Part One: Creating A New Normal For A New Decade
At the most recent Democratic Presidential Debate this December, candidate Andrew Yang stood on stage before a nationally televised audience and in talking about his son who has special needs declared that disability will become the new normal. While this statement may seem radical to some, it is a truism that needs to be embraced in the coming decade and beyond. Disability is not only part of the human condition, it is an essential mechanism in the worlds of business, innovation and culture that will be a basic necessity for the continued evolution of each of these areas and be a central player in shaping society as a whole.
The futurist goal is to celebrate change, innovation, and originality through culture and society. As we look toward exploring predictions and possibilities for what will impact the future of the next decade it is essential that we take the following step in the natural evolution of disability as it continues to intersect between critical elements that define the society we live in. Disability must step beyond advocacy and be embedded in the very fabric of our society. It is only then when disability takes its rightful place as a new normal. To establish this foundation, the column will briefly examine several aspects of society that are at the epicenter of this paradigm shift creating a new sense of reality. In Part One, we look at the aspect of demographics, business, and innovation which provide touchstones for society to reinterpret disability and a way for business to seize upon the economic potential that this community can offer.
A futurist vision relies on a set of established data points that can help foster educated guesses for the outcome of what lies ahead. Entering this new decade, we see that it is no longer tenable for disability to be viewed from the perspective of the outsider. We have shown in previous Mindset Matter columns that the disability community is growing exponentially and will continue to grow across the globe through all facets of society. In the United States alone close to a quarter of the population are those with disabilities and a global footprint of over 1.3 billion people.
This critical information should not remain solely in the domain of statisticians and government officials to help craft and implement policy but should serve as the foundation for businesses to see the value that disability plays in the organizational environment of the next decade. If disability will become the new normal, businesses must be ready to take on a new philosophical stance that looks at how to reinterpret their own culture and integrate disability as a central focal point to help determine their future success.
This new normal needs to build off these demographics and rethink the value of disability to the future of their business strategy. Aligning their corporate culture and values with the changing definitions of disability in the new decade is essential for creating a framework of success on every level of the corporate structure, both internally and externally. In this new decade true leadership will not only see how the lived disability experience can be a valued asset in helping to define solutions from job design, talent management and other internal challenges, this new definition of disability will provide a spark to push businesses to not only embrace this new reality but also enlighten the potential of a market that should no longer be a niche, but very much part of the mainstream. In this new decade, businesses will finally come to their senses and see that supporting disability is not just a charitable endeavor, but rather a true business strategy that will open up new market opportunities and create an era of innovation that is essential for the growth and competitive advantage for any company in the decade ahead.
The lived experience of disability is predicated by innovation. Persons with disabilities have always had to adapt to the society around them, rather than society having to adapt to them. However, since the passing of numerous civil rights legislation across the globe from the Americans with Disabilities Act to United Nations Convention for The Rights of Persons with Disabilities there has been a shift which has lead to the push for new architectural design and a movement for Smart Cities that focuses on redefining an inclusive environment that is accessible for all. However, it is worth noting that persons with disabilities have always been deeply involved with the culture of innovation. As stated in previous Mindset Matters columns the numbers of entrepreneurs and founders who deal with learning disabilities, mental health issues far exceed the national average and understand that it is because of there very disability that innovation is essential to not only to their personal growth, but also creating new innovative ideas that can be shared.
Developing a philosophical concept that creates a new normal is not an easy one. Here we are trying to start the conversation rolling for 2020 and think long and hard about what will be needed to push this forward. In Part Two, we will take a closer look solely at culture and why film, television, advertising and technology can be the great equalizer and most powerful tool for normalizing our understanding of disability.