Cerebral palsy didn’t stop her to be successful

At Stasism, we like to invite people to share their stories. We believe it’s important to get to know more of what drives people to chase after their dreams, what makes them weave their way beautifully into a well lived life. And what’s more, we want to inspire people and encourage them in their journey.

This time we had a chat with Adriana Mallozzi, an entrepreneur and the co-founder of the 15% Club on Clubhouse, meant for people with disabilities. Amongst many endeavours, she also founded Quirk Labs, (Leveraging Abilities to Access Better Solutions) which seeks to increase and afford a much greater level of diversity and inclusivity in coworking communities for people with disabilities.

Adriana Mallozzi, a disability advocate & the co-founder of the 15% Club on Clubhouse 

I first heard Adriana and met virtually on Clubhouse, the new drop-in audio chat app that is such a wonderful space to share and learn. From her first chats on the 15% Club, I immediately felt so much passion in her voice, from what she was talking about, her work, her drive and determination. I felt so inspired by her and I am really happy I got to sit down with her and discuss more.

Adriana Mallozzi was diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy early on in her childhood, but despite the difficulties brought on by this condition, she managed to achieve her dreams, learn more, grow into the woman she envisioned to become, all whilst inspiring others as well.

She is the founder of Puffin innovations, following the MIT Assistive Teck Hackathon,founder of non-profit Quirk Labs, guest lecturer at Northeastern University and Boston University Physical Therapy , as well as a speaker on various panels. Multitalented and with a desire of always doing more, she surprised me with her huge capacity of being a multitasker and a women entrepreneur. I was in awe of how she manages her time between all her projects and how she still finds the time to help others.

You can watch our video interview with Adriana here:

Founding the 15% Club on Clubhouse

Adriana hosts weekly chats on her 15% Club on Clubhouse and she dedicates a lot of her time into helping others on the app grow and develop their own communities on disabilities. 

The 15% Club is the largest minority group anyone can join, and it represents 15% of the population. The space is meant for people with disabilities and to share meaningful conversations. We invite you to join their community here if you are on iOS ( the Android version of the app is now available but only in the US). 

Adriana wanted to make change happen and make the voice of people with disabilities heard on an international scale so all her chat rooms that she hosts and moderate on the app are filled with meaningful conversations, powerful words and life changing stories.

Interview highlights 

Being a multitasker and a women entrepreneur

I: I am honestly astounded by the things that you do, and you also have a job… You’re a MIT assistive tech hackaton winner, a co-founder of a non-profit called Quirk LAABS, a guest lecturer, and more. I am honestly astounded by the things that you do, so I just wonder, how do you get all the time for that? 

A: I  have a tech startup and we are developing a completely wireless device and it allows people with limited mobility in the upper extremities to use their mobile devices and computers and then we also have an app that goes along with it so that the user has complete control of the settings 

We are incorporating machine learning and AI so that the app adjusts to the user, and in the majority of the apps the user needs to adjust it, so we want to change that. I am also the co-founder of Quirk Labs, where we are creating a space/network/platform for current and aspiring entrepreneurs with disability.

The journey of success with a disability

A: When I wanted to apply as an entrepreneur, there was never a box that I could fit into. I could check the female founder but there was nothing to say I have a disability or the technology that I’m developing is for people with disabilities. We either had to pick high tech or social enterprise and we don’t fit into these categories. It’s assistive tech and we are not a typical consumer product so those experiences really made me want to create a space where entrepreneurs with disabilities or people who are aspiring to be can learn how to grow their business and just rally together. I was part of an accelerator program here in Boston and there were startups in one giant space and the energy that we got from each other is what was so great.

We’re pretty much in the same boat, we’re struggling entrepreneurs and we would help each other out.so that s the environment that we want to create specifically for people with disabilities

I: It seems like you’re setting it up for a major change and I think it’s amazing. When did you start all this?

A: It’s been in the works for a while but we got going right after COVID happened, we got into a fellowship to help kick this project off. So me and a few people, who are the founders, we were trying to figure out how to implement this idea.

So we were just going to focus on the Boston area but we thought why not globally. And then Clubhouse happened and we started growing and we have about 5000 followers now and Iwould have never imagined it would be what it is now.

The motivation to become who you are today

I: You mentioned that you were able to focus when COVID-19 happened, and you did so many things. I find that quite interesting, because many people might find this being a pretext to just expect this to pass and move on with their lives.

A: I rely on other people to wake me up, but I can get my stuff done. The pandemic also brought to light what people with disabilities always faced, such as isolation. Now everyone was facing it and this was not something new and you realise now maybe what a lot of them have gone through.. So I like to say that there’s a silver lining.

I: So what we’re doing here at Stasism is what we’re trying to do but also trying to create a community because I think we need that and saying this, I kind of wanted to ask you if you had experience with tech before starting your thing? And what do you think we’re lacking in this area?

Getting diagnosed with cerebral palsy

A: So I stopped breathing during birth and the lack of oxygen caused brain damage which is how I got CP. I was officially diagnosed with 11 to 12 months old, when my parents noticed that I wasn’t doing the usual things and so that’s when I realised that I have CP and luckily they were connected to an organisation who provides help. Where I grew up, they had a physical center and everything was under one roof, speech therapy, occupational therapy, summer camp. So I literally grew up going there for the first 17 years of my life up until I graduated high school, that was my second home. I went to preschool there, to summer camps, they were like a family and I had great therapists that saw the potential and their job was to focus on what I could do and it really so it was them that introduced me to technology when I was about 7 or 8 years old.

From then on, I was hooked and addicted and wanted to try and see what the next best thing was and how I can make things better.

I: And that’s what I think is so inspiring and uplifting.

A: As I got older, there were more conversations on my future, whereas when I was a kid, it was mostly about play. As I got older, I was more focused on what do you need to do to move on from here, go to college and things like that. I think we were really fortunate to be connected to an organisation that really focuses on making a change and helping people. I finally understood that there were no limits to what I can do. 

Therapy through play

I: So you mentioned when you were a kid, you learned more through play, and you mentioned horses as a therapeutical tool as well. Because what we’re doing at Stasism is therapy through play in a much more motivating way for kids and adults with the help, I wanted to ask you what do you feel is sort of missing, is it technology that could help people with cp, or what is it?

A: Cp is such a wide range, and no two people are the same, and I think in general for people with disabilities there’s so many things, and in some years I’ll be able to drive a car and I envision that I’m going to use the devices that I’m creating in order to drive a car. As to what you’re working on, I think it’s great that you’re gamifying therapy. Because as a child I hated physical therapy. More so I hated it when I was at home and my mom wanted to keep me up and do the exercises. And I think it’s great that there are more levels that you can reach, and that’s a great motivation, if I were a child if I could do it.

Talking with Adriana has really been a pleasure and we are looking forward to hearing more of her journey, she is a role model to a lot of people with disability and shows us that there is no limits to what one can do. You can find all of our interviews and more stories on our Blog.

Stasism is a revolutionary new social online platform with therapeutic physical video games made exclusively for people with Cerebral Palsy. The first of its kind, delivering a constant stream of new and exciting games, characters, features and much more, leading to a happier childhood. Discover how.

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Olivia Dejeu
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