Tracking The Trend Lines Of The Disability Economy And Its Meaning To The Business Landscape Of The 21st Century

Jennifer E. Engen

The historical nature of the Disability Economy post World War II has always been seen through the lens of a needs economy often referring to legacy products such as crutches, wheelchairs, hearing aids, scooters to various other goods and services focused on activities of daily living that include personal hygiene, grooming, dressing to eating. Yet, over the past seventy-five years, there has been a major tectonic shift across society, culture, technology, and politics that is redefining our very perspective of the Disability Economy and providing a new outlook asserting that this is an economy of scale that can transform opportunities and influence future possibilities to create a vibrant market of inclusion and innovation. 

This Mindset Matters column will be the first in a series to explore the shifting trend lines in the budding Disability Economy of today and highlight the impact it has on not only the disability community itself but the impact it is beginning to wield in helping to transform the business and cultural landscape of the digital economy of the 21st Century.  As we begin to take a deeper dive into further understanding the inclinations of what characterizes the present-day Disability Economy we must start with the very word of ‘Accessibility’ itself to provide some context.

Accessibility serves as an umbrella term for products and services that can be easily used, reached, or entered by people with disabilities. Yet, under that same umbrella lies such terms as adaptive, and even universal or inclusive design. These idioms have become the central foundation for a way to rethink market segments bolstered by the convergence of a changing social, political, and technological climate that is redefining the way people with disabilities have begun to engage in the world. Yet, at the same time, the trend lines are showing that companies are slowly beginning to awaken to the fact that engaging in the Disability Economy is not just solely about embracing diversity and inclusion and ESG, but simply about good business. 

With the rise of social media, there are more diverse voices within the disability community pushing to keep businesses accountable to not only the needs of persons with disabilities, but the true value of the disability market that consists of over a billion people with a consolidated purchasing power of over 8 trillion dollars, and if one includes the impact of friends and family, now the argument can be made that the market impacts half the planet! 

In upcoming Mindset Matters columnswe will do a deeper dive into more specific market segments, but for today it is important to feature the idea that the Disability Economy is in a constant state of evolution that not only is limited to the disability community, but rather a critical market opportunity for both consumers, investors, established businesses, and entrepreneurs to take part in a process that will ultimately affect everyone. As we look ahead, the growth of the market is blossoming in a variety of areas whether coming from young entrepreneurs with disabilities to the entrance of established companies within a broad range of market segments that include everything from fashion, travel, gaming, the metaverse, web accessibility, automotive, film, and television to financial services and much more. The role of Accessibility within the marketplace is now becoming a true destination and critical to the business conversation for both the present and future. 

It is time to amplify our understanding of the current picture of the Disability Economy and explore the tsunami of possibilities it has begun to unleash across the various market segments. Each week Mindset Matters will investigate in more depth key trend lines across the vast landscape of this everchanging Disability Economy and concentrate on specific areas that are reframing the business narrative that is creating a truly disruptive force.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathankaufman/2022/01/14/mindset-matters-tracking-the-trend-lines-of-the-disability-economy-and-its-meaning-to-the-business-landscape-of-the-21st-century/

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