Excluding social media, can you name one person whether it was on television or magazines that you saw that had a disability years ago? I can’t, there may have been a few if any, but they were few and far between. If you did see them, it was for some depiction of how hard life with a disability could be, not beauty and fashion tips. These days that’s starting to change, at least to some degree. Whether it’s through social media, programs or Ted Talks, women with disabilities are speaking up about the lack of disability awareness in society and challenging industries to change their perceptions.
Maysoon Zayid, Sinead Burke, and Wendy Crawford are women challenging those in the film and television, beauty, and fashion industries to alter their perceptions of what people with disabilities are capable of achieving. In their talks these women bring awareness to struggles that women with disabilities face in these industries and society itself.
Maysoon Zayid: I’ve Got 99 Problems Palsy Is Just One
Maysoon Zayid is a comedian, actress, and disability advocate. When I was college she came to perform at my school and I’m glad I got to see her perform live. Maysoon educates her audience on life with a disability. Her Ted Talk “I’ve Got 99 Problems… Palsy Is Just One” talks about aspects of life living with a disability such as people believing you’re an inspiration simply for living your life, underestimating your abilities, and so on. Maysoon even talks about the time when the theater department at her school casted an able-bodied person to play the role of someone with a disability, something that Hollywood does all the time.
This is one of my favorite Ted Talks and after watching it the first time years ago, I shared it over and over again with friends and family. I love how she takes situations that happen when living with a disability to educate her audience. Her act is funny yes, and definitely worth watching (if you’re not sold on it yet), but she also manages to inject a level of seriousness into the act to illustrate that these things are real issues that we face. If you are in a place where you need a good laugh especially with everything that’s going on, this Ted Talk should be on your list of things to watch.
Sinead Burke: Why Design Should Include Everyone
Sinead Burke is among many things a broadcaster for the As Me Podcast, an admirer of fashion, and an advocate of disability and design. Through the platform she has built over the years Sinead calls attention to the lack of accessibility and inclusivity in the fashion and design industries. Her influence has given her opportunities to consult with leaders to help them approach to design with the disability community in mind as well as legislators to be a part of conversations about fashion, disability, and accessibility.
Sinead once said, “ Clothes are not a frivolous subject, and the conversation around them should not be belittled. How we dress affects what we feel, what we do, and who we are.”
I love this quote, why?
Beauty and fashion are not as important as some things especially with everything happening with the virus, yes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. The clothes we wear and the makeup we put on are forms of self-expression. No, you don’t have to follow the latest trends or go full glam with your makeup, but you should have the option to if you want it. We should be able to have clothes and beauty products that fit and match our style just like anyone else. People with disabilities should be taken into consideration when designing things whether it’s beauty, fashion, or something else.
In her Ted Talk: Why Design Should Include Everyone, Sinead talks about some of the situations she encounters in daily living with her disability, She goes on to speak about how accessibility is subjective, something accessible to mean as a wheelchair user, may not be to her as a little person.
When I watched this Ted Talk the first time, that is what stayed with me. Disabilities affect our bodies in different ways giving us different capabilities, yet that’s not always accounted for in design or fashion. She challenges the audience to change their perceptions of design and think about how we can change designs so they are considered, so their voices are heard.
Wendy Crawford: Solving The Beauty Equation
Wendy Crawford is a former fashion model, now founder of MOBILEwomen.org. When she was 19, she was in a car accident and she became a quadriplegic. After her injury, she discovered the fashion industry wasn’t taking her seriously anymore.
In her Ted Talk, she tells the story of her life before and the months immediately following her accident. She discusses what society considers beautiful and how we compare ourselves to those around us, admitting that even as a model she did this. As Wendy tells the story of her life after her injury she talks about situations she found herself in, particularly how there was little information on Women’s Health Issues for those with disabilities. MOBLIEwomen.org is a website dedicated to giving advice on health, dating, pregnancy, fashion, and more.
During her speech, Wendy mentions The Raw Beauty Project, the goal of this project, is to challenge stereotypes, change perceptions, and redefine beauty by women with disabilities. The beauty equation she mentions considers uniqueness a negative, but she asks what if we made it a positive instead?
The Film, Beauty and Fashion industries have made some changes in recent years, stil women with disabilities aren’t seen that much in the media, maybe one day that will change.