Social entrepreneur Caroline Casey has always wanted to be a cowgirl, but her path to fulfilling that dream has been a long one.
Casey was born legally blind to parents who shielded the truth from her until she was 17 years old, electing to give her a childhood with “no labels, no limitations.” Despite not being able to see beyond three feet in front of her, Casey hid her disability from employers and colleagues for 11 years, even while working as a management consultant for Accenture. At age 28, her limited eyesight worsened, and a doctor helped her realize that it was “time to stop fighting and do something different.” She became a social entrepreneur, started several organizations, and launched an award-winning methodology to help businesses better understand the value that people with disabilities bring to their work cultures and teams.
Casey’s story is well known. Her 2007 TED talk has over 3 million views and she is a regular speaker at conferences from the World Economic Forum to One Young World. She has won numerous awards, been recognized as an Ashoka Fellow, and has worked with hundreds of businesses globally. In 2014 and 2015, Casey stepped away from the spotlight, but the move proved temporary. Last year, she founded a new social enterprise, Binc, whose first campaign, #valuable, follows Casey as she treks on horseback from Cartagena to Bogotá.
Casey says that in her 18 years of activism, the pace of change has been painfully slow. “The situation for people living with disabilities hasn’t improved dramatically – especially when compared to other social issues,” she says. And this is not a small group or niche issue: according to the Return on Disability Group, an estimated 1.3 billion are living with a disability globally. When combined with friends and family, the issue touches 53 percent of all consumers.
We caught up with Caroline Casey on her trek to find out more about #valuable and why she believes the issue of disability is more urgent than ever.
Ashoka: Tell us a bit about #valuable and what inspired your decision to re-enter the spotlight.
Caroline Casey: #valuable is a worldwide invitation and call to action for businesses to recognize the value of the one billion people affected by disability, and it includes a vision to put it on the global business agenda and drive equality for all. Exclusion of people with disabilities is a much bigger problem than most people imagine. You are five times more likely to experience poverty, and much less likely to get a job. And this is not just about employment – it’s across the whole value chain. People affected by disability are customers, suppliers, talent and members of the community. That’s a huge population – it’s also a huge market, with an estimated combined income of 8 trillion dollars!
The reason we’re focused on business is that it’s the most powerful force on the planet. If companies start to include people with disabilities more systematically, then the rest of society will follow. So if we can work together with companies that recognize the value of this population, we have an opportunity to change the issue of exclusion. I’m not saying we can eradicate it right away – but we certainly can change how disability is understood.
Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.