Jordan Reeves, 13, is an activist, designer, inventor and author who is on a mission to raise awareness and drive action in support of young people with physical disabilities around the world. Jordan was born with a left arm that stopped growing just before the elbow. She is not alone. There are a little more than 2,000 kids born each year in the U.S. with a limb difference.
When Jordan was born, her parents didn’t know about limb differences. But the story in the family is, when she arrived in the world her dad said that she was born “just right” because she was just right the way she is and she’s just right-handed. The phrase stuck.
Since her mom, Jen, was a journalist, she started a blog called Born Just Right detailing the experience of raising a child with a physical disability. Through the years, Jordan helped her mom grow an online community of families with kids who have a limb difference by pitching in to meet kids and share her story online and in person.
Jordan was always very active as a young child. She danced, played baseball, basketball, and swam. She also worked with a prosthetist which helped her learn what she liked when it came to comfort and her body’s needs at an early age… Her participation in sports even caught the attention of an organization called Women’s Intersport Network, which awarded her with an “Inspiration Award” in 2013 when Jordan was seven years old.
A Perfect Storm
While still in elementary school, Jordan’s experiences turned into the perfect storm when she was invited to create a superhero persona and build something fun to add to her arm at a workshop for kids with limb differences. Jordan decided she wanted to be “Glitter Girl” and came up with a glitter-shooting prosthetic concept. As she worked with a design partner to create new and better iterations on the idea she named “Project Unicorn,” Jordan’s work caught the attention of many news outlets including Fast Company and Popular Science. Jordan had opportunities to present her invention to Maker Faire events, schools, scout meetings, and even received a Disney Parks Dream Big Princess Innovation Award. The interest in her Project Unicorn work grew even bigger after getting the chance to show off her design to the Shark Tank investors during an episode of The Rachael Ray Show in 2017.
Around the same time, Jordan noticed that American Girl doll had been creating wheelchairs and crutches, dolls without hair and insulin kits to support kids with disabilities. It confirmed what Jordan already knew, that kids want to see themselves in their toys. She thought if they can provide those types of accessories why shouldn’t they offer dolls with limb differences too?
Jordan started a change.org petition with the help of her mom to encourage the inclusion of limb difference options with American Girl dolls. The petition received more than 25,000 signatures!
Growing A Message
With greater awareness of her work, Jordan had a chance to speak at two different TEDx events and many other appearances across the country. During her speaking engagements, she focuses on two major conversations: Kids should have a chance to see more physical disabilities represented in mainstream toys and designers should include disabled people from the beginning of a concept for a new product. Given her own personal experience, Jordan believes it is important to give kids with disabilities more access to the power of design and STEAM skills earlier in their lives.
As Jordan’s voice grew as a disability advocate and activist, she launched a nonprofit with her mom. Born Just Right is an extension of what was once a blog and an online community. The organization focuses on creating learning opportunities so other kids with disabilities can learn about design and design thinking with the hope that those design and STEAM skills will lead to new job paths as they grow older. Since starting the nonprofit, Born Just Right has created opportunities to bring together designers and engineers with kids to learn about design skills through a program called Boost x Born Just Right. These design workshops have been held in San Francisco and Cambridge, MA with kids from different ages.
Given her new design insight, Jordan has had opportunities to consult with major brands, speaking at the National AIGA Design conference and the Strategic Design Conference at Parsons Design School. She also had the opportunity to consult with Mattel on the creation of its first doll with a limb difference. Her story is also the focus of Episode One of Marvel’s Hero Project on November 12th when Disney+ streaming service starts.
Born Just Right
In the summer of 2019, Jordan and her mom released their first book, Born Just Right, for teens through Simon and Schuster’s Aladdin and Jeter Publishing imprints. The book is a memoir about Jordan’s life, experiences and lessons learned from growing up with a disability. She wanted to write a book to encourage more open discussions about disability.
In Summer 2019, Jordan and three other teens launched a youth design consultancy, Make Just Right, to make sure other alumni of the BOOST workshops can give input to companies and organizations in need of design perspectives and input.
Jordan’s journey has just begun. She plans to continue speaking about her physical difference and inventions to further a new kind of conversation about people with disabilities and to show others that it can be really cool to be different.
When not on the road, Jordan enjoys being a teenager. A Girl Scout, Jordan is also still involved in sports, enjoys playing with friends on her family’s lake in Missouri, and even likes spending time with her older brother, Cameron, from time to time.
Join the conversation using #BornJustRight.