Society was created for individuals with specific physical abilities. Some disability advocates would argue that this reality has bred ingenuity and adaptability among disabled people that drives innovative, technological change. Join Washington Post Live for a conversation that explores how disability drives innovation featuring founder and CEO of Tilting the Lens Sinéad Burke, entrepreneur Wesley Hamilton and architect Jeffrey Mansfield.

Highlights

“You start to see these overlapping layers of how our society defines disability and how our society sees the investment and commitment of the state to serve disabled people early on as a symbol of civic value…These institutions were constructed and built to promote a sense of civic pride, societal virtues, and they’re intended to inspire general confidence… But what’s really interesting, these buildings, these ornate facilities, they are beautiful but these buildings were not necessarily designed to the sensory experience of deaf and hard of hearing users.” (Washington Post Live)
“How do we create space that connects to cultural remembrance of those who are deaf and the deaf community? So for example, how do we capitalize on design as a tool to uplift the fact that our community is not a monolith but is very intersectional in its individuals, in its community experience, in its overlapping layers… This is a foundational piece.” (Washington Post Live)
“The way in which fashion creates and builds influence is from the top down. So being on the global equity board at a company like Gucci, which has a public valuation of over $10 billion dollars, by Gucci partnering with James Lebrecht, a physically disabled director at the Oscars, by dressing him in a custom suit that was adaptive and accessible for his needs at a moment like the Oscars, that has value.” (Washington Post Live)
“I’ve dealt with being overweight my whole life, I just didn’t really understand the severity of my health until I became paralyzed from the waist down… Just being overweight in a wheelchair and the lack of access when it comes to facilities really just put me in a deeper hole… because I had to deal with the health complications that you deal with… with limited mobility.” (Washington Post Live)
“For anybody who identifies as a woman or chooses to wear a dress, we will all have had an experience where once in our lives we have probably had to sleep in that dress. And that’s because… a dress is largely designed with a long zip at the back… All people who wear dresses would benefit from an adaptive dress, meaning, let’s remove the zip from the back.” (Washington Post Live)
“With the pandemic and awareness that even with the barriers in facilities they still wouldn’t accept us, I created a space that spoke to the physical disabilities that I was aware of outside of my own and created it in a sense that it was built on empowerment for those that are… part of this community.” (Washington Post Live)

Sinéad Burke

Sinéad Burke is the Founder and CEO of Tilting the Lens, a consultancy that brings visibility to inaccessibility, advising global brands including Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Starbucks in their move from awareness to action.

Wesley Hamilton

Wesley Hamilton transformed from a victim into a victor. A random shooting caused his spinal cord injury, leaving him in a wheelchair and profoundly depressed. But Wesley discovered a passion for fitness and nutrition that propelled him out of the dark and into the world of adaptive athletics. Motivated to give back, he established a philanthropy to improve physical and mental health for all. Wesley has won not only numerous awards, but also hearts across the world. He captivates audiences with irresistible messages on the power of self-love, resilience, and change. As Wesley declared, “The highest human act is to inspire. And that is my purpose in life.”

Jeffrey Mansfield

Jeffrey Yasuo Mansfield is a design director at MASS Design Group and a Ford-Mellon Disability Futures fellow, whose work explores the relationships between architecture, landscape, and power. Jeffrey is a recipient of a Graham Foundation grant and a John W. Kluge Fellowship at the Library of Congress for his work on The Architecture of Deafness and co-author of The Architecture of Health. Jeffrey holds a Master of Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and an AB in Architecture from Princeton University. Deaf since birth, Jeffrey is a Yonsei, or fourth-generation, Japanese American, and attended a deaf school in Massachusetts, where his earliest intuitions about the relationship between buildings and society emerged.