Jobs for People with Coolabilities
The labor market has traditionally included at least a few jobs for people
with coolabilities. In Thailand, for example, “blind massage” is appreciated
because blind people’s sensitive hands
are known to have a better feel for
muscles. Today the best-known coolabilities examples are of some people on
the Autism spectrum, who often show
exceptional talent for attention to detail and complex pattern recognition.
These talents are currently appreciated
by the software industry, where jobs
have been created for individuals with
coolabilities on the autism spectrum.
Until now, vocations for people with
coolabilities have been limited, tradi-
tional, exotic, and piecemeal. In many
countries of the world it is common
they have a unique perspective adding
to the diversity of a workforce.
Neuroscientists have identified enhanced abilities and compensatory
mechanisms for a number of disabling
conditions. Cross-modal plasticity is
one example: a blind person’s visual
cortex is not useless; rather it adapts to
help other senses such as hearing. Advances in technology such as the fMRI
help us to gain deeper understanding of such processes. The concept of
coolabilities connects these initiatives
and opens a wider lens for understanding both scientific and social aspects of
strengths linked to disabilities.
The nature of coolabilities is shown
in the table. It shows six conditions,
together with accompanying disabilities and typical coolabilities. Research
into all imaginable conditions studying when, how, and why coolabilities
occur is essential to provide a wider
lens for understanding and utilizing
We suggest attributes of a coolability, which are not mutually exclusive:
˲ Singular: These are innate enhanced abilities essential to a condition. They appear, for example, in congenital cases; the wiring of the brain
and behavior are present from the beginning. Evidence suggests that many
people on the autism spectrum are
hyper-systemizers, due to differences
in brain functionality, according to
Baron Cohen. For people with disabilities where sensory signals are missing,
the parts of the brain that process those
signals may use other signals instead.
The auditory cortex has functionality
for connecting and interpreting sentences, which for many deaf people
adds capacity to interpret visual and vibrotactile cues. In the same way, blind
people will often have enhanced spatial
understanding of touch and sound.
˲ Compensatory: These are acquired
abilities that occur or strengthen after a
loss. Examples include increased hand
strength among people in wheelchairs.
˲ Contextual: These have to do with
context, environment, and framing,
and arise when a perceived weakness
becomes a strength. For example, a
hearing deficit can be an advantage for
a person when working in a noisy envi-
ronment. Having a “narrow field of in-
terests”—one of the characteristics that
is often used to describe people on the
autism spectrum—may also indicate
they have deep expertise in one of them.
It is important to understand that
these suggested categories are not like
slots, but rather provide coordinates for
a multidimensional description of coolabilities. The hyper-systemizing coolability
of many people on the autism spectrum
is both singular and contextual, if it is
understood as the disabling hypersensitivity to the environment, reframed by
context. The repurposing of the brain that
sharpens other senses when one sense is
missing is singular, but also compensatory, because people use their heightened
senses to compensate. Many deaf people
will “listen” with their eyes and many
blind people will “see” with their ears and
hands. They have a singular talent, and
they train it by making use of it.
Condition Disabilities Coolabilities
ASD High sensitivity, sensory
deciphering social cues.
Enhanced observation and systemizing abilities,
attention to detail, focus, memory, honesty.
ADHD Hyperactive; distractible;
Enhanced imagination; creativity, hyperfocus, flow,
multi-tasking, lateral thinking, original solutions.
Dyslexia Difficulties in reading,
Enhanced visual-spatial system thinking
(‘flow-charts’) innovative, perseverance, motivation.
Deaf Complete or profound
Enhanced visual, tactile abilities, boosted
by the auditory cortex: ‘hearing’ body language
and vibrotactile abilities, and so forth.
Blind Complete or profound
Enhanced auditory, tactile, olfactory abilities,
boosted by the visual cortex: spatial hearing,
echo-location, hands that “see,” and so forth.
Williams Syndrome Developmental delays,
physical health issues.
Enhanced empathy, friendly, helpful, verbal,
musical, enhanced memory.
COOLABILITIES — DISABILITIES