Home / Spiffy's Blog / Keely Cat-Wells: Changing Perceptions and Creating Careers for Disabled People
Keely Cat-Wells: Changing Perceptions and Creating Careers for Disabled People

Keely Cat-Wells: Changing Perceptions and Creating Careers for Disabled People

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 Keely Cat-Wells, the founder and CEO of Making Space. Let’s learn about what’s happening at Making Space and how Keely is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi Keely, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Making Space?

Keely: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! We address two critical issues: the attitudinal, communicative, and physical barriers faced by disabled people in the workforce; and the global labor force shortages stemming from skill gaps, as education struggles to keep pace with the rapidly evolving future of work. Making Space’s overarching goal is to create careers for the most underrepresented and underestimated population globally—Disabled people—and to change the way the world views and defines disability.

Spiffy: That’s awesome. What motivates you to do it, Keely?

Keely: I became Disabled when I was around 17 years old, and soon after ended up losing a job due to disability discrimination. That experience was a light bulb moment for me, and made me realize that the experience I had was not an isolated one. Millions of Disabled people are pushed out of opportunities because of barriers that exist in our society—physical, sensory, communication, and attitudinal barriers. My experiences as a newly Disabled person led to the creation of my first company, a talent agency that represents Disabled talent. I sold this company, then founded Making Space to make an impact on a bigger scale.

Spiffy: Can you elaborate on the impact of your work?

Keely: We create new pathways to employment and career advancement for Disabled talent pools. This is done through employer-backed courses that bridge the education-employment gap and enable companies to access untapped and underrepresented candidates. The courses we provide are directly tied to an employer's open roles and are completely free for talent. 

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

Keely: We recently partnered with Netflix to create a course that built a pipeline of Disabled graphic designers. Hundreds of Disabled talent have completed the course and are now being considered by Netflix for work!

Spiffy: Wow, so cool! Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Keely: We believe that Disabled people deserve to lead, and that when we have more Disabled leaders, change will escalate. We also believe that we have to build with a 'beyond compliant' approach, and that accessibility is a huge, untapped opportunity to be had rather than just a problem to be solved.

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

Keely Cat-Wells founded her first company in hospital, which later became a talent agency that represents Disabled artists and was acquired in 2022. Keely is now the CEO of Making Space, a talent acquisition and learning platform that develops accessible pathways to employment for Disabled people, notably securing partnerships with NBC, Netflix, and Amazon. Under Making Space is Making Space Media, a division that tells the untold stories of Disabled people and has secured a first-look deal with Reese Witherspoons, Hello Sunshine. Keely is a Forbes 30 Under 30 honouree, Presidential Leadership Scholar, and Diana Award Winner. (Nominated by Gemma Lenowitz. First published on the Ladderworks website on February 27, 2024.)

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

© 2024 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. 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.