BLOG BIZ | ADVOCACY
I’ve blogged (another form of advocacy) for nearly 5 years and I’ve been an Abilities Crusader (advocate) for most of my life. While my advocacy journey has been lengthy, my purpose wasn’t fully clear to me until 2016 during a flubbed speech. Thankfully, my persistence to help people understand the value of people with disabilities enabled me to learn more about me. Kindness, compassion, and a deep desire for social justice are central to who I am; these are my values. Bold Blind Beauty was born out of a personal need for empowerment that I wanted to share with others. ~Steph
The Ripple Effect of Advocacy In Action
I love the work I do however there are times when it’s lonely and I feel like I’m not doing enough to create real change. Being an introvert, I’m comfortable working in a distraction-free atmosphere but one drawback is relying too heavily on my internal processes. Recently I learned a valuable lesson on how I sometimes get it wrong and can unintentionally hurt people. Being independent is great, but in advocacy, there’s no room for ego.
In preparation for two speaking gigs this month I requested some custom materials from a good friend of mine. Since the cost of producing the materials is rather high I offered to pay—a huge MISTAKE! When I received the quote I nearly passed out and had to eat some rather tasteless crow. Long story short, an email prompted me to make a phone call that resulted in me being told: “Don’t rob me of my blessing.” Then I was told how much my work means and how our collaboration is benefitting many people. I don’t mind sharing that as he spoke I broke down and cried. To have someone believe in me like this was so incredibly touching, humbling, and unbelievably motivating.
Advocacy isn’t a solitary venture and what I love about advocacy is its simplicity—identify something that needs to be done, then do it! Many people are highly skilled at identifying problems however when we don’t take the next step to become the solution, well, nothing happens. Take Blind Beauty, for example, I noticed there weren’t any fashion magazines who featured blind women so I created one.
I’m only one person but when I share my message of empowerment with another this starts the ripple. Like a chain reaction, when the message is relayed to others it becomes a small movement.
The Necessity of Awareness
While broken crayons may still color, as humans who are we to determine who’s broken? Frequently when we talk about people living with disabilities it’s from a point of view that there is something wrong. When in fact having a disability is only one of many traits that make us different not broken.
Through the years the number of awareness days/months has increased which makes sense as our population continues to grow. What’s so exciting to me about the explosion of awareness events is being able to witness the beauty of our differences.
During the month of October, there are numerous awareness days among them are:
- National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)
- Blindness Awareness Month
- White Cane Safety Day!
As I mentioned earlier in the post, I have two speaking gigs this month:
- Disability InSIGHTS – October 18, Erie, PA
- SPARK Saturday (Self-confidence, Peer support, Accessibility, Resources, & Knowledge) – October 19, Harrisburg, PA (Pennsylvania Council of the Blind Annual Conference)
Now that I’ve finally figured out how to get from Erie to Harrisburg I’m so fired up! The themes, “showcasing the accomplishments of others with disabilities” and “Peers Challenging Beliefs” are straight up my alley. Promoting awareness by breaking down barriers while creating meaningful connections is what advocacy is all about.
Advocacy is 24/7/365 and it begins the moment we ‘leave our homes.’ To be clear, leaving our homes could be as simple as sharing our stories online.
People will probably always leap to the wrong conclusions about us and that’s okay. It’s not our job to convert people who aren’t open to understanding that all of us are temporarily abled. Our job is to live our lives to the best of our ability and continue to build awareness.
Building Community Through Our Shared Experiences
I feel like one of the luckiest people on the planet because I belong to a wonderful community of people. My life is so enriched mainly through the people I’ve connected to within the disability community.
I’ve befriended some of the most amazing people who are driven to make the world a better place by breaking down barriers. Ironically, one of these people, Kristin Smedley, a mom, speaker, author, and one of my heroes I’ll meet in person. As a matter of fact, Kristin will also be speaking at the SPARK Saturday event in Harrisburg. Oddly enough, I recently won a Kindle version of Kristin’s book Thriving Blind. So I asked her if she would provide a blurb for me to share here on Bold Blind Beauty:
I’m both excited and scared silly to share a speaking engagement with Kristin. What will help me get through it? Two things: My why and the knowledge that I’m not alone.
Bold Blind Beauty’s mission is to improve humanity by changing the way we perceive one another. When we place the focus on abilities versus disabilities – anything is possible!
A black and white close up photo of a drop of water making gentle ripples in a body of water.