“The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can. The moment that you feel that just possibly you are walking down the street naked…that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”~Neil Gaiman
Advocacy can occur on many levels from creating a massive movement to a simple blog but it all begins with a passion for positive social change. When I was asked to participate in an upcoming event to bring awareness to the abilities of people with disabilities I couldn’t say no.
Disability InSIGHTS is a seminar designed to increase awareness of the abilities of people living with disabilities. I will be one of 7 speakers who will share stories of triumphs, obstacles, and breaking down barriers. More on this in a moment.
Typically when we hear stories of people who are on the front lines of social justice the conversation revolves around passion. There is something that ignites the fire within us to create positive change. While it’s true passion has a defining role in our advocacy efforts we seldom talk about another major player—fear.
Working Through Fear
Fear is universal and yet many times when we talk about success fear isn’t a major topic of conversation. I’ve lived a life of fear and a life of overcoming. Losing my eyesight was one of my greatest fears that I never thought I’d be able to accept. However, it was my fear of blindness that in part prompted me to create Bold Blind Beauty.
Fear was the reason why I declined an all-expense-paid trip to Kansas earlier this year. Even though the opportunity to empower blind & visually impaired youth was seductive I just couldn’t let go of my fear.
The thought of traveling out of state on what would be my first solo flight after my sight loss terrified me. Questions swirled around in my head like:
- would I know where to go once I was dropped off curbside at the airport?
- what if the assistance I requested ahead of time wasn’t available?
- would I have a panic attack because everything I see is indistinguishable?
- what if I had to use the restroom, would I get lost?
- would the flight attendants show me to my seat?
- since my trip connected through another airport what would that be like?
- what would I do if I encountered problems because people doubted my disability?
- how would I handle the prospect of being stranded?
With all these questions and more, you’d think I’d be satisfied with declining the trip but I wasn’t. Truth be told I was still unsettled yet I couldn’t articulate why. Thankfully, I was given another chance, this time I said YES! and I went to Kansas.
The Cumulative Effect
The Kansas trip was only the beginning of all the wonderful things to come this year as a result of my work at Bold Blind Beauty. While I’ve been blogging for nearly 5 years I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve questioned myself as to whether this is a fruitful effort. Then last year I partnered with advocate extraordinaire, Chelsea Nguyen, and together we founded CAPTIVATING! Magazine, a free, accessible online lifestyle magazine. CAPTIVATING! provides monthly content about culture and style for people of all abilities proving that inclusion is limitless.
As a result of my partnership with Chelsea, and my work with Bold Blind Beauty I’ve enjoyed these amazing experiences:
- Kansas trip to empower blind & visually impaired youth
- Awarded a scholarship to attend a retreat for blind and visually impaired women in Utah
- CAPTIVATING! won our first award 7 months after launch
- The Grotto Network, a media organization based out of Notre Dame University asked Bold Blind Beauty to be filmed in their Trailblazers series
Next, in the lineup of this year’s events are:
- Invitation to speak at Disability InSIGHTS
- Invitation to speak at “Peers Challenging Beliefs” event at the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind Conference
My trips to Kansas and Utah were sublime. CAPTIVATING!’s award from the Texas Rehabilitation Association was a delightful and totally unexpected surprise. Then filming the behind the scenes story of Bold Blind Beauty last week was extraordinary.
I’m eagerly anticipating the Disability InSIGHTS Seminar where I can share my tips on the path to social entrepreneurship. This event is being held in recognition of International Blindness Awareness Month and National Employment Disability Awareness Month. It will take place on October, 18 from 11 am – 3 pm at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center in Erie, PA.
Seeing The Beauty In People
I believe everyone has value. I also believe our perceptions of people can get in the way of our ability to appreciate their value. For far too long we’ve looked at people who are ‘different’ from ourselves and immediately leap to conclusions without knowing their story, without knowing them. When we add disabilities (visible and invisible) to this equation we become ‘experts’ in determining their worth and it isn’t fair nor is it right.
We all have moments of insecurity, uncertainty, and fear. I nearly let my fear keep me from life-changing events where I’ve learned so many valuable lessons. None of this means I won’t ever feel uncomfortable or downright scared. However, when I ask myself why inclusion, accessibility, and representation are so important my passion will continue to help me push through my fear.
Courage is contagious and when we share our vulnerabilities it empowers others. How about you? Can you think of a time that fear nearly prevented you from meaningful achievement?
Disability InSIGHTS Information:
- Website: www.amybovaird.com/disabilityinsights
- Facebook Event: www.facebook.com/events/2444781055806161
- Schedule Guest Bios: www/amybovaird.com/disability-insights-2019-schedule
Featured Image Description:
A closeup view of a blank wooden arrow sign against a bright blue sky dotted with a few puffy white clouds.