Imagine losing the ability to use your hands and arms. Imagine that, despite being assessed by over 400 doctors around the globe, no one can determine the cause of the issue. Now imagine trying to function effectively in your life.

This describes Christina Mallon’s world, and yet she has refused to let this setback keep her from living her best life in New York City. She works full time, has become a spokesperson for people with disabilities and is involved with Open Style Labs, a nonprofit that designs clothing for people with disabilities.

On overcoming frustrations

“The world makes me disabled, as it's not set up for someone with a disability. Small changes to my environment would rid me of my disability.” 

Not only was visiting a string of doctors time-consuming, it was also disheartening, as none could successfully identify the cause of Mallon’s paralysis. As she searched and searched for her eventual diagnosis — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — kept her chin up.

“It was extremely frustrating to continuously try different treatments that weren't working. I didn't allow myself to get upset, as I know it could be worse, and this opportunity allowed for me to see all the love that my friends and family have for me.”

On changing media representation

Having forged her career in advertising, Mellon was quick to notice that she felt underrepresented and invisible as a consumer. She’s become an advocate for inclusion of people with disabilities in ad campaigns, and of changing people’s perception of what it means to be disabled. “The media helps form people’s perceptions of what's normal and what's not. One-fifth of the world identifies as having a disability, so why are people with disabilities only represented one way in media?

Mellon has been proactive at finding innovative assistive technology that helps her function day-to-day, but it’s a challenge, she says. “The world makes me disabled, as it's not set up for someone with a disability. Small changes to my environment would rid me of my disability.” 

Her work with Open Style Lab aims to make the world a bit more disability-friendly by developing adaptive clothing and wearable technologies that help those with disabilities be more productive in their lives.