Where illness is an asset not a disability


// Couch Empire thought of new and creative ways to appeal to abled-and-disabled Australians…

Melbourne-based Stephanie Hodgson wasn’t able to finish her degree because of chronic illness. However, she found inspiration in her pain.

Stephanie Hodgson

She created Couch Empire, a space for people with disabilities to showcase their creativity and get paid for it, without leaving the comfort of their own home.

Suddenly, we are all stuck at home, and perhaps have an insight into what this can be like.

“We value people for their skills and not their circumstances… [We look to] appreciate the strengths and skills learnt through illness,” she said.

Their first public event was an interactive gallery exhibition at Gasworks on March 11, just before the countrywide isolation took hold.

This supported five disabled artists by providing publicity and a chance to gain some revenue.

Exhibition at Gasworks. QR codes were available on the side where observers can listen to the stories of the artwork. Photo supplied.

“Speakers’ Bureau” is a section on the website where they invite people with health conditions to tell their stories and provide advice.

Couch Empire would also like to provide tools and strategies for organisations to become more disability friendly.

Another idea is to provide merchandise.

Although they haven’t settled on a concrete strategy yet, they’re committed to providing accessible opportunities for people with health conditions.

Stephanie (right) presenting artwork at GasWorks. Photo supplied


Yes, this story is about a Melbourne startup idea; but we liked it so much we wanted to feature it (even though we usually only write about WA-based startups.)

If you’ve interested in knowing more, head over here.

Video of Stephanie talking about the concept below…

Photos supplied.