Episode 48 Transcript

Published: Thursday May 23, 2024

Ryan Hudson-Peralta | Founder, ‘Look Mom, No Hands’

Ryan Turns Limitations Into Innovations Despite Being Born with Congenital Limb Differences


Alycia Anderson: Welcome to Pushing Forward with Alycia, a podcast that gives disability a voice. Each week we will explore topics like confidence, ambition, resilience and finding success against all odds. We are creating a collective community that believes that all things are possible for all people.

Open hearts. Clear paths. Let’s go.

Welcome back to Pushing Forward with Alycia. I’m Alycia. We are a disability podcast that is striving to give disability its regular voice and conversations today.

Our next guest embodies the ethos of breaking down barriers and defying limitations. As he eloquently puts it. The only limitations we have in life are the ones that we set ourselves.

I love that.

He’s a designer. He’s an international speaker. He’s dedicated to advocacy. He’s a loving father and husband. He’s the founder of an empowering platform called Look mom, no hands.

And additionally, he has co-founded Equal Accessibility alongside his son Noah, and he happens to be born without hands.

Brian Hudson-Peralta, welcome to Pushing Forward with Alycia. Thank you so much for joining us.

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Alycia Anderson: Can we start with you sharing your journey with us, with your disability? Whatever you’re comfortable with, how you become a designer and advocate and speaker through your platforms?

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: Uh, so I’m 44 years old. I was born with congenital limb deficiency, which is basically being born without arms… hands.

I have really short arms. They’re about to maybe a little bit above where most people’s elbows are. And I’m unable to walk because I have only one hip socket, so I’m a wheelchair user as well, and I’ve always been an artist. I’ve started drawing as a kid. Uh, painting a lot of drawing.

I used to sell greeting cards to make money and that’s how I actually paid for my first vehicle. So yeah, I’ve just been a designer my entire life and I’ve always tried to make obviously my life easier.

So, I was like modifying my clothes as a kid and modifying things around my house as a kid and that kind of like went into something else and I started making, you know, apps and websites better for companies and that that started the business there. And then I’ve always been an advocate for people. You know, people in high school or people in elementary school, middle school, high school.

It was easy for me to figure things out, so I made sure that I was able to help other people figure things out. So if you know, if they were having, whether they have a disability or not, they’re struggling with something. I helped them get through the day, and if they had a disability and they were having, you know, a problem with something at school or at home or something, I would help them, you know, even design products for them and design something for them to help them make their life easier.

And, you know, now 44 years later, I’m doing that with my company, my mentor kids all around the United States that are born like me. I call, I give them the cheat code. I call it the cheat code. You know, I figured out how to get my shirt on. I figure how to get dressed on my own. So, like, I’m able to teach them that early.

So they don’t have to like, go through years and years of trying to figure out themselves.

Alycia Anderson: You said something interesting that it’s always been easy for you to, I guess, adapt or design the world to work around you the way that you need.

Where did that come from? Did your parents push you in that way or…?

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: Yeah, for sure. My parents, my parents were always there, you know, to support me and help me if I needed it. They’re always pushing me to like, you know. When I would say I want to, I want to do it on my own. Obviously every kid wants to do everything on their own, right?

So like when I would say those things, my my parents were the first ones to. Be like you. Know hand right behind my back, just in case I’m about to fall. But making sure you know that I’m I am trying and doing it on my own, and you know.

And then I think the artistic side of me, like, got into the design. Part of it and I just think that just I don’t know how it came easy to me, but it did thankfully.

Alycia Anderson: Can you explain like one of the tools that you use that is maybe something that you designed?

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: Yeah. So, a lot of a lot of things in my house, like, yeah. So people are always surprised to find out that I only use my wheelchair, the only adaptive equipment I use is my wheelchair and the modifications to my vehicle.

Everything else in my house is just like everyone else’s house. I have little things that help me like I have these little hooks that I designed to help me get my clothes on, you know, and do different things.

Where like I always tell people, like there’s accessible design, and then there’s inclusive design.

Like the best products on Earth are made for everyone, right? They’re not made for just people with disabilities.

Like I use a bidet toilet seat, not an adaptive piece of equipment. It’s an equipment that everybody I actually say everybody should have a bidet toilets.

Bluetooth headsets. These things are not necessarily designed for people with disabilities, but they were designed for everyone and that’s what I look to do with like things that I designed and experiences that I design, like apps and websites like I want it to be you know, whether someone has a vision impairment.

Or whatever or whatever like a mobility issue. Tapping buttons. Like I look to, you know, make sure that it’s 100% inclusive, not necessarily just successful.

I actually have a product coming out that helps people with disabilities, specifically people in wheelchairs or people with limb differences, close doors and the patent is not public just yet, but my attorney says it’s gonna be in a couple of weeks.

It’s called Door Nub and definitely be looking. Look out for that coming soon.

I have to send you one.

Alycia Anderson: For sure. Nice. I like it. So that’s a great congratulations on that. That’s awesome. That’s a good segue.

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: Thank you.

Alycia Anderson: Into Equal Accessibility, your son and yourself founded Equal Accessibility.

Can you tell us about the mission behind your organization? And how it aims to make a difference in creating these inclusive experiences.

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: You know, just like I talked about designing websites and apps for everyone and the, you know, the best products. You know, we as wheelchair users or people with disabilities. I’m…, I’m sure you know this.

You’ll go to a hotel and my biggest pet peeve at a hotel. When the trash can is in front of the elevator button.

Now you have longer arms than me, but I have, like I always say, I have the wingspan of an ant, obviously, and my arms are like 8 to 9 inches long, so I can’t reach that button. And so these little things, you know, throughout my entire life that I like figured out, like, yeah, just slide the trash can over and hit the button.

But not everybody can do that.

There’s so many other things that businesses don’t realize that are… that, are I really push somebody with a disability away from wanting to use their business or service.

And so, umm, you know, when my son was younger, we would go places and there was be like, oh, I’m sorry, you can’t do this. You know, I’m just with my son. My wife’s not with me or whatever. And so, we weren’t able to do certain things. So, as he got older, you know, we… he was able to lift me and, you know, be able to carry me and do these things.

But he wasn’t always able to do that, so just things that we learned along the way and learn. I’ve learned along the way in my lifetime to make, you know, experiences better.

We share those things with businesses and to help make experiences for everybody, you know, not necessarily just people with disabilities, but everyone that comes to their…, their place of business or you know we work with companies, product designs, apps and websites, physical products to help make boxes easier to open, make apps easier to use.

So yeah, that’s why… That’s why we do that. And what’s great about Noah being part of Equal Accessibilities… you know, he has, like, the caretaker perspective. And a lot of… a lot of places and people don’t think about that, you know, like it’s extremely important.

Like, I can do a lot of things on my own, but there are some things I can’t do that he needs to help with, you know, to help me with.

And you know, there’s special accommodations that need to be made and should be made.

Alycia Anderson: I think it’s a beautiful motivator to want to advocate, to have space in life, to do with and enjoy life with your son the way that you choose.

So, what are some of the biggest challenges that you’ve run into with this advocacy work?

Are there any major ones that are in front of you right now?

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: I feel like being found and having people realize because we don’t like, you know, people, there’s clients that come to us and say do you do ADA compliance, you know?

And I was like, yeah, we totally do that. We go above and beyond ADA, you know, ADA is the minimum requirements.

And people don’t realize that, like ADA, literally is the minimum requirements for accessibility, but you know, thank God for the people that worked so diligently to create the ADA.

We work with companies to make their spaces, you know, better for people with disabilities and everyone.

Alycia Anderson: What I love about that is looking beyond ADA.

Using ADA as kind of like the foundational starting point.

You need to have all of these things, but then once you have them or you’re going to implement them. How can you enhance them to work in today’s modern society?

And I think to your point, disability is so diverse. There’s so much equipment, there’s so many variations, especially with technology today.

What is the impact?

I know you work with brands like General Motors, Amazon, Zappos like, are you improving accessibility with your partners like that?

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: One of my favorite companies that I’m working with is United Access. They have a ton of locations around the United States and they modified vehicles for people with disabilities and they’re renovating a lot of their spaces and we created them together.

We created the gold standard of accessibility and it’s so incredible to hear how passionate the people that work for the company are about accessibility, inclusivity.

So, you know what United Access is doing is working with us to create really amazing experiences for their clients, so like they have office spaces and 99% of their clients are in wheelchairs, so we came up with the idea of, like always having one chair pulled out from an office, because how many times have you gone into an office and I’m like, oh let me get that… Let me get that chair for you out of the way.

It’s like well, why do that when you can always have that chair out and now a wheelchair user feels welcomed into that space.

Alycia Anderson: What’s awesome about that, too, is hiring somebody with a disability that is an expert in this space so they can see what is being missed.

You know, from a user experience, I think that that’s really… That’s awesome.

You’re listening to Pushing Forward with Alycia, and we will be right back.


Alycia Anderson: Welcome back to Pushing Forward with Alycia. I’m Alycia. Our guest embodies the ethos of breaking down barriers and defying limitations.

Welcome, Brian Hudson-Peralta.

Fashion specifically, hats and shoes have been very important for your self-expression and your creativity.

Can you talk a little bit about that in your life?

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: So I have almost 2,000 hats and around 500 pairs of shoes and a closet full of my favorites.

You know, my wife is always. So you gonna get rid of this? Like, that’s all my favorites. So I can’t. Yeah, and I love fashion.

When I was a kid, my friends would be…, they would have rings and bracelets on and I couldn’t express myself that way. So, I was able to express myself wearing hats and sneakers, and so ever since I was a kid, I’ve always collected hats and sneakers.

It’s… And they always got to match. The hats gotta match the shoes. The shoes gotta match the shirt and yeah.

Alycia Anderson: You’re designing your own hats and products as well, aren’t you?

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: Yeah.

Alycia Anderson: In what ways do you think that education and awareness on this topic is going to help us foster more inclusivity?

How do we incorporate some of these elements into like the workplace or into your work?

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: This is my saying.

If you want people to learn, you have to be willing to teach.

And so many people are like, you know, they’re willing to complain, but they’re not willing to help, like, you know.

If I do something wrong, I want someone to tell me that I’m doing something wrong so I can fix it.

Not everybody’s… not everybody’s like that you know, but well…, they’ll be the first ones to complain about it, but they won’t, you know? Tell me like, hey, you shouldn’t do that. Maybe try this next time.

So, like, if you want people to learn, you have to be willing to teach.

And I feel like that’s what I’m trying to do with everyone.

I’m not… When I go into these businesses, I don’t judge them for not realizing that chair should have been pulled out or the ADA button should be lower because they’re not in my situation, they’re not in that… you can’t be… as humans, we’re extremely… really, we kind of think about ourselves, right?

Like we see like from our perspective.

So, I can’t even judge somebody for seeing it like something, you know another way or seeing it like me.

So, I’m always there to teach people and help people figure out everything, whether it’s, you know, something they’re dealing with in their life and they’re having a problem with and they need help with or, you know, putting… where to put an ADA door button in front of their businesses so anybody can reach it.

Alycia Anderson: And from your perspective, I’m sure you’ve run into this. How do those teaching moments translate there?

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: I never see any… somebody looking at me…

I mean, everybody looks at me like, literally everybody stares at me and looks at me.

Everybody doubts me.

I want people to know that it’s OK to ask a question.

Ask. I would say ask, don’t assume, like, ask me anything you want.

Like, if I don’t want to answer it, I won’t answer it, but I would never be offended with any questions.

No questions ever offended me.

Just ask the question and like you know, don’t… When I go… When I went into the, you know…, early on when I was graduated high school and I go look for a job, you know, over the phone, people looking at my portfolio and resume.

I was the perfect candidate.

But when I got in there and rolled in I was like, you know, I might as well be showing up without a head because they don’t understand that. Yes, I did all those things.

I probably did them faster than anybody that works for you, and so I’ve had to prove myself my entire life.

And I’m… I still…, I still prove… I have to prove myself with, you know, different things.

And that’s OK.

Right now, I work for Rocket Mortgage, as one of their lead designers and I would say I’m the best designer in the company because I have to be the best designer in the company.

I have no choice.

If I’m… if I’m second best in anything that I do in life then I might as well be last, because they’re not gonna… Someone’s not gonna pick the person missing…, you know, having no arms and legs in a wheelchair over the guy that’s… that’s pretty good at this, you know.

You know that. You know, they think he can show up and come into work every day.

I probably work harder and faster than most people and then… in the industry, to be honest. So…

Alycia Anderson: What you just said is so interesting.

Is it.. If you’re not, if you’re not first, you’re second. If you’re second, you’re last.

And that is a driver being a disabled person trying to like make our way in the world and it pushes us to be really, really, really proficient at a lot of things because we have to be.

I am on the same lane as you.. like… I have decided in my space to use my voice…

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: Yeah.

Alycia Anderson: …to teach and to open up perspectives.

So, the next, you know wheelchair users or whoever comes behind us, maybe it won’t be quite as awkward, weird, difficult, inaccessible, or have so many barriers, you know, so.

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: I have this saying, it’s if you can’t fix it, forget it.

And so, like anything that comes up in my life, I give myself 1/2 day, maybe a whole day to like try to get over something.

And now like something comes up and something’s bothering me.

If I can’t fix it, I forget it.

Like I’d give myself a few minutes to get rid of it. Because honestly. Life’s too short, I could… I could not be here 10 minutes from now.

And do I want to spend the rest… the… my remaining 10 minutes being happy and moving forward in life or being sad, a jerk and being mad about something?

Alycia Anderson: You’re right, like… life is too short to allow yourself to sit in a space of stress about something that you can’t frankly fix.

So, what does the future look like?

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: The future looks like every business in America wants to use Equal Accessibility to make their business more inclusive.

But yeah, honestly, there’s like plans for Equal Accessibility.

Like, you know, every business that we evaluate and work with, we’ll put a sticker on the door.

I’d love the Equal Accessibility logo.

Which is actually our logo, is the equal greater than or equal sign because obviously like we’re greater than or equal to everyone else.

We want to be able to evaluate it. You know, tons and tons of businesses and help them. You know, give them the tools they need to make more inclusive experiences.

Alycia Anderson: So we’re going to leave all of your information in the show notes how to reach out to you to hire you.

Ryan is an influencer. He’s got hundreds of thousands of followers, and he’s putting out amazing content constantly, so you need to follow him.

We wrap up with a pushing forward moment.

Do you have a mantra or something that you can leave with us?

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: Yes, don’t be your own speed bump because the only thing in life that can stop you or slow you down is yourself.

Alycia Anderson: You’re good. You need to, like, create a calendar.

Ryan Hudson-Peralta: I don’t know if I have 365 days of these, but I could… I could try.

Alycia Anderson: Ryan, it’s been so nice to meet you. Thank you so much for giving me some space and sharing your amazing story with our listeners.

They’re gonna freaking love you.

And thanks to our community for showing up again for us today, this has been Pushing Forward with Alycia and that is how Ryan and I roll on this podcast.