Caroline Casey is a global adventurer, compelling and charismatic international speaker. She had everyone buzzing during her keynote at last year's Skoll World Forum. Her home base is Ireland where she founded Kanchi and the O2 Ability Awards. Caroline is an Ashoka colleague. Together with other Ashoka fellows we are developing a global strategy to combat one of the bigger handicaps faced by people with disabilities – attitude! Here is her response to: What would you like to become more visible in 2011? You can also Download Becoming Visible - the complete collection of 58 essays.
The Value of the one Billion member, World Wide Disability market
My answer is definitive and without competition – the value of the one billion people in the world touched by disability.
10 years ago on the 16th of January 2001 I began an extraordinary 1000 km journey across India on an elephant called Kanchi, which is now the name of our organisation. The journey had several aims outside my own ambition to regain my confidence when finally faced with the fact that I was partially sighted. The most vital one being to reframe and reimage disability in a positive way – moving away from the traditional stereotypes of charity, pity, dependency and need to one centred on a person, their abilities, value and unique potential.
My bid to become Mowgli of Walt Disneyʼs Jungle Book started a 10 year passion to see this happen; one that I never for one moment expected would take up just about every waking hour of my life these last 10 years. But the more I began to work on this, the more I discovered that not only, was the disability demographic totally misunderstood but also, shockingly we were virtually absent from the global agenda, with the exception of the UN Convention.
It is hard to understand why, but at leadership levels across the world, be it the World Economic Forum, Clinton Global Initiative, and TED where I recently spoke in Washington, not only does the word disability remain absurdly absent from discussions but it is also rare to see a person with a disability on a panel. I often think it is because unlike other social issues, disability does not have a Bill Gates, a Nelson Mandela or a Bono advocating with and on the behalf of this community. Disability isnʼt even a millennium development goal. Most of THE most powerful foundations in the world do not fund disability initiatives or see the interconnections of disability and other social issues like education and poverty.
I believe we are just about to reach a tipping point and by 2012, burgeoned by the ageing demographic and the advances in assistive technology – disability will be like the new green. Society, business and policy makers will want to harness and include the disability demographic – in a sense its D time or the D advantage!
My organization wants to lead a global disability business movement. If we can fundamentally change the way the business community works with and values people with disabilities, society will naturally follow. Discrimination and exclusion will no longer make sense. This year Kanchi began the globalization of our intensive business programme with The Ability Awards. I donʼt imagine we will stop until every company in the world becomes an Ability Company.
When we gave our organization the name "Kanchi" it was the most appropriate name we could imagine – because disability is like societyʼs elephant in the room. I am hoping that this name will soon no longer be fitting and that the elephant will finally leave the room so that there is space for everyone to be included!
To download Caroline's contribution to the Ashoka book, Creating Change – Innovations in the World of Disability see my blog post: Global Disability Initiative.
Please share and distribute to your friends and through your various networks, websites etc. I think you will agree – these are too good to keep to ourselves.