2019 Attendees

Alex Haagard

Director of Communications
The Disabled List
New York
, United States of America


1.    Prior to being chosen to participate in this program, what did you know or hear about the LIA Creative LIAisons program?
I learned about Creative LIAisons through the Rare initiative, which my partner at The Disabled List, Liz Jackson, has been involved with.
2.    What do you expect to get out of Creative LIAisons? What do you want to get out of Creative LIAisons?
Let's just say the quiet part loud: achieving professional success and social impact in creative fields like design depends on who you know. Specifically, it depends on access to powerful and influential people who think that what you're doing sounds new and exciting and profitable. Which is why when we talk about Innovators™, we're usually talking about wealthy, white, ostensibly abled cis men, who create digital platforms that shelter and amplify white supremacists while most of the world remains oblivious to the actual radical innovation going on as marginalized communities adapt these platforms to do anarcho-medicine, redefine what social relationships and co-presence can mean and look like, and challenge capitalist economic systems by supporting reparation funds and paying each other for emotional labour. There's so much incredible, radical shit that goes on in digital spaces, that's disrupting what we think of as the most fundamental mechanics of our society, and yet it's largely invisible in the discourse of innovation because Innovators are the people who know people who know people.
So anyway, here I am. I like to think I'm doing some good work, which can hopefully create a methodological infrastructure for doing this kind of incredible, radical shit on a larger, more visible scale.
But I'm also poor, and disabled, and living in a small city in eastern Ontario because I can't afford to live anywhere else. For the last three years I literally could not leave my parents' house unless they were willing to drive me, because we lived in a rural area with no transit, and I'd lost my license after being diagnosed with narcolepsy. Because of the ways in which digital culture has redefined what it means to be "present", I've been able to collaborate with Liz Jackson on our work at The Disabled List, and to find community with a lot of other amazing, creative disabled folks online. But I still lack access to the kind of professional networking that powers the design and tech fields, because that networking tends to happen in person, in large geographic and cultural centers that also tend to be really expensive to live in. It seems to me that Rare Access is an important opportunity to disrupt the implicit gatekeeping that determines who gets to be an Innovator, based on who they are, where they live, and who they know.  
3.    If you were to choose what the speakers present, what topics would you choose?
I’d love for the speakers to talk about a time they’ve “gotten it wrong”. As a disabled design consultant, it’s far from unusual to encounter media that misunderstands or misrepresents disability. It’s much more rare to encounter a brand or designer who acknowledges and owns an error upon getting called out (or called in) for it. And yet, errors and callouts represent a unique opportunity to create media that is truly innovative, and capable of upending tropes by challenging the biases and assumptions that underpin them. At The Disabled List we often speak about “knowledgeable fearlessness,” the creative space that is opened up when we have enough knowledge to engage daringly with an identity or an idea. And part of what’s required in order to create that kind of knowledge is the fearlessness to acknowledge what we don’t know—and when and how and why we’ve made mistakes.
4.    If you could choose any juror to interview for two minutes, who would it be and why?
I’d love to speak with Bernardo Romero or Matt Eastwood about what role critical disability perspectives could (and should) play in the development of healthcare communications, branding and strategy. I’m particularly interested in McCann’s work in strategic healthcare consulting, and I believe that this is an area where the unique expertise of chronic patients represents a largely untapped knowledge resource. I’m excited by how Grey’s recent work has celebrated the lived experiences of people from underrepresented communities (e.g., “First Shave”).