Home / Spiffy's Blog / Debra Maria Ruh: Aiming to Empower People with Disabilities (PWD)
Debra Maria Ruh: Aiming to Empower People with Disabilities (PWD)

Debra Maria Ruh: Aiming to Empower People with Disabilities (PWD)

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and an 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, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Debra Maria Ruh, the CEO and executive chair of Ruh Global IMPACT and Billion Strong. Let’s learn what’s happening at Ruh Global IMPACT and Billion Strong and how Debra is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi Debra, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Ruh Global IMPACT and Billion Strong?

Debra: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Billion Strong, an initiative by Ruh Global IMPACT, aims to empower people with disabilities to embrace their identities and become discoverable. Many individuals with hidden disabilities fear discrimination, but by fostering a global community across 98 countries, Billion Strong encourages persons with disabilities (PWD) to unite, share their experiences, and bridge the understanding gap, enabling meaningful inclusion in corporations and education systems.

Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?

Debra: I am motivated to build Billion Strong by a deep commitment to empowering people with disabilities. I aim to create a global platform where persons with disabilities (PWD) can celebrate their identities, overcome discrimination, and drive positive change in society, fostering a more inclusive world.

Spiffy: How would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?

Debra: Ruh Global IMPACT is a global think tank dedicated to advancing disability inclusion through research, advocacy, and thought leadership. It conducts research, collaborates with various stakeholders to implement inclusive policies and practices, and hosts events to foster knowledge exchange; all aimed at creating a more accessible and inclusive world for individuals with disabilities.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience/community?

Debra: We began a global marketing campaign to drive our community to use the hashtag #WeAreBillionStrong. The goal is to unite the 1.3 to 1.7 billion people with disabilities worldwide; fostering pride, empowerment, and global identity acceleration within the disability community.

Spiffy: Tell me about an inspiring startup that your organization has helped to advance its impact.

Debra: Billion Strong is a groundbreaking identity accelerator for persons with disabilities, designed to celebrate and empower individuals with disabilities. Its primary goal is to promote a positive identity, challenge stereotypes, and increase the visibility of people with disabilities in society.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Debra: My work at #WeAreBillionStrong is deeply personal, as a neurodiverse individual with ADHD and dyslexia. Being a mother to a daughter with Down syndrome and caring for my late husband with dementia and traumatic brain injury (TBI), I am driven to create a more inclusive world for all, drawing strength from lived experiences.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Debra—it’s been an honor!

Debra Ruh, CEO of Ruh Global IMPACT and Billion Strong, is a passionate advocate for disability inclusion. As a neurodiverse individual and mother of a daughter with down syndrome, her work is deeply personal. Debra strives to create a more inclusive world for all, drawing strength from lived experiences. (Nominated by Josef Scarantino of Hubspot Ventures. First published on the Ladderworks website on December 13, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Daniela Vega. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.