Pete spoke with Heather and Andrew, Co-Founders of Handi to find out more about what it’s like to work alongside your sibling, and what they aim to get out of the Remarkable 16-week accelerator program.
Check out some of the key takeouts from this ‘on the couch’ session with Heather and Andrew…
Heather tell us about Handi and where the idea came from?
Heather: We hatched this idea about a year and a half ago based on Andrew’s lived experience and me sort of asking some really, I guess naive questions around sexuality and disability. I was trying to understand what Andrew’s lived experience was and where some of the gaps were. Andrew had gone into some detail, explaining to me that a lot of disabilities affect the use of peoples hands, and because of that many people can’t self-pleasure. In some circumstances, people’s hands have certain limitations in terms of dexterity or pain or mobility. Then I said, okay that’s terrible but what about all of the sex toys on the market? Surely you can use those? And Andrew kind of rolled his eyes and said I can’t use those for the exact same reason as I can’t use my hands. If you think of it, they’re all really small, they require a lot of dexterity, and really require the same sort of hand manipulation and movement as if you were just to be able to self-pleasure yourself.
Andrew, you’ve been a longtime advocate for disability and sexuality – can you tell us the importance of this topic and what you think Handi’s doing to support your advocacy work?
Andrew: Sex and disability is something we don’t really talk about when we talk ‘disability’. Generally, when we speak about disability we start and stop with access to ramps, access to buildings, access to rights. That’s the only kind of way, disability is discussed in conversation and when it comes to sexuality people usually respond with “oh wow, that feels weird!” or “that’s awkward! We don’t know how to do that.” So typically the conversation starts and stops there. So I’ve always been very vocal about that because I’m a very sexual person. I’m also queer and I felt like when I started doing this work in advocacy about eight years ago, I really was very passionate about just making sure that that experience was talked about openly. So Handi continues this conversation in a really interesting way, it’s fun, it’s playful and cheeky and it really helps to change the discussion of sex and disability so it doesn’t have to be clinical. We are not talking about masturbation as if it’s like “you have to get off for your health”, yes that’s important, but we’re doing it in a way that is like “oh it can also be fun” and you deserve pleasure and these experiences like anybody else. So I think we are doing it in a way that pokes fun at a little bit and says “why not make this a conversation that can be fun?”
So you both applied for Remarkable – tell us what you hope to get out of being part of Remarkable?
Heather: I think being a Founder, even if you are a Co-Founder, can sometimes be quite lonely, so I think what’s amazing about this program is that not only do you the support of incredible people running the program, and access to information that is really helping you build your business, in addition to that you’re surrounded by a cohort of people who are also all doing the same things and are also really passionate around the disability space. For me looking at the different accelerators that we could have applied for the Remarkable program was the one that I actually wanted the most because we have access to people who really understand the disabled mindset and have access to the disability community, and who are in this business for the reasons of being able to help the disability community in a number of different ways.
Andrew: I remember when we had our first week of the program and we were watching all of the other projects, I said to Heather I’m really glad we did this because now we get to see other people trying to make the change like we are in different spaces, but it’s really valuable to see that we’re not the only ones trying to make big changes in the disability space. There are other people that are trying to do the same thing and I think having the support from the cohort and being able to talk to them about stuff that we’re struggling with and bounce ideas off of is really valuable.
Andrew, you’re experiencing this program from the other side of the world – do you want to tell us where you are and how you’re finding the experience remotely?
Andrew: I’m in Toronto, Canada so literally on the other side of the world. When you guys get up in the morning to start your accelerator I’m winding down for the day, and I’m like okay is it bedtime yet? So that is different and it’s always fun to start my workday at five o’clock and go until ten. But I think it’s really great that we can do it remotely and then I can be included because the other option would be Heather would be there were it not for COVID-19 they would have been there and doing it in person and I would have missed out. So I’m not glad about COVID but I’m glad that it levelled the playing field for something like this so that we all have to be in this weird bubble together.
Heather, can you tell us where you hope Handi will be in five years time?
Heather: I think we’ve got an amazing roadmap of products in the bank so obviously we’d like to be launched and I think our company lends itself to an international brand. So we will start in Australia initially, but I think very quickly it will need to scale internationally and then we need to continue to lean into different abilities or disabilities and making sure that we are creating technology that continues to put pleasure in reach for people who may currently be divorced from it. So I think there’s a ton of different ways we can lean into that and eventually just global domination.