Girl Scout to CEO: Empowering People With Mobile Disabilities
I was pleased to see that, due to a generous grant from Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, the Including ALL Girls patch educates girls about inclusion and how they can include girls with disabilities in all aspects of Girl Scouts. The patch program heightens Girl Scouts’ awareness, understanding and acceptance of people’s differences and disabilities. One has to wonder if the young girls who are going through the Girl Scouts program today, a time where an estimated 48.9 million people in the United States have a disability, will be inspired to go “beyond the badge”?
Girl Scout alum and business owner Diana Perkins shares her inspiration:
What services does your Company offer?
Includesign is a product design firm that creates products that empower individuals with disabilities. Our flagship product, the LapSnap, is a collapsible, carryall designed with and for wheelchair users that helps increase independence by enabling them to carry items hands-free. We started the company in February 2020, and our customers are the 6 million Americans who use a wheelchair. The LapSnap is the first of many products we intend to create collaboratively with the disability community. At 26% of the population, the disability community is the largest minority in the world, and it’s the only one that any of us can join at any time.
When did you first know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
When I was in my senior year of college, I designed the LapSnap in my engineering capstone class along with two other women. We initially designed the product to make grocery shopping easier for a professor of mine who uses a wheelchair. As the semester went on, she was so positive about our design and kept introducing us to other wheelchair users she knew who would benefit from the product. Eventually they convinced us the LapSnap needed to exist, so we started includesign to bring it to life.
Which of the Girl Scout traits have carried over into your adult life and your business?
Respect is a HUGE deal for my business. The disability community has been overlooked by the design community for so long, and when they have been included at all, it’s usually as an afterthought. When I was an intern for the American Printing House for the Blind, I learned firsthand how big a deal giving people with disabilities the respect they deserve is and what a difference it can make. One of the most important things we learn as designers is to treat the people we are designing for as experts on their experience, and nowhere this is more true than when interacting with the disability community. It can be really easy for nondisabled designers to assume they know what people with disabilities struggle with and need, but taking the time to talk with people who have that lived experience and really understand is the foundation of my business.
Imagining that your professional life is a continuation of the Girl Scout program, what professional award/recognition ("badge") have you been the most proud to earn?
My proudest accomplishment since starting includesign was winning the SEED Live!: The Future of Retail competition. Not only will the prize money that I won and upcoming retail pilot make a huge impact on the future of inclu, but also seeing a product for people with disabilities be named “The Future of Retail” has given me such joy and hope for the future. Twenty-six percent of Americans have some form of disability, so if retailers don’t make their stores accessible, they must be willing to lose one out of every four customers who would walk or roll through their doors. The real future of retail is accessibility, and I am so proud to have a small part in making that happen.
How did being a Girl Scout shape you as a woman business owner?
Girl Scouts taught me the power of female friendship and partnership! I’ve been in a lot of male-dominated spaces and groups, both in engineering school and now in the business world, and especially in those situations, I am intentional about surrounding myself with intelligent, kind, driven women who push me to be a better version of myself.
Includesign is a women-owned, product design firm with the goal of empowering individuals with disabilities around the world. For more information, visit www.thelapsnap.com.