Celebrate Disability Pride Month with 5 Entrepreneurs Making a Difference and Making History
Disability Pride Flag 2021
(Green: Sensory Disabilities; Blue: Emotional/Psychiatric Disabilities; White: Non-Visible/Undiagnosed Disabilities; Yellow: Neurodiversity; Red: Physical Disabilities)
Before July winds down, we must recognize and celebrate Disability Pride Month. Only 33 years ago this month, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the workplace, transportation and several other programs and services. Since its inception, the act has grown to include people living with certain diseases like HIV, as well as gender dysphoria. Over the last decade, we have seen a growth in entrepreneurs whose disabilities did not limit them from spreading awareness and catering to their communities.
Krystle Allen (Founder) Naquela Wright (Co-Founder)
(photos courtesy of eyeslikemine.com)
In 2010, Naquela Wright woke up blind in one eye and would be diagnosed with pseudotumor cerebri at 18 years old. Later that same year, the Newark native attended the Joseph Krone Training Center to learn how to function as a blind person and fate would lead her to meet Krystle Allen, also attending the school after losing her eyesight. Four years later, the two partnered to launch Eyes Like Mine, a non-profit organization to “empower, enlighten and innovate communities in New Jersey about vision loss”. Last year, Wright and Allen were the subject of Blind Divas, a documentary detailing their entrepreneurship and determination to uplift the blind community.
(photo courtesy of lavantconsultinginc.com)
Self-proclaimed “inclusion expert”, Andraéa Lavant founded Lavant Consulting Inc., after spending over a decade supporting other disability focused programs. As the president, her social impact communications firm provides insight and helps brands “speak disability with confidence.” In 2020, Lavant, who lives with muscular dystrophy, served as the impact producer for the Oscar nominated and Barack and Michelle Obama executive produced film, Crip Camp. As a result, Andraéa became the first visibly disabled Black woman on the Oscars’ red carpet.
(photo courtesy of girlschronicallyrock.com)
Inspired by her own battle with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, Keisha Greaves had a passion for fashion before her diagnosis in graduate school. Earning her Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising, from Framingham State University, Greaves was already in position to launch her own t-shirt line, Girls Chronically Rock, to motivate others who suffer from chronic illnesses. The Cambridge, Mass native plans on continuing to expand the line to include adaptive clothing, writing, …”the more people who make adaptive clothing available, the easier access will be and the more fashionable it will be.”
(photo credit disabilitywithoutpoverty.com)
Jamaican born, Andrea Zackary, lost her hearing at only 25 years old, changing her entire world. But she took matters into her own hands after losing her job and realizing that her daughter was being bullied for being a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults). “My daughter needed to know she wasn’t alone," Zackary explained to womenofinfluence.ca. In 2014, the supermom and former Olympian kicked off her first family day event that was all accessible to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, and just like that, Def Events & Beyond Inc. was born. Although her events business was impacted by COVID-19, the Canadian native continues to work towards the goal of building a “Deaf Hub” which she describes as a "multi-purpose space for social events, parties, meetings and a cafe, where Deaf folks can…feel connected".
Aaliyah Alicia Thompson
(photo courtesy of aaliyahbeautybar.com)
History maker, Aaliyah Alicia Thompson, became the first woman with autism to open up a beauty bar, located in Stockbridge, GA. Diagnosed with autism at the age of 5, Aaliyah who was an honor student, fell in love with the beauty business while working for Touched By an Angel Beauty School. Last year, with the push of her mother, Aaliyah opened her own establishment , Aaliyah’s Beauty Bar, focusing on nails, hair and make-up.
Cheers to these extraordinary trailblazers not just in July, but all year round!