend in developed countries.

According to the World Health Organization, by 2030, over a billion people will require an assistive product; however, only 1 out of 10 persons have access to an assistive product today.

According to the AssitiveTech in the UK Report by Deep Knowledge Philanthropy, in the United Kingdom, its National Disability Strategy is aimed at building ecosystems that allow people with disabilities "participate fully in all aspects of life" and increase their opportunities for social integration, education, and potential for meaningful employment. This strategy can potentially impact 14.1 million people living with accessibility challenges in the UK, boosting the economy in return. Furthermore, this strategy has allowed Assistive Tech startups like Gripable (a unique and exciting rehabilitative tech startup) to thrive and access the proper funding and talented workforce. So, can we replicate this strategy in other countries of the World, including developing countries like countries in Africa, where people with disabilities live on the edge as outcasts of society?

Technology should be inclusive for everyone; this way, it can act as a leveler, allowing people with higher degrees of accessibility challenges have an equal (or near equivalent) playing field as they interact with the World around them. We all require technology to "level up" at some point; people with severe disabilities should not be left out of it. A breakthrough in assistive technology is a breakthrough not only for people with a high degree of disability but a breakthrough for us all.

Across the World, we must continue pushing and advocating for a level playing field for all through technology. I firmly believe that with the existence and development of the Assistive Tech Industry, the term "disability" will cease to exist.

To read more about the role of Assistive Technology in the UK, check out this report.

Technology should be inclusive for everyone; this way, it can act as a leveler, allowing people with higher degrees of accessibility challenges have an equal (or near equivalent) playing field as they interact with the World around them.

How do you plan to use technology to make the World better for people?