Before I got my driver’s license, I found myself worried that I wouldn’t be able to earn any money. Driving is just about the only option where I live to get from Point A to Point B, and without a means of reliable transportation, it’s nearly impossible to find work. Out of necessity, I decided to take a risk and start my own communications consulting business. Based on this experience, I’ve come to deeply respect and appreciate the people in the disability community who have an entrepreneurial spirit.
Last year, I decided I wanted to honor the incredible talent of entrepreneurs within the disability community. So, I put together a gift guide featuring products made and sold exclusively by entrepreneurs with disabilities. What better way is there to indulge my love of shopping than to celebrate disability-owned small businesses?! I had such a good time making my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide: Disability Edition that I’ve decided to make it an annual holiday tradition. I reached out to each business-owner individually for permission to share their work and their story.
If you’ve got some holiday shopping left to do, you are most definitely in the right place! Check out these products made by and for the disability community, and once you’ve finished looking through this year’s guide, you can save this simple 2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Disability Edition PDF that has all the shops from both my 2014 and 2015 guides with clickable links. Let’s get started!
- Healing Boxes – Who doesn’t love getting care packages in the mail? Whether you want to share a pick-me-up with someone going through a tough time this holiday season, or just want to let someone know you’re thinking of their well-being, Healing Boxes are a perfect gift. Grace, the founder of Healing Boxes, is a lovely woman whose experience with chronic illness led her to become an incredible entrepreneur who empowers others. I think the Original Healing Box would make a heartfelt gift for any friend or family member, and there are also boxes for people in the hospital and people with Traumatic Brain Injury.
- Organic Beauty Junkie – I am absolutely addicted to lip balm and lotion, so I knew right away that I wanted to include Maryann’s products in this list. Maryann knows firsthand that it can be difficult for people to find jobs if they’re disabled, so she started Organic Beauty Junkie with the goal of eventually hiring other disabled people to work with her. As she shared with me, “I decided to combine my love of all natural bath, body, and skincare and helping others.” And if that’s not awesome enough, all of the products Maryann sells are handmade, organic, and safe for sensitive skin. In addition to the Etsy shop, you can make purchases right from Organic Beauty Junkie’s website. I know I’ve definitely been eyeing the natural deodorant.
- The Paper Poppy Store – If you like to wear your heart on your sleeve (or your motto on your jewelry), The Paper Poppy store has you covered. In 2012, Stacy opened The Paper Poppy Store with her husband After the onset of Stacy’s disability, she lost her job, and her husband needed to take on a bigger role as a caregiver. “The shop has been a great way for me to support myself while finishing school,” Stacy says, “without having to take a job that is beyond what I can physically and mentally handle.” All of the items sold in the shop are focused on self-love, body positivity, and disability acceptance. This hand-stamped “I Am Enough” pendant would be a perfect to wear as an everyday reminder.
- Sightless Works – John Bramblitt is an interntionally renowned artist whose paintings are bold and breathtaking, perfect to be displayed as statement pieces. He is blind, but he learned to paint through a technique known as “‘haptic visualization, which enables him to ‘see’ his subjects through touch.” John is amazingly talented, and his paintings cover a vast range of subjects. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised by the fact that I cannot stop looking at this Peacock painting.
- Soulmade Goods – I love anything that’s pretty and kitschy, so all of the items Jessie makes and sells for her business put a huge smile on my face. Soulmade Goods opened in 2014 as a way for Jessie to work while also caring for herself after she was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, a form of Dysautonomia. She told me that there are big benefits to running her own business: “Creating is therapeutic for me. I can create my own schedule. I can work on good days and rest on bad days.” Jessie’s pieces are lovely, and I can’t get over how much I adore her beautiful Wood Burned Hearts.
- SarahCate Creations – Sarah is a multi-talented activist and artist whose work is truly unique. She started out by pursuing photography, but when she got cancer in 2008, she used beading and jewelry-making as a way to keep away nausea from chemotherapy. Following her cancer treatment, Sarah was left with a chronic pain condition that inspires much of her current work in design and illustration. Sarah realized “there’s a big gap in terms of art available for and featuring folks with illnesses and disabilities,” and she very much enjoys “creating pieces that fill that gap.” I’m a big fan of her mobility-themed posters, and I think they would make a fantastic gift for people who are chronically ill or disabled.
- The Hopeful Spoon – Brightly-colored, dangly jewelry tends to be my favorite, so I was excited to discover The Hopeful Spoon. Jessi, who experiences chronic pain, started her shop for two reasons: “it’s a mixture of being a total nerd for rocks and minerals, as well as desperately needing a creative outlet that I can do lying down.” Her pieces range from made-to-order to one-of-a-kind, and she is “also more than happy to work with people to come up with jewelry they will want to wear again and again, both for awareness and just for the sake of pretty jewelry.” I’ve most definitely got my eye on the geometric tibetan silver earrings.
- BlindAlive Eyes-Free Fitness – Every year, I try to make a New Year’s Resolution to focus on exercise and fitness. While I’ve found several great resources for seated workouts that are accessible to me as a wheelchair user, workout videos are often not accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. So, when BlindAlive reached out to me about audio workouts with detailed text and audio descriptions, I knew I wanted to share them! These would be wonderful for people with varied abilities to do together.
- Little Folks Knitwear – How could I resist including something for the little ones in your life? Jacqueline, who has a chronic illness, designs knit clothing for babies aged 0-12 months. Although the shop is based in the U.K., items can be shipped to the U.S. as well. Everything in the shop is handmade and beyond adorable. Wouldn’t these little red joggers be just the cutest for a baby?
- Mischief Museum – When I was little, I loved to get creative. I’d put on shows, making up the words my toys might say, keeping myself busy for hours. I know I would have been really excited to have a set of the handmade nesting puppets from the Mischief Museum shop as an alternative to my dolls. Anna, the shop owner, started her business as a personal occupational therapy program while taking some time off from her career as a lawyer to focus on her health. As Anna shared with me, “the business has been a great thing to invest my energy in as I heal – drawing new characters in particular is incredibly calming and meditative.” There are several fun character sets to choose from, but I absolutely cannot get over the puppets featuring famous female scientists, so I hope someone snatches them up!
- Splendid Colors Laser Cut Designs – If bold, unique decor and jewelry is your thing, then you’ve got to check out Splendid Colors! Kathryn’s shop features items for a range of different style preferences, and I challenge you to choose just one thing you like. She discovered laser cutting in 2011 and “got hooked on making things that delight other people.” While I can’t get enough of her earrings, I wanted to highlight the awesome ornaments Kathryn makes because I think they’d work as year-round decorations. I’m loving the copper and gold steampunk snowflake ornament.
That’s a (gift)wrap for this year’s guide. Thank you to all the shop owners and to everyone who provided suggestions on shops to feature. Don’t forget, if you want a quick reference guide of all the shops I included in both my 2014 and 2015 gift guides, I’ve created a 2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Disability Edition PDF with clickable links.
What would you pick from this gift guide? Are you a disabled entrepreneur? Leave a comment and let us know!
The Fine Print: This post isn’t sponsored. I just picked products that make me happy! Please don’t republish any part of this gift guide in print or online. If you would like to share the gift guide via any other publication, please write a little blurb and include the link directly back to this post. You don’t have to let me know if you do this, but I’d love if you did so I can personally express my appreciation. Thank you and happy holidays!