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Tatum Tricarico From Author To Advocate:

Pushing For Disability Representation

People yelled mean things, whispered to each other, kicked my cane, stared, pointed, laughed, and ultimately made me feel like I was less worthy because of my blindness.

Tatum Tricarico

The above quote breaks my heart but I know all too well, the truth its words convey. Even so, I’m so grateful that the ignorance and hatred displayed here didn’t stop Tatum. In recognition of International Women’s Day which was yesterday, I’m thrilled to introduce you to an exceptional young woman. Tatum Tricarico, March’s Woman On The Move, is a powerhouse who is breaking barriers! Her fight for the inclusion of people with disabilities began with her personal story of exclusion. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to a fierce young woman, Tatum Tricarico. Enjoy!

Growing Up

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I often remember learning about Helen Keller in school because when people see my cane, many decide to fumble into an awkward story about learning about Helen Keller when they were young. But as a child, I don’t remember feeling connected to her.

I knew I had a vision impairment and had already undergone many surgeries, but for the most part, I considered myself sighted. I could “pass” as sighted well, aside from the occasional large print. Then all of a sudden as a sophomore in high school, seeing began to cause me pain. Just using my eyes hurt so badly that I would have to stop whatever I was doing. I suddenly realize that I couldn’t keep “passing” as sighted and that I was going to have to stop using my vision to avoid constant, debilitating pain. I began functioning as blind. I started using a cane and reading braille. My functional blindness came on very quickly and had a huge impact on how I lived.

“Independence”

Independence was definitely a buzz word in special education. I was told that I needed to be as independent as possible or I wouldn’t be able to be a college student or adult. I felt like I had lost so much independence when my vision changed and was convinced that I would need to be fully independent before I could be a “real” adult or bring good to the world. This definitely helped me motivate myself to learn braille, figure out accommodations in college, and learn how to travel with a cane. But what it didn’t do was prepare me for life.

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I realized in college that being dependent on those around me is not a bad thing. The only way I am making it through college is:

  • depending on my friends to be student readers and notetaker in my classes,
  • depending on my professors to accommodate and
  • depending on both friends and professors to help me in relation to my functional blindness
  • and in ways that everyone else needs help.

But I also know that my friends are dependent on me for things, too. That’s community. My independence has come from recognizing when I need help and when I am called to help those around me.

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Imperfections

As I gained more of this independence within the community, I started going out and doing more things with friends. I quickly realized that people did not respond well to seeing my cane. They were scared of me, rude to me, and occasionally mean to me or mad at me. People yelled mean things, whispered to each other, kicked my cane, stared, pointed, laughed, and ultimately made me feel like I was less worthy because of my blindness. In response, I turned to something that I have always loved: writing.

I started writing the story of a man named Will living with a disability in a futuristic society. I wrote the story of his journey to prove his worth. I got my friends, family, and professors to help me edit it, and eventually, I published my novel Imperfections. Now that it has been made available on Amazon, several people have read it and my advocacy journey has started to take off.

Women’s March

Recently, I connected with the San Diego Woman’s March and expressed the importance of having disabled women in their speaker line up. Eventually, I was chosen to speak to the tens of thousands of people there. As a junior in college, this was the biggest honor of my life and I loved every minute of it.

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Getting the opportunity to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities in front of so many people including many of my family and friends was empowering and monumental in my journey. I encouraged people to recognize the worth of those with disabilities, to pay attention to our stories, and to think about what role people with disabilities play in their lives.

Classroom Speaking

After the Women’s March, I was contacted by several elementary schools that wanted me to come to speak. To know that the most disability education people have is the occasional story of Helen Keller makes me think deeply about how wonderful it is that these students will get to learn from a blind college student. It fills me with joy to wonder how one interaction can impact them and prove the worth of people with disabilities. The fact that my vision changed in high school was so incredibly scary, but now, to realize the independence and confidence it has given me is an incredibly beautiful thing.

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Connecting With Tatum:

Image Descriptions:

  1. The B3 Magazine cover has a gray/white marbled background. The date & edition number, are in the upper right corner in black ink. Tatum’s photo is aligned on the right margin with the background appearing on the top, bottom and left margin. In this photo, Tatum (full body) is in front of a white wall holding her cane in the air with a shirt that says “what makes you different makes you beautiful!” “B3” is in large teal text and a teal-colored circle with Tatum’s name and “Women On The Move” in white text. There are four 4-lines of dark gray text on the image that reads “From Author to Advocate The Push for Disability Representation.”
  2. Tatum (close up) in front of a white wall holding her cane in the air with a shirt that says “what makes you different makes you beautiful!”
  3. Tatum smiling holding her book Imperfections. It has the title and her name on the cover along with a pair of red men’s shoes with the laces untied looking beat up.
  4. Tatum with a shirt that has a picture of a sign reading “blind person in area” and a poster in her hand that says “anything you can do I can do blind” with a cane and Braille letters drawn on.
  5. Tatum in her “blind person in area” shirt standing at a podium speaking with two microphones in front of her.
  6. Tatum in front of a classroom with her cane speaking to children.
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What Makes A Hero?

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What Does Hero Mean to You?

“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”

~Maya Angelou

Some days I can’t help but feel that I’m the luckiest person on the planet. Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by heroes. I’m not talking about fictional heroes or those endowed with superhuman qualities although this could be dependent upon how these traits are being used. No, the types of heroes I’m referring to are those who practice humanitarianism as a way of life.

Those who give of themselves without the expectation of monetary gain or notoriety to me are extraordinary people. With these types of individuals, there is no ‘catch’ or deception because these folks see the world differently than the vast majority. Qualities like truth, integrity, compassion, empathy and the like are dominant characteristics in these people.

Last year, when my friend Carla Ernst died I felt a part of me died with her because Carla was one of my all-time heroes. She was an extraordinary person who believed in the mission of Bold Blind Beauty. On days when I doubted myself (there were many), she lifted me up and motivated me to continue pushing forward.

While Carla’s death knocked me off-kilter and I struggled mightily to honor her memory there were days grief threatened to devour me. Yet, it was at one of my lowest points another hero came into play. Her name is Nasreen Bhutta a woman I am honored to call my friend.

A Heroic Act Out of the Blue

I’ve known Nasreen for nearly two years and while we’ve periodically maintained contact she called me completely out of the blue. This act may not seem like much until I tell you she called me when she was on an extended stay in India.

I can’t remember exactly how our conversation went but I do remember what she said next: “Steph I like what you’re doing and I want to help.” Since I wasn’t prepared for this I was momentarily speechless. I mean, Nasreen was so emphatic and she wasn’t going to take no for an answer. My response—I cried. Without shame, I cried because here she was halfway around the world and she was compelled to reach out to me. By the way, I should probably mention that while Nasreen has been featured here before this will be her first time on the cover of B3 Magazine.

A lot has happened since Nasreen’s call last summer and I almost feel like I’m in a dreamlike state. This woman, who gives wholeheartedly and unconditionally, has become my right-hand person here at Bold Blind Beauty. Thank you, my friend!

Up until this past January Nasreen and I hadn’t even met in person. Yet the universe presented an opportunity for us to meet. Nasreen traveled from Toronto, Canada and I from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to meet up in New Jersey for a conference. What was true serendipity though was for the two of us to connect with some other amazing heroes.

It was in New Jersey where we met Melody Goodspeed (another friend who I’ve only previously known online). With Melody, an innocent conversation led to her excitedly becoming our new voice of Abby. Then there were others:

  • Cheryl Minnett
  • Tish Gelineau
  • Michael Moran
  • David DeNotaris
  • Tanner Gers
  • John McInerney
  • Jeff Wissel

The above is only a partial list of individuals who I consider heroes because of their commitment to improving the lives of others.

Who Is The Hero In Your Life?

If you pay close attention, there are an abundance of heroes all around us. And let’s not forget the most important hero—you!

It’s not your job to like me – it’s mine.”

~Byron Katie

Everyone isn’t going to like us and likewise, we aren’t going to like everyone. However to like/love anyone it has to begin internally and it’s no one else’s responsibility to do this for us but ourselves. My favorite speaker, author, researcher, Brené Brown says it this way: “Practicing selflove means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect, and to be kind and affectionate toward ourselves.” Maybe real heroes understand that in order to love others they must have a healthy dose of self-love. So the next time you are in need of a hero…

Lyrics

There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are
There’s an answer
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know
Will melt away

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you

It’s a long road
When you face the world alone
No one reaches out a hand
For you to hold
You can find love
If you search within yourself
And that emptiness you felt
Will disappear

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you, oh, oh

Lord knows
Dreams are hard to follow
But don’t let anyone
Tear them away, hey yeah
Hold on
There will be tomorrow
In time you’ll find the way

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you
Mmm, that a hero lies in you

Source: LyricFindSongwriters: Mariah Carey / Walter AfanasieffHero lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Featured Image Description:

The B3 Magazine cover has a gray/white marbled background. The date & edition number, are in the upper right corner in black ink. Nasreen’s photo is aligned on the right margin with the background appearing on the top, bottom and left margin. In this photo, Nasreen, a pretty brunette with shoulder-length wavy hair is wearing a black pantsuit. She’s standing in the lobby of our hotel with a black shoulder bag on her left shoulder. “B3” is in large teal text and a teal-colored circle with Nasreen’s name and “Monthly Beauties” in white text. There are four 4-lines of black text on the image that reads “A Real-Life Hero Fierce, Fiery & Passionate For People.”

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The Cheering Section Silences The Self-Critic

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Are you tired of feeling so invisible?
Are you sick of silencing your voice?
Do you still have hope that peace is possible?
My friend, oh you are not alone

You Are Not Alone | Songwriters: Emeli Sande / James Poyser / Salaam Remi

Squashing The Self-Critic

I hadn’t planned on doing a blog post today because I have two back-to-back speaking engagements this weekend. Seriously, I must be having some sort of out of body experience since I SHOULD be practicing instead of writing. However, when inspiration strikes I have to trust my gut and go with it. So here we go:

I am so excited about the events on Friday and Saturday because I get to do what I love—advocacy! Talking about the value and abilities of people with disabilities makes my heart want to explode. Well, maybe not explode because that would kill me, but you catch my drift. So anyways, the thought occurred to me, while in the shower I might add, that none of this could be possible without my cheering section.

My self-critic, I call her Cruella, as she’s quite cruel, is a monster. Fun fact: Cruella de Vil is also my alter ego who I adore because she’s so deliciously evil, but I digress.

Cruella the self-critic is constantly chattering non-stop in my head telling me I can’t do this, that or the other. Some days the noise is so loud I have to stop what I’m doing and take a nap, she wears me out so. However, today, while showering I heard another sound, it started out small then grew tall. To my delight, I discovered it was my very own cheering section. Honestly, I couldn’t help but get a little misty-eyed because the cheering section silenced Cruella.

Thank You To My Cheering Section

You know who you are! You’re in the arena with me and accept me as I am, flaws and all, unconditionally. I’m so thankful to have you in my circle.

Robert, the braille and large print booklets you created are phenomenal. Kathy, the braille mugs are perfect. Vicky, the powerpoint presentation with audio cues exceeds my wildest expectations. Amy, offering to manage the BBB Facebook page has been huge and I can’t thank you enough. Carla, you are no longer with us yet your voice is one of the loudest and most supportive. Becky, and the Giggle Girls, I will carry you in my heart while sharing my message on the importance of inclusion and representation. Gigi, your constant encouragement has meant so much to me. Holly, Maria, Chelsea, Max, Nasreen, George, Cate, and Jose our friendships/partnerships are so meaningful and you are extraordinary people.

There are so many other people out there who’ve supported me and I am so grateful for our connection. Thank you for being there for me, you’re the BEST! ~Steph

During my talks, I’ll share my recipe for social entrepreneurship and limitless possibilities. If you happen to be in the area you can catch me here:

  • 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)

On a side note, Emile Sandé is one of my favorite artists and here’s an awesome song from her new album.

Image Description:

A black and white photo of an excited crowd of concert-goers.

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From Despair To Captivating A Podcast

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The naysayers said you couldn’t succeed. What they didn’t know was their definition of success was not your definition. Creating your path by believing in possibilities has brought you to where you are today and will continue to guide and sustain you.

From “Dear Stephanae”

Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in? For most of my life, I knew I was different and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t “normal.” Then I read The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney and to my surprise was thrilled to find I’m different, not abnormal.

If you’ve been following Bold Blind Beauty for a while I’ve remained on message partly because of my introversion. The other reason why I’m consistent is because of the path I’ve been forging for myself.

A few months ago I was honored with a scholarship to attend a life-changing Daring To Own Your StoryTM retreat. The retreat, for blind and visually impaired women, opened the door to reveal a side of me I didn’t know existed. One of the tasks we were asked to complete on the retreat was writing a self-compassionate letter to ourselves. Needless to say, the introvert in me seized up and I was unable to finish my letter. Thankfully, I made a promise to myself to finish it at the right time. That time was yesterday and the opening paragraph to this post is from my letter.

Creating The Path

The thing with creating your own path is there is no blueprint or navigation system to direct you—only your gut. Outsiders won’t understand and will try to convince you that you’re delusional. Your inner self-critic incessantly keeps you second-guessing yourself and you’ll feel so lonely and afraid.

It cannot be a coincidence that this quote from my childhood has remained my favorite:

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead

where there is no path and leave a trail.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s no coincidence that the people I’ve connected with on my journey would be instrumental in keeping me on my path. Today, Thomas Reid of Reid My Mind, sent me the link to the podcast we recently recorded and it warmed my heart.

In the interview, Because We Are Captivating, Tom and I talk about the path I’ve created and he did such a great job pulling it together. The timing is perfect as I’m preparing for two speaking gigs next week and am solely focused on the upcoming events.

I’ve included the direct link to the podcast below.

When you have a moment check out Tom at Reid My Mind who is sharing his talent as host and producer of the show. Thank you, Tom, for featuring me a third time on your podcast—it was a blast!

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A stunning black and white abstract illustration of the head and left shoulder of a woman. She has both hands on her shoulder and her head is slightly tilted downward. What makes the image so magical is the trees blended into her face and background.