July is Disability Pride Month — a time to “promote visibility and mainstream awareness of the positive pride felt by people with disabilities,” according to AmeriDisability, a publication for the disability community. It’s a logical month for the celebration: The American With Disabilities Act, a landmark piece of legislation, was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.
It’s also a time to better understand how to become a better ally to members of the disability community. With that in mind, here are three video profiles of women entrepreneurs whose products or services aim to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
Chelsea Harden, Provider of Horse Therapy
Most startup entrepreneurs don’t need live animals to launch their businesses. That is not the case for Chelsea Harden, who founded The H.E.A.R.T Center in 2014 to provide educational opportunities to children with disabilities. Harden’s business assets include horses Adele, JJ, Karma, Mojo, Chippy and Colin. She uses them for therapeutic horseback riding designed to foster confidence and independence in kids with physical, emotional or behavioral issues.
Erin Keaney, Maker of Affordable Prosthetics
As students at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Erin Keaney and partner Jonathan de Alderete re-imagined the artificial limb after learning that much of the world’s amputees couldn’t afford high-cost prosthetics. “There are 54 million amputees worldwide, and 45 million of them lack access to a prosthetic limb,” Keaney says. “The reasons for that are time and the cost of prosthetics.” To lower costs, Keaney and de Alderete replaced expensive metal with a medical-grade plastic, cutting the price to less than $20 per device. Their startup, Nonspec, also made face shields during the pandemic.
Tish Scolnik, Designer of All-Terrain Wheelchair
Tish Scolnik is the CEO of GRIT, a Boston startup that began life 10 years ago as a Massachusetts Institute of Technology research project. Scolnik and her former MIT classmates, Mario Bollini and Ben Judge, make the Freedom Chair, an all-terrain wheelchair originally designed to navigate the rough ground in East African villages. They now sell the Freedom Chair in the U.S., where it’s marketed as a $2,995 sports device that allows people with disabilities to access a hiking trail or sandy beach.