The Disabled List
Liz Jackson is the founder of The Disabled List, a design organization that engages in disability as a creative practice. She is also the co-founder of Thisten, a live speech-to-text app that makes conferences and live events more accessible. In 2018, Jackson created The WITH Fellowship, which partners disabled creatives with top design studios and creative spaces for three-month fellowships. You can learn more about Liz in her personal website, The Girl with the Purple Cane.
Get to know Liz Jackson
Tell us about a project or accomplishments from the past 10 years that had a major impact on your life or career.
I can’t think of anything that I have done that I would consider to be an accomplishment. There’s not a talk I have given or a paper I have written that I still agree with. My experience in design is nothing more than a process of self-reflection and loss. A loss of confidence in knowing. A loss of believing something to be true. A loss of viewing an accomplishment as an accomplishment. I believe this is what it means to be an advocate in the design world.
What is your favorite color, and why?
I would have to say the color purple. My design career started when I created a blog called The Girl with the Purple Cane. The Girl with the Purple Cane became, not only an alter ego for me, but also a lifeline. She helped me discover my life’s purpose at the intersection of design and disability. Interestingly, I don’t actually like most shades of purple.
What keeps you going when you’re focused on a project? Is there a particular saying or song that gets you moving?
There is one thing that keeps me going when I’m focused on a project. Anger. I resent how design schools insist on breeding an empathetic and controlled designer. This does not foster creativity, it neutralizes it. Where are design courses on fury? That’s what I want.
What’s your superpower, or one you wish you had?
There is a stigmatizing trope in disability called the SuperCrip that pressures disabled people to overcome, or create a narrative that they have overcome their particular circumstances. We are never allowed to be disabled. And so rather than wishing for a superpower, I instead wish the freedom for myself and my disabled peers to be who we are in our bodies and in our minds.
What design or career advice would you give to your younger self?
I’d give myself the same advice I give designers now, which is this: Every single one of my greatest successes has been a fuck you to someone I respect, admire or wish would include me. Give all the fucks.
If you were given the opportunity to see into the future, what would you want to know?
If I were given the opportunity to see into the future, I would want to know who is included in it. So often in futures studies, disability is written out of the future. But disability is my community, almost all of my friends are disabled. And so I would want to know that there was a place for us in the world in the future.
How do you think design impacts your everyday life? The community?
I now use the words disability and design interchangeably. To me, the words have become synonymous. One informs the other, one is the result of the other. And so, I can’t help but wonder when we are going to engage in the other side of design.
If you hadn’t ended up in the career you are in, what do you think you’d be doing?
I spent the first decade of my career working in television production. I discovered my love of design through my experiences in becoming disabled. While I don’t think I would still be working in TV, I do realize that whatever direction my career would have gone, it would not have been nearly as fulfilling as what I’m doing now.