Becky Andrews On Access Denial, How it Feels & How to Advocate
- Editor’s Note
- YouTube Video
- Becky Andrews’ Sight Loss Journey
- Denied Access & How It Feels
- Additional Types of Access Denial
- Tips On Becoming A Self-Advocate
- Connecting With Becky
- Supporting Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.
- Beauty Byte Featuring Dana Hinnant
- Low Vision Stories & Tips
- Becky Andrews’ Bio
- Image Descriptions
In today’s podcast episode of Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. we’ll have an in-depth discussion concerning situations where access was denied, what it felt like, and what to do when it happens to you. Our guest is Becky Andrews an advocate extraordinaire who will also share some great self-advocacy tips. Next will be our new monthly feature Beauty Byte, with Dana Hinnant, Beauty Expert for Bold Blind Beauty. Then, in recognition of Low Vision Awareness Month, Sylvia, Nasreen, and I will each share a personal low vision story along with helpful tips.
We’ve provided the podcast episode in YouTube format along with its transcript below the video. Enjoy!
Stephanae McCoy: Welcome back to another edition of Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. podcast. The show that’s clearing the air for more A.I.R. (access, inclusion, and representation). I’m Stephanae McCoy and with me are my co-hosts,
Nasreen Bhutta: I’m Nasreen Bhutta
Sylvia Stinson-Perez: and Sylvia Stinson Perez.
Steph: Since access is our focus for 2022, today, Becky Andrews joins us for a discussion on what it feels like to be denied access. Our beauty editor, Dana Hinnant, will be sharing her monthly Beauty Byte. Then Sylvia, Nasreen, and I will have a discussion about low vision in recognition of Low Vision Awareness Month.
People are not expendable. The moment we began to believe that people are insignificant is the moment we lose our humanity. Access to basic human rights, such as food, education, employment, health care, housing, technology, and transportation is not a given for everyone. For those of us who are privileged enough to have access to these basic human rights, we need to acknowledge that others lived experiences are enormously different from our own.
Being denied access to basic human rights is demeaning. Denying access as a means to exact control is inhumane.
Today’s guest, Becky Andrews is the Clinical Director, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor at Resilient Solutions, Incorporated. She is also founder of Daring to Own Your StoryTM retreats, and the nonprofit Daring Sisters. Becky, welcome to Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. it is such a pleasure to have you join us.
Becky Andrews’ Sight Loss Journey
Becky Andrews: Oh, thank you. It’s just so wonderful to be here with you all.
Steph: We have been wanting to have you on this podcast for the longest time. You’re an advocate for women who are blind or who have low vision, but also you talk a lot about resiliency. Can you share with us a little bit about your sight loss journey?
Becky: Certainly, as you’re describing that, I think, wow, that has definitely strengthened my resiliency and that your messaging was just beautiful.
My vision loss journey began as a little girl when we realize that I couldn’t see at night then it was later on understanding peripheral vision loss. And then at 18 I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. At that point it did it answered a lot of questions for me.
Then I experienced some losses I needed to change the way I did things. I had to give up driving and some of those, you know, aspects and embrace, learning how to use a cane and learn how to do those things differently that became very empowering after that.
So I now have three degrees of central vision remaining. Love living an active life and you know, enjoy running, hiking, tandem biking and think my favorite role these days is as a grandma. And it’s interesting as I’m been enjoying time with him, I’ve gone back to some of those learnings that I had at the blind center about how to parent and stuff. And so that’s been really fun to go back and experience that.
Denied Access & How It Feels
Nasreen: That is incredible, Becky, I love your journey. And it’s always great to be a grandma. I’m sure you’re enjoying all the time in that experience.
Becky this year here at Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. we have been focused on access. And we know you Becky, like many of us with vision impairments, have experienced some access challenges. Can you tell us a little bit about a couple of these challenges that you might have experienced and how they made you feel?
Becky: Yes, it’s challenging. It’s it can feel so demeaning and just difficult. I’ll share a few that I’ve experienced.
Certainly, calling for a ride at that Uber you there’s that uncertainty at times. Am I going to get access with my guide dog? My first my first experience with an access issue was Gosh, 24-25 years ago.
I entered a store with my guide dog, Pantera, at the time. I had had her about six months, and was just feeling that sense of freedom and empowerment and kind of just confidently walked into the grocery store. And this manager told me, my dog was not allowed in the store that I needed to leave. And I explained, this is my guide dog. She’s allowed to be here, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act. And I experienced that he wasn’t listening. And he told me that I needed to leave.
I knew that I had the right to be there. And I thought about all that it took to get us to that place that I at least knew I had the right of course, to be there. But we went and made our purchase. Meanwhile, he went and called the police.
So we left the store and we stood outside in the parking lot. He told us that we needed to wait for the police to come. Yeah, and that like in that moment, I feel like I had my first denial of access. So as we stood out in that parking lot I remember, it was a chilly, chilly, Utah evening. I made a commitment to myself, to the community, to others, I thought somebody else is going to show up in this grocery store, we can’t just chip away at this important law that’s in place. And so I knew that part of my role was to become an advocate to speak up to make sure this didn’t happen.
So I reached out to the owner of this store chain and had the opportunity to go and educate the different store managers and talk to them about access about the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was somewhat disheartening that in that meeting, it felt like this was new information to them. And so I encouraged their owner, I’m like this, this needs to be something that’s talked about with your employees early on. This isn’t something that we should experience. But I also realized that unfortunately, that does happen.
That was a real, I think a turning point for me to realize, okay, that that’s part of the role that I can’t just sit back and let this happen. And so I’ve think I recognize that each time that happens, unfortunately, it happens that that I need to do something that is not just for me, but it’s it’s for everyone. The Americans With Disabilities Act is about inclusion, we all benefit from inclusion.
Another experience that came to mind was in a clothing store, walking into a clothing store. And this was oh, about eight or nine years ago. And again, I was greeted with a manager that said, “you need to leave.” And I could hear her speaking with someone else. And I’ve thought about that someone else over the years because I thought she had an opportunity to speak up to be an ally. But but she didn’t and maybe she didn’t understand a lot.
But this manager, again told me to leave even after I had educated and said, “you know, I have the right to be here.” And she told me to leave and I recognized that I wasn’t going to get the usual help I get in this store. They weren’t going to kind of show me which pants went with the shirt and we were going to have this fun experience, it wasn’t turning out that way.
And so I left and again felt like okay, what do I need to do to advocate to educate? And this became a unique experience, because it went, it went viral. You know, it was like, all over the place. And that was a that was a different experience to have clients come in and say “I heard you on the news,” I read about this and it says that your dog wasn’t in harness.” That suddenly the story was getting twisted a little bit.
And so I had to take a step back and had the opportunity to communicate with their senior managers in New York. And again, advocate and say, “you know, this isn’t okay, this isn’t what we do, our employees need to be trained.” And had the opportunity to go in and once again, educate all these managers of this clothing store from across the country that had flown in and ask them to not only make a change here, but make a change in the future. That make sure this was part of their training that no one should show up with their guide dog in their store and be denied access.
Additional Types of Access Denial
Sylvia: Becky, one thing that comes to mind is you’re specifically mentioning episodes in which your guide dog was involved. And I think that guide dog users, and as as a previous guide dog user, that it very much opens the door for people to exclude you and to deny access.
But I also want to point out a few other access points that people might not think about. And I want to also say that I know Becky to be like one of the nicest, kindest, most respectful people I know. And sometimes people think, well, I can’t be a self advocate, or I, you know, I can’t tell people, you know, no, or you can’t treat me that way. Because that might be too aggressive. And there’s a difference and I’m sure we’ll get to talk about that in a minute.
But things like when you’re in a restaurant, or in the bank, or even in your doctor’s office, and there’s a sighted person with you, and that person; the doctor, the server, the bank teller asks the sighted person how they can best help you. That’s a denial of access to you.
I went to the doctor one time and my husband was in the room with me. And that doctor spoke to my husband. Well, number one, my doc, my husband’s never been invited to go to the doctor with me again. But number two is that I found another doctor. But I also then always speak up and say, “you’re gonna need to speak directly to me.”
Becky: Right? And I think you bring up so many important points. I think it’s that advocating when you’re in a business meeting, and they’re passing out a paper and you’re like, you know, what accessibility do you have for this? It’s like, yeah, it’s a daily speaking up that I think can be exhausting at times. But yet is so is so important.
Tips On Becoming A Self-Advocate
Sylvia: And that’s such a good point. So can you give us a couple tips of specific ways that people can be stronger self advocates and to advocate for others?
Becky: Right, I think you do need kind of a plan. That moment in the parking lot, I had that aha, like, Okay, this is something, I need to have a plan for that I’m a planner, I like to be prepared as much as possible. So I think, for me, a few things that have really helped is:
- First of all to know and understand the laws. I think Information is power to recognize that when we have a situation come up, know that we have that support available and know what the actual laws are. Recent experience at the grocery store where that awareness of what that was, was so important.
- And I think, to believe in ourself, and see it as our rights, it’s not a special need, we have, it’s we have the right to access, we have the right to accommodations, just like everyone else. And so I think we have to internalize that and believe that, and, and have that confidence that we that we can speak up, we can ask for what we need, just like everyone has that right. And I think that like that just is for me is a continual reminder. I mean, and to not see it as conflict, you know, it’s just being assertive, it’s speaking up has really helped me and I think it’s, you know, it’s a continual reminder, I’m not creating conflict, I’m just advocating and advocating is going to help that next person Like, I’m not just advocating for myself, but I’m advocating for the next person that might encounter this situation, you know.
Sylvia 13:46: And you can do it, you can do it in a respectful kind of way, but also important and assertive. But even and I think important to say is not aggressive either, because we’ve seen, we’ve seen people do it aggressively and this does not work either.
Becky: Right, it gets lost. Yeah, that aggression, that reaction becomes the focus rather than the issue. When you think they’re educating that doctor and helping him understand like, sometimes you want to just be mad and get angry. But like doing it in that space of assertiveness helps us really help them learn and grow.
- And I think having a support team, you know, having other people that believe in you that you share your experience, and they’re like, they’re your ally, they got your back. They’re there to support you and help you make those phone calls, write that letter, whatever that looks like.
- And one thing I’ve learned too, is to take the time you need. Sometimes we’re in a situation where we need to act right away and other times we might need to step back and say that didn’t feel good. I need to reach out to certain organizations, I want to write a letter, I want to communicate. But I think also giving ourselves the space, we need to honor our process, process our feelings, our thoughts, and then what are actions that we want to take.
- The last thing I would add is that taking care of ourselves. To acknowledge that, you know, advocacy, being in that space each day, you know, I mean, some days maybe just are smooth, not much is happening. And then suddenly, you’re put in a position where you’re like, Oh, I’ve got to really step out of my comfort zone and advocate. And just kind of being aware that can be challenging and to acknowledge that and to take care of yourself in that.
That those moments that I continue to go back to, I think, you know, I want to show up. And we all have the right to show up, to live brave, to be seen. And I think one thing that’s hard when I think of those different experiences, and I shared some that were maybe like the bigger traumatic, but I think those those that happen is I often don’t feel seen. And I think that speaking our voice and sharing, you know, we have the right to be seen and to be heard.
Steph: Becky, these are such excellent points that you brought up and you mentioned it, I like to also reiterate as well, being the person that’s on the sideline. So when you’re in a situation, and you see something happening, and you know, in your gut, that it does not feel right, to speak up.
You’re right, all of us have, and this isn’t among the basic human rights, but it should be: to be seen. When I think about, like people like homeless people, and how people will just walk by them and ignore them and not even look at them and acknowledge them as human beings, that has got to be the worst. They’re still human. We’re human, so we acknowledge one another as human.
So when you’re in that situation, to speak up for that person, are we always going to get it right? No, maybe not. Because again, we’re humans. But I think those are some of the things that connect us.
Sylvia: Kindness and compassion and respect.
Connecting With Becky
Steph: Yes, definitely respect. This has been such an interesting conversation. Thank you once again, Becky for coming on Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. and having this discussion with us. So can you tell our listeners how they can contact you or connect with you?
Becky: Certainly. And gosh, thank you so much. I would love to connect with anyone that would like to. On Instagram it’s just my name Becky underline Andrews, our Daring Sisters is also on there at Daring Sisters BVI. My website is ResilientSolutionsInc.com where there’s a contact point to get in touch with me.
Steph: Thank you again, Becky.
Becky: Oh my pleasure.
Supporting Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.
Steph: At Bold Blind Beauty we sell a message of empowerment, acceptance, and hope. Our mission is to improve humanity by changing the way we perceive one another. When you shop our online store, you support our mission and projects such as this podcast. Our newest line of products is a positive take on the word BLIND, Bold Leaders Illuminating New Directions. For full product details please visit boldblindbeauty.com.
Beauty Byte Featuring Dana Hinnant
Dana Hinnant: Hear what’s trending in beauty! Move over the bixie cut which was a combination of the bob and a pixie. Make room for the mixie which is a combo of the mullet and a pixie cut may be a great style to transition as we move from winter into spring.
And speaking of spring, OPI nail polish is releasing its 2022 collection color that’s inspired by the video game world. Now that will make for some interesting nail art.
Hair coloring that’s trending at the moment is paper brown bag.
And everything is coming up green. This will be perfect to move into the spring season as we move in the next couple of months. Referred to as Gen Z green, you can use it in eyeliners, eyeshadows, and even do skunk hair if you’re so bold. Any color from emerald, kelly, or neon, have some fun. And that’s your Bold Blind Beauty Byte.
Sylvia: Okay, wait a minute
Steph: What is this brown paper bag business?
Sylvia: I may be blind but I remember the color of a paper brown bag and it is not a good looking color.
Dana: I kind of found that a little weird myself when I came across it but I was like what? That’s kind of the color of my skin.
Sylvia: Paper brown hair. The green stripe stuck hair too.
Nasreen: Yeah, I can do caramel.
Sylvia: Last month we had purple hair.
Nasreen: Yeah, Periwinkle. I can do caramel but not brown bag. Okay.
Dana: Right. I was like, I was like, you gotta be like a blonde haired. I mean, like I said, paper brown bag. I’m like, that’s a skin color, not a hair tone.
Steph: I’m just really seriously trying to imagine that. You know?
Sylvia: Okay, well it’s not good.
Dana: I’m thinking, I think it would look better, that color would look better who somebody who’s like a warm like a blonde color, like maybe an ash blonde, which is on the cooler side or even a warmer blonde. I would think they’d be able to play that color off pretty good. If they’re already blonde, they can go into that color, because it’ll probably have some golden highlights in it. So that’s just how I picture it.
Nasreen: Makes sense that way. Yeah.
Low Vision Stories & Tips
Sylvia: Okay, our audience post your pictures with your paper brown bag on your head. Let’s see it! As mentioned earlier, February is Low Vision Awareness Month. People don’t always realize that vision impairment runs on a spectrum from totally blind to low vision. Most people have usable vision. And today we’re going to share a couple fun stories and some tips on how to effectively cope with low vision. Steph.
Steph: Yeah, you know, with the residual sight that I have, there’s very little depth perception, and it plays tricks on my mind every day. And I remember this one time, I was at work reaching for something on my desk. Now, typically, you know, when you become accustomed to your sight loss, you map out strategies that work for you where in your normal space, you know where everything is. But sometimes things might change, like, for example, a coffee cup.
So I was reaching for my coffee cup, I kind of missed it, but I knocked it over. And I tried to sit down in my chair, but it wasn’t there. I fell. And then my wig flew off. It was like one of the most horrifying experiences of my life. Because you know, it’s happening at work.
I shared an office with a colleague of mine. So my colleague was afraid that I might have developed a concussion or something because I hit my head so hard on the floor. But me I was afraid because, you know, my hair fell off. So it was like, no, no, I need my hair, I don’t want anybody else to see me without my hair.
She found my wig for me, I threw it on my head and was able to sort of get myself under some semblance of order. But that was like one of the worst sort of low vision experiences that come to mind.
But one of the things that I learned early on in my sight loss journey, that has helped me tremendously because I didn’t want to go from just, you know, losing sight to using the white cane was a very cool pin. It’s a low vision ping, it’s called the Checkered Eye. It actually looks like an eye. It’s sort of shaped like an eye in the center of it the iris, looks like a soccer ball, hence the name, Checkered Eye.
So I would wear this pin it’s about three inches and I still do today. I wear it a lot of times when I’m using my cane because for people who don’t understand what my cane is for, and they’re in a face to face interaction with me, they see my pin. And they make the connection because the pin actually says on the outer rim, ‘Low Vision.’ So it’s like, oh, she’s got a cane, and she’s wearing this pin, she obviously doesn’t see very well. So it helps people to understand that, while I may not be completely blind, I’m on the blindness spectrum,
Sylvia: That’s awesome. So in the future, you could put your paper brown bag, over your wig and put your pin right on that paper brown bag.
Steph: Actually, that might not be a bad idea, because I think if the wig falls off it will fall in the bag, and I’ll know where it’s at right? So I won’t have to be rooting around for it.
Sylvia: That is my helpful tip of the year.
Nasreen: That’s actually incredible story Steph. I can’t say can match that.
For me. What I really hate is when I’m going out with my daughter. I go to the bank, you get up there and the bank teller kind of is looking at you both but then she’s also addressing only your daughter or the tallest person that’s standing before them. My daughter’s, you know, much taller than I am, she’s five, seven and I’m five, three.
So and the teller’s always looking at her, “Oh, how can we help you?” And usually my daughter says “well, my mom here” and points to me. You know, nine out of 10 times, “she’s here for her needs her banking needs.” And then usually that’s when the teller’s like proceeding to continue to say, “well, how can we help her?” And that just like really makes me angry, because it’s like, wait a minute, I have low vision, I can see you still to some degree. I know you’re talking to her. But I’m standing here before you I’m the one with the issue. And you’re being very dismissive and rude and I just really find that difficult.
And so that’s when I have to speak up and say, “well, excuse me, but I can speak and I do have a voice. So my needs are this…” And then I kind of lean into the counter more so, so that I can get her attention and get her from stop looking at my daughter to now looking down at me and trying to get my stuff done and, and the service that I need, that I should be given and with equal rights. So it’s always frustrating like that. I mean, that’s one of many, many stories where I go with her and that happens.
But some of the tips that I can say for people is, like I just said, like with that dialogue is very important. So it’s good to speak up for yourself. As you know, as I did there.
I’m a really big fan of these things called locator dots or bump dots, I have a whole variety pack of them actually. And I like to use them on helping you to mark different items around your house, especially if the surfaces are like flat touchscreen type of surfaces. So like a microwave, perhaps your dishwasher, maybe your keyboard keys, if you want to, you know maybe mark up some of the like maybe the numpad five, or maybe the G or the the H so your fingers are properly on the QWERTY keyboard, I find them very helpful.
And as a second tip lighting is very, very important aspect. And there’s two types of lighting, there’s a general lighting that we should be aware of, and the general lighting in our home or space to be our room, etc. And then there’s the task lighting, which is lighting that you would maybe adjust to have when you’re doing certain tasks so that you can see better.
Because what happens with good lighting is it increases the contrast and clarity and allows you to see better and identify what you’re doing and your objects and your surroundings better. Good lighting makes for a safer home and good environment. And that way you have less trips, cuts, falls, bruises and all that other stuff that’s never good for us.
And also keep in mind the type of light bulbs you might want to go with the yellow, the white, the blue light, the LED light. It all depends upon what your eyes can sustain, and what will not trigger off migraines, headaches, or anything like that. So just a few tips there. Lighting is very key and important.
Sylvia: Thanks, Nasreen and Steph what great tips.
I lived many years with low vision and have a wealth of hilarious, frustrating, embarrassing moments. And the key is to keep a good sense of humor. But to avoid those plan ahead, be organized, have strategies develop skills, because all of those things, the more you’re prepared, the more you can use other senses so using your remaining vision is awesome, but knowing it’s not always reliable that it will get you into some trouble.
So using those other senses can make a world of difference. But go easy on yourself. Give yourself a break. Be patient with yourself and at the end of the day. Always be willing to laugh at yourself too.
Nasreen: Thank you for listening to this episode of Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. Please subscribe and if you enjoy this show, please do recommend it to your friends and family. Thanks for listening everyone.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Becky Andrews Bio
Becky Andrews is the Clinical Director / Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor at Resilient Solutions, Inc. She is the founder of the Daring to Own Your Story TM Retreats and Daring Sisters, a nonprofit empowering and connecting women who are blind. She loves to run (has run nine marathons including Boston Marathon twice and the NYC Marathon), tandem bike with her husband and loves to be outdoors hiking. Steve and Becky have two children and one grandbaby. Becky is blind from Retinitis Pigmentosa and is navigating life with her third guide dog, Georgie.
- The header is a photo of Becky sitting in her office next to her guide dog, Georgie, a gorgeous yellow lab who is laying on the floor at Becky’s feet.
- Welcome is an image of a sunflower and card with “welcome” lettering.
- Becky & Georgie Outdoors is a closeup photo of Georgie in harness looking directly at the camera almost smiling while Becky leans in close to her smiling in adoration.
- A red restricted symbol.
- A laptop keyboard with red keys spelling out “Access Denied”
- Tips word – text in vintage letterpress wood type against a grunge metal sheet.
- Connection is a closeup photo of a hand tossing 3 dice in the air. Instead of dots on the dice they have email, @ symbols, and phones on them.
- Abby: Brand icon Abby is holding up a teal dress on a hanger in her right hand. She is wearing a stylish black off the shoulder dress, black heels with ankle straps and a white hat with a black band with a loose end waving. In her left hand is her white cane.
- Brown Paper Bag is a shopping bag complete with handles on a white background.
- The Checkered Eye emblem is a simple line drawing of an eye, the center of which, the iris, is black and white checkers. The wearable symbol bears the Checkered Eye and the text “LOW VISION”. It has been translated to French, Spanish and Thai as well. The background is white, the outline, emblem and text are black.