Move Beyond the Limits

Imagine that you are redesigning the local supermarket. What would you change?

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Caroline Casey,  is an example of a social entrepreneur and pioneer who challenges our attitudes about how we think and look at people’s abilities – whatever their conditions.

Caroline was appointed Ashoka Fellow of the social entrepreneurship organization Ashoka for her work in ways to make visible the problems that disabled people encounter in society. Like society in general, businesses often see people with disabilities for what they cannot do. By changing and challenging this perception the group can be seen as a group that can contribute to society.

Social innovators try to challenge perspectives and there are several examples of using disabled people to carry out work, for example, forensic speech readers are often deaf or come from deaf families.

“A designer is often challenged to engage in collaborative projects where the user of the service is involved in the design of the service. For example, in Denmark mentally handicapped took part in workshops where they cut out images from magazines and made a collage of the kinds of activities they wanted. Several ideas from these workshops turned into practice, such as a new shop to sell crafts. Being involved in the generation and development of the ideas made the service users feel more satisfied with the service that they were provided with.” Design and Social Innovation

She has developed a “best practice” to change people’s view of disability, which is used by hundreds of organisations worldwide. She has also developed a series of programmes that highlight the contributions that the disabled people make and she is building a network of organisations that demonstrate and promote best practices in employing the disabled. Organisations are increasingly realising that employing a diverse workforce is an advantage since the company can gain different perspectives and ideas on designing products and services.

In the  TED talk below Caroline describes her journey that includes carrying out a 1,000 km trek through southern India to become a mahout (elephant driver). On this journey, she managed not only to complete their journey but also to collect 250,000 Euro to The Irish National Council for the Blind and Sightsavers International. Caroline was a child who experienced the world through glasses. She learned that she was visually impaired and on her 17th birthday she was considered legally blind only on her 17th birthday.

Caroline’s journey was filled with obstacles but in the inspirational talk below she asks us all to move beyond the limits we may think we have.

Go here to read about Social Innovation in Slovakia, a post that talks about designing cash machines for visually impaired people – audio cash machine.

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