FAVORITE AUTHOR OR BOOK: Beach reads are my guilty pleasure. Shoutout to Elin Hildebrand. A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: My journey with chronic illness. Every day is both a blessing and an accomplishment.
Eliminating the professional gaps between the disabled & non-disabled
DISCOVERING YOU'RE TRULY NEVER ALONE. Hannah Olson knows a thing or two about fighting stigma, and is doing everything she can to eliminate it for all. “I know the minute I walk into at room with potential investors, someone immediately sees I’m not just a woman, but a young woman, who they then learn has Lyme Disease, and is an open lesbian,” she explains, knowing that any one of these facets of her identity could be met with discrimination.
As the Co-Founder and CEO of Chronically Capable, the leading career destination for chronically ill and disabled job seekers, Hannah and her team are working to remove the fear and stigma of living with chronic illness or disability from the hiring process. Hannah has a personal experience with chronic illness: in college, she was diagnosed with Lyme Disease.
“In fact, at my very first job out of college, I landed what I thought was my dream job at a design agency, but it didn’t stay that way for long.” Hannah didn’t tell her employer about the disease because she didn’t know how to facilitate a conversation about it. Ultimately, her employer wouldn’t allow her to administer her medication at her desk. Eight months into the job, she reached a tipping point, exhausted by always having to choose between her health and her work.
Hannah discovered that she actually wasn’t alone, that hundreds of thousands of other people struggled with the same dilemma—the desire to work in an environment free of ignorance and stigma. Hannah set her sights on creating something bigger, something new.
DISMANTLING THE IDEA OF DISABILITY LIMITATIONS. When people think of disability, they often imagine mobility impairment, like someone in a wheelchair—in truth, 70% of disabilities are invisible. Further, many disability-friendly roles are often entry-level jobs. Building a rich, passionate career in something like tech or management can feel so limiting to people with disabilities.
“I’m like everyone else: I want to be a powerful, bad-ass bitch, boss-type!” Hannah laughs. “But I needed access to companies and institutions that didn’t just accommodate or make space for people like me, but were fully inclusive and promotive too.” Consequently, Hannah got a job at a small start-up, and this time she informed her boss right away about her condition and needs.
“It was like night and day! I had a supportive boss, and supportive colleagues, but I still couldn’t shake that I was lucky, unlike so many other people in my situation,” she explained. This led to a conversation with her boss, over a casual lunch, in which she expressed this frustration and a vision for a company that might focus on this. Within six months, Hannah and her boss founded Chronically Capable. “It’s a cool dynamic because he’s been an employer who’s successfully managed someone with an illness, and now he's running a company that supports just that.”
Hannah likes to point out that the future of her work is truly just beginning. “Disability inclusion wasn't something we talked about much a decade ago. Things like full time remote work felt far away. Now it’s not even that things are changing—they are converging at light speed. We’re truly at the tipping point of a new culture that’s all about accommodations and inclusivity placed in the center of everything.”
“No matter if you’re gay or disabled or disaffected or disenfranchised, the world is starting to bend into place for people who have already experienced frustration or feel boxed out. The world is finally ready and so is everyone at Chronically Capable,” Hannah asserts.
- Mission Driven Business Podcast: Redefining Disability with Hannah Olson