People with disabilities become hackers due to circumstance. Living in a world that ignores their needs forces them to come up with novel ways to adapt and thrive in an inhospitable environment. Elise Roy, a human rights advocate with a hearing impediment, promotes the idea of design thinking aimed at adopting a disabled person’s unique perspective and mind-set to address the world’s greatest challenges and to create products and services that work for everyone.


Design thinking has the power to improve the lives of all people – those with disabilities and those without.

When at age 10 Elise Roy learned that she would eventually lose her hearing, she was frightened. But with time, she accepted her diagnosis and now believes that going deaf was a gift. Roy became a lawyer and initially focused her career on fighting for the rights of people with disabilities. She even helped to design international policy at the United Nations. But she later discovered a tool that wielded even more power than policy to improve the lives of people living either with or without disabilities: design thinking.

Designing for disability, rather than adapting mainstream designs for people with disabilities, produces solutions that benefit everyone. It shifts mind-sets from tolerance to acceptance and inclusion. The design thinking process has five steps: First, define the problem ...

About the Speaker

Elise Roy worked on the International Disability Rights Treaty at the United Nations, which was ratified in 2007. She is a motivational speaker and advocate for design thinking that benefits everyone.

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