10 Insightful TED Talks about Disabilities, Accessibility and Inclusion - Easter Seals Canada

10 Insightful TED Talks about Disabilities, Accessibility and Inclusion

The topic of disability can make many people uncomfortable, and to some extent, even considered taboo by some. There are many reasons for this; learned behaviour, misconception and misunderstanding, and stereotypes just to name a few. However, it is important to have open and respectful conversations about disabilities in order to promote understanding, empathy, and acceptance so that we can begin dealing with more pressing issues about existing physical and attitudinal barriers – at individual, organizational and systemic levels – that continue to hinder and hold back people living with disabilities from fully participating in all aspects of life.

In Canada, approximately 22% of Canadians live with some form of disability. And to be clear, there are many kinds of disabilities – both visible and invisible. Some people are born with disabilities or impairments, while others result from injury, illness or old-age to name a few. Just as there are so many different types of disabilities and impairments, similarly, the lived experiences and perspectives of people who live with or who identify as living with disabilities also differ. There is no single, uniform experience of disability. So it is important to speak with, listen and learn to the stories and experiences of the individuals around us.

One great way to learn is to watch the many TED Talks that are available that addresses various topics about disabilities, and to think and consider the messages and lessons shared by these presenters. But don’t just watch it on your own. Host a Watch Party and view the TED Talks with a friend, your family members or roommates, colleagues and have an open discussion afterwards about it.  To help get you started, we have compiled below ten of our favourite TED Talks from around the world addressing a variety of issues related to disabilities, accessibility and inclusion.

Click on the images below to watch the video clip. Additional controls for captions and to resize the videos (to watch in full screen) are available once the video clips start.

I’m Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much

by Stella Young

Stella Young is a comedian and journalist who happens to go about her day in a wheelchair — a fact that doesn’t, she’d like to make clear, automatically turn her into a noble inspiration to all humanity. In this very funny talk, Young breaks down society’s habit of turning disabled people into “inspiration porn” just because of their disability rather than recognizing individuals for their accomplishments.

How I Fail at Being Disabled

by Susan Robinson

Susan Robinson is a business leader, inspirational speaker and blogger. Born with a genetic visual impairment, Susan Robinson is legally blind (or partially sighted, as she prefers it) which she says entitles her to a label she hates: “disabled.” In this funny and personal talk, she upends stereotypes and expectations of disabilities by sharing 5 ways at how she fails at being disabled.

The Perks of Being a Pirate

by Tom Nash

Tom Nash is a DJ and self-professed pirate. In this deeply charming and funny talk, Tom addresses the common perception of disability being a disadvantage and turns it on its head. He “meditates how how experience facing adversity due to disability invited patience, ambition and pragmatism into his life in enlightening, unexpected ways. ‘We all have unique weaknesses,’ he says. ‘If we’re honest about what they are, we can learn how to best take advantage of them.'”

I Got 99 Problems…. And Palsy is Just One 

by Maysoon Zayid

Maysoon Zayid is an actor, writer and comedian. “I have cerebral palsy. I shake all the time. I’m like Shakira meets Muhammad Ali,” she announces at the beginning of this exhilarating and hilarious talk. With grace and wit, like the time she was passed over for an acting role featuring a character with cerebral palsy, Maysoon takes us on a whistle-stop tour of her adventures as an actress, stand-up comic, philanthropist and advocate for the disabled. And in doing so, reminding audiences that her condition is her lived reality, but it does not define who she is or what she is capable of achieving.

Asking For Help Is A Strength, Not A Weakness

by Michelle Sullivan

Michelle Sullivan is a corporate executive, writer and social innovator. In a talk about perspectives, Sullivan shares stories full of wit and wisdom and contends that we cannot truly know what it’s like to be someone else or walk in someone’s shoes. “The only shoes you can walk in are your own,” she says. “We all go through challenges — some you can see, most you can’t.” She reminds us however, that “with compassion, courage and understanding, we can walk together, side by side.” We are all part of each other’s support systems.

Rosie King: How Autism Freed Me To Be Myself

by Rosie King

Rosie King is a writer, storyteller and activist. With candour and a gravity beyond her age, Rosie shares her experience living with autism. Starting with a caution that autism affects people differently, Rosie asks why people are so afraid of variety, of standing out and anything that is not “normal” that they try to fit everything into a tiny little box, to want to find a label for things and strive to be normal, as if normal was a compliment. Rosie’s talk is a clarion call for every kid, parent, teacher and person to celebrate uniqueness. It’s a soaring testament to the potential of human diversity.

Why Design Should Include Everyone

by Sinéad Burke

Sinéad Burke is a writer, academic and broadcaster. As a person who is 105 centimeters (or 3′ 5″ tall), Sinéad is acutely aware of details that are practically invisible to many of us. The design of many things that the average able-bodied person takes for granted – such as the height of door locks or the distance between gates at an airport – often excludes many other people and inhibits their ability to do things for themselves. In her TED Talk, she shares her experiences navigating the world as a little person, and challenges us and designers to consider the question, “Who are we not designing for?”

When We Design for Accessibility, We All Benefit

by Elise Roy

Elise Roy is a disability rights lawyer and design thinker. According to Elise, losing her hearing was “one of the greatest gift” she has ever received as it has given her unique perspectives on the world. Elise proposes that “When we design for disability first, you often stumble upon solutions that are better than those when we design for the norm.” For instance, text-messaging was initially created as a tool for people with disabilities, but have now become an indispensable form of communication for everyone. Designing for disability is universal design that benefits everyone. And people with disabilities have much to offer on this front.

Disability vs The Workplace

by Lesa Bradshaw

Lesa Bradshaw is an entrepreneur and HR consultant. In this candid and humourous talk, Lesa addresses some of the barriers that hinder the integration of people living with disabilities in the workplace: from misplaced and misconceived notions of what people with disabilities can do to  entrenched biases in workplace structures and processes. Lesa offers thoughtful steps to address this issue, starting with the understanding that many people with disabilities have the qualifications, and  skills and competencies that would make them an invaluable addition to any workplace – just like any other ‘normal’, able-bodied person.

Mainstreaming Disability

by Dylan Alcott

Dylan Alcott is a Paralympic gold medalist, World Champion, Grand Slam champion and world record holder for both wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis. In this humourous, upbeat and hopeful talk, Dylan encourages audiences to consider why there is a lack of representation of people with disabilities in various aspects of life and the often negative portrayal of people with disabilities in the media.

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