A call to ACTION

Today, one billion people, about 15% of the world population suffer from some form of physical, cognitive, or health-related impairment primarily labeled as handicapped or disabled.  After my own experience of having three legally blind siblings and now a 5-year-old boy who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy, I became aware of the social stigma posed on those who are considered different and often less than.  The term disability not only catalogs a person as lacking ability, and therefore rendered useless or incapable of providing a positive contribution to society, but often viewed as a strain and burden to society.  Those unfamiliar with the daily living challenges are brought up with such a notion.  I find the lack of knowledge and understanding of the various challenges faced by millions of individuals around the world, the reason society renders the term DISABLED as the adjective to describe these individuals. True disability, in fact, only occurs when the soul and spirit of a person are crushed and mangled by the labels and perceptions of an archaic society. Such occurrences can happen to even those labeled as typical lead by the lack of motivation and negative connotations given to a person throughout their lives.

Moreover, after realizing all the advancements, we have made as a race regarding technology, science, and equality I found little progress in the incorporation, acceptance, and overall improvement of the life of individuals with cognitive and physical impairments. The poor perception and inclusion of such individuals and families into society is still very much a taboo.  Most of us unaware of the difficulties such people face when attempting to gain access and integrate into their communities. 

However, when researching about disabilities, I realized the term is describing the limitations we pose to ourselves and others. Every person suffering from any form and degree of impairment was more than able to render tremendous contribution to the betterment, growth, and evolution of our society. Most people will focus on the things one cannot do and rapidly overlook the things one can; it is at this juncture we place the true handicap on such individuals.  If instead, we embrace the circumstances in our lives with a positive outlook and embrace the current limitations as an opportunity to improve, create, resolve, and design, we can realize true ability. Thus, rendering new solutions, systems, and innovations that will make us all able to have access, participate, integrate, share, and to become genuinely inclusive. 

When doctors had told me, my son would lose his ability to speak, and his cognitive development would be too impaired making it almost impossible to teach him a method of communication, I refused to accept such a prognosis, and I committed myself to finding a way in which to communicate with my son. It was then when I learned the universal language of unspoken words and the innate power of humanity, my son and I learned to communicate through our eyes and in such a skillful way I could anticipate his needs. I decided that I would not let our circumstances determine the outcome of my son’s achievements nor allow the preconceived notions of society render our lives as a bitter and constant struggle because we are different.  This affirmation led me to ponder upon such terms: normal, average, and typical. Through my experiments in learning to design, I realized there is no such thing as average, perfect, nor the same as other. Every individual has unique sets of characteristics, both physically and psychologically, that render them unique. I wonder why such negative terms are used within our society to describe, segregate and alienate individuals? Why do we seek first to label ourselves and others with negative adjectives rather than looking at the beauty in each of us? I knew I was not too fond of the word disabled as a term to describe my son or his condition, because he is anything but disabled. In fact, Damian is so capable that he found unique and clever ways to convey his needs and emotions.  Through his journey he taught me the most significant lesson in life during one of our many stays at the hospital. I took him to the play area in the facility where we encountered a child with multiple and severe physical and cognitive impairments, Damian immediately engaged and embraced the child with open arms, smiled at him and began to play, he was able to see the soul of the child and his inherent need for social interaction. He was able to look past physical and cognitive ailments and embrace the soul of this boy. It was at this precise moment when the words magnificent and extraordinary popped into my mind. And from this point onward, I would embrace the word EXTRAORDINARY as the term to describe my son and everyone else, because we are all uniquely extraordinary, each with a particular set of skills and abilities.  These unique skills can serve us to transmute any handicap into an exceptional opportunity. Consequently, I decided to embrace my life and the daily challenges it brought me to design a new reality. One in which my son, my family, and myself would live in happily. I would begin to look at the occurrences labeled as adversity as opportunities to reinvent myself and my surroundings. Given my skills in design, I knew every physical body is different, and for a time-sensitive industry in constant search of efficiency, we were overlooking many factors pivotal in the role of clothing within the human environment. This realization led me to the inception of HISAURA and my call to action on behalf of the creative industries as a stepping stone to the evolution of our methodologies. An opportunity to embrace our differences and make extraordinary attempts to improve our lives.  To empower one is to empower all. To bring forth the potential in all of us to create a new reality. To induce the idea of an inclusive society for all, to inform, to question and investigate, to engage and imagine a life fulfilled with extraordinary experiences. Such is the endeavor of HISAURA to positively influence our community and inspire others to create and design new realities.

Gabriella Wells