another man until you have walked a thousand mile in his moccasins” is how a famous Native American proverb goes. The coronavirus pandemic taught us what living a life with a disability really means. While we suffer under the restricted mobility and lack of self-determination, endure the anxiety of what lies ahead and fear for our lives, or find ourselves buried beneath what once were our high-flying dreams, people with a disability know very well how they can build a castle in the air from the rubble. Actually, they are the experts in this discipline.
living with a disability tell about their experiences and strategies in handling uncertainty and enduring long-lasting crises. They lay out how they came to accept the new reality and reposition themselves amidst it. The interview series IN YOUR MOCCASINS tells true stories about how a crisis can be turned into an opportunity and what there is for all of us to learn from our fellow humans with disabilities, both in our private as well as professional lives. The series‘ life coaches are Nina Wortmann, a model from Germany, journalist Aislu Assan from Kazakhstan, German presenter Dörthe Maack and Evgenia Voskobojnikova, a manager at Google Russia. Entrepreneurs Roman Aranin from Russia and Billy Tang from Malaysia join them.
Janina Urussowa, PhD in Social Science
Dr Urussowa‘s message: “Right before our eyes, the social construct of disability is replaced by the economic one. People living with disabilities become equal customers, experts and employees. We need new approaches that adequately meet these challenges.”
The Russian social scientist is an expert in the inclusion of persons with disabilities and an award winning social entrepreneur. She brings together business, the creative sector, media, and customers with a disability and implements projects that aim at initiating a profound change of perspective on the phenomenon of “disability” in the business community, public institutions, and the society at large. Her work has earned her nominations for The Moscow Times Award and the E&Y Business Women Award. She ranked among the 100 most influential persons in Russia in 2018.
“Re-Branding of Disability“ is how she calls her innovative approach to the complex – in terms of communication technology – phenomenon. The approach originates from the field of marketing and was adopted to assist in an effective and value-neutral reshaping of how disabilities are communicated and perceived.
Janina Urussowa graduated from the University for Architecture in Moscow and went on to complete her PhD studies at Ludwig Uhland Institute at the University of Tübingen, Germany. After assignments for the EXPO 2000 and the Hygiene Museum in Dresden, she assumed the position of Director for Corporate Communication at Siemens in Moscow. Currently she is a guest lecturer at HTW-Berlin and curator for adaptive fashion at Rehacare in Düsseldorf. TEDx and Key speeches as well as creative workshops are part of her professional repertoire.
In 2008 she became co-founder of a social entrepreneurship project dedicated to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the society and economy. With its projects "Bezgraniz Couture" and "Acropolis" it became a successful hub for social innovation and a prominent institution in Russia‘s movement for inclusion since 2009. Cooperation projects with international design schools, including the fashion show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, innovation cooperation projects with SAP, Daimler and Covestro, art and media projects, are the cornerstones of a social innovation that has gained track in Russia and well beyond.
Janina Urussowa is a cosmopolite who lives in two countries, which gives her projects a perspective that makes them international by nature. She is a member of Rotary International and Partner of The Valuable 500, a global business initiative that supports the inclusion of people with disabilities in the market economy. Founded in 2019 at the Davos Economic Forum, several hundred companies have already pledged their support to the initiative.