Betsy Furler: Optimizing the Strengths of People Everywhere
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, friends! Spiffy here, your favorite interplanetary journalist back again on Planet Earth with the scoop on entrepreneurs making a difference in the world! Today, I have the pleasure of chatting with Betsy Furler, the founder and CEO of For All Abilities. Let’s see what she’s doing to have a positive impact.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Betsy! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing?
Betsy: Happy to be with you, Spiffy! At For All Abilities, we believe everyone should get to use their superpowers at school and work. We believe everyone thinks and learns differently, and this should be acknowledged and valued.
Spiffy: Awesome! What motivated you to tackle this challenge?
Betsy: I worked with many children and adults who have different strengths than most people consider “typical.” Sometimes these are called disabilities. I think that all people should be acknowledged and valued for their unique strengths. Also, I have dyslexia, and my son Henry had medical issues and unfortunately passed away when he was 22. I want people to know how to work to maximize their strengths and to have the confidence to reach for their wildest dreams.
Spiffy: How are you and your team at For All Abilities working towards a more equitable world?
Betsy: We have an assessment tool that only takes ten minutes and lets people figure out what their strengths, needs, and preferences are when working. We also recommend apps, software, or items that can easily and inexpensively help them be more productive and efficient at work or school. We advocate for people to get the support (or accommodations) they need at work for a more equitable work environment.
Spiffy: Helping everyone discover their superpowers indeed! Tell me about a recent milestone by For All Abilities. What impact does that make?
Betsy: We recently completed beta testing of our software. We found that 57% of people have a diagnosis or condition. Many of them don’t consider themselves “disabled” but benefit from supports like apps or software that level the playing field at work or school. Most employers think they don’t have any employees with disabilities or diagnoses, and they all do! We are working to spread the word that EVERYONE thinks differently than everyone else!
Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from failure?
Betsy: I once owned a speech therapy company. The insurance reimbursement changed, and insurance companies started paying me less. I ultimately had to close my company. It was very stressful, but I learned how to change my business, sell the business, and find all my employees new jobs. I learned I could handle stress, manage other people who were under stress, and then pivot to open a new business.
Spiffy: Thank you for sharing that. What is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?
Betsy: I’ve learned so much from kids I worked with, especially kids who couldn’t speak. I taught them to use computers to speak. They have taught me perseverance and to never give up even when a task seems impossible. My son, Henry, was very medically fragile. I learned so much from him. He loved every day like that day mattered! He lived for 22 years but got more living into those 22 years than most people do in 90 years! He remains an inspiration to me as my “Henry Angel” visits me as a butterfly every day and reminds me to continue my work and that every life is valuable!
Spiffy: Thanks again for speaking with me today, Betsy—it’s been an honor!
Betsy Furler is the founder and CEO of For All Abilities. She is passionate about optimizing the strengths of all people and ensuring that all people are valued for their strengths and their differences. Betsy enjoys speaking about the value of our differences, workplace accommodations, technology, and accessibility. She has spoken at national and international conferences including SXSW and TEDX. (Nominated by Josef Scarantino of Hubspot Ventures. First published on the Ladderworks website on August 12, 2022.)
© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.