April 12, 2017
FIRST THOUGHT: Thriving With a Disability
Though Frida Kahlo contracted the debilitating disease polio at the tender age of 6, it was a nearly fatal bus accident at age 18 that truly changed her life. During the course of her recovery, Frida began to paint, an art form that enabled her to explore some deep issues. She is now recognized for her remarkable artistic talents, and created dozens of self-portraits, some revealing her back brace and wheelchair.
At the heart of many stereotypes women face is a need to boil things down to simply black and white. It’s just plain easier to categorize people, but no two women are alike. Frida wasn’t just an artist; she, like all women, had myriad identities. Today, recognize your human instinct to label people, and shun that tendency in favor of acceptance, tolerance and understanding.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 8,000
Another talented woman who isn’t letting her disability define her is Collette Divitto. When she was 22, this longtime lover of baking applied for jobs at several bakeries. Her rejections typically included the comment, “You aren’t a good fit.” As a woman with Down syndrome, Collette wasn’t having any of that. Instead, she decided to start her own dang company. With a secret family recipe for cookies and a whole heck of a lot of tenacity, her Collettey’s Cookies biz received 8,000 orders within weeks of opening. We’ll take a baker’s dozen, please!
WOMAN TO WATCH: Brittany Déjean, Founder and Executive Director of AbleThrive
When I came across today’s Woman to Watch and her organization, AbleThrive, I was struck by the first thing I read on her website. It says, “We live in a world where Netflix can tell you what movie to watch next, but families impacted by disabilities are left to figure everything out on their own.” Kind of gets you in the gut, huh?
Brittany Déjean understands firsthand how draining figuring out all the issues surrounding a disability can be, especially when you are emotionally taxed as it is. Sadly, when she was just 12 years old, a traumatic car accident killed her little brother and paralyzed her father. While her dad was on his road to recovery, there were a ton of unknowns for the family that needed to be identified and solved. Disability barriers stretch from the physical to the communicative to the attitudinal, and thriving can seem like a long-gone ambition. But, she notes, her family was lucky to have access to resources and support to help them adapt and flourish.
Later, after volunteering with disability communities in Africa and Asia, Brittany decided to dedicate her career to building a tech platform that would provide resources and answers to the questions people with disabilities and their families face. The website for her nonprofit, AbleThrive, features five key categories: life skills, parenting, relationships, activities and travel, with practical solutions for handling any number of everyday occurrences and major life issues, from tackling household chores to using public transit and even dating.
Brittany’s concept for a website full of curated content for those with disabilities comes from her own personal experience and a sense that nothing should stop anyone from living a dynamic life. And she’s a wonderful example that, no matter what, we can all thrive. After all, for her wedding, she tracked down a choreographer who specializes in teaching the wheelchair-bound so her father could participate in the all-important father-daughter dance. He has since continued to take dance lessons, a testament to how, with a little bit of knowledge and determination, we can all be unstoppable.
QUITE THE QUOTE
Always remember this quote by Audrey Hepburn. She said:
“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says, ‘I’m possible!’ ”
This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.