Women’s History Month is upon us. There are many influential women in the world, and many of these women are social media influencers with disabilities. I was inspired by the ladies on all these different platforms. They are breaking the glass ceiling in so many ways, changing the world and breaking stereotypes — one post at a time. These women remind me that I am strong, and that I am capable of pretty much anything.
As a woman with a disability, it can be hard to feel like you have a voice in a world that wants to keep you silent. These women serve as inspirations to me and make me want to inspire other people and share my story as well.
These influencers with disabilities defy the odds and continue to prove people wrong every day. Here is why they inspire me, and why you should give them a follow.
1. Annie Segarra
Segarra was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome at the age of 26, which has limited her ability to walk. She is a member of both the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities, and her main fight is making spaces more accessible, such as pride parades and the Women’s March.
When Segarra went to the Women’s March back in January of 2017, she pointed out the lack of accessibility for women with disabilities, and she has even called out certain Pride Month events for not being accessible to those who have disabilities.
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I've been thinking about the pressure to perform disability and the prejudice that forces us to do it. My body (not my conscious mind, but my BODY) gets so anxious before any medical appointment; because of this nauseating, heart pounding feeling AND because medical appointments are so expensive, I avoid them now as much as I can. I just deal with all my symptoms untreated and survive each day one day at a time because healthcare is just obstacle after obstacle. But the very first obstacle is doctors believing your pain and fluid symptoms in the first place. If I make it into a medical appointment, I'm stable enough to get myself there, this means the doctor does not get to see me at my worst… no one ever does tbh. When I get ready for a doctor's appointment I struggle with how put together I should look; I think, "If my hair is neat, my make up is done, and I wear something loud and colorful, they might not be inclined to help me because of the prejudice that I don't "look" sick. But if I go to my appointment in my pajamas and messy… I might face the prejudice of "not trying hard enough to get better" Knowing that doctors have these prejudices and having experienced them makes it so hard for me to even get out the door. Performing disability in a way that adheres to the prejudice of others often feels necessary in order to be taken seriously. I go back and forth, and often land somewhere that feels in the middle, I am not wearing my pajamas but I'm not wearing anything too loud either. I can't wait for the day that general ableist ideas about disability are diluted and instead people understood that disability can look and behave so many different ways. Being fashionable and confident does not negate disability; I'm so tired of the anxiety and feeling like I have to water down my style and personality just for my medical and access needs. Water down ableism instead! #HospitalGlam #TheFutureIsAccessible [Image Description: Annie wearing a colorful face mask, blue jeans, white shirt, and army green jacket in a hospital examination room]
Segarra also worked on a campaign called “The Future Is Accessible,” hoping to raise awareness for why accessibility is key to everyone’s future success. Segarra never lets her disability keep her from achieving her goals or from helping others who may need it the most.
2. Haley Moss
Moss was the first openly autistic lawyer in the state of Florida, if not the whole country. Her parents were told that she would never be able to live on her own or work a job, but she has exceeded people’s expectations, and she has become an inspiration for young girls on the spectrum.
I’m really proud of this piece I got to write about #disability and dating while disabled, and I’m eternally grateful for the wonderful folks with different conditions and diagnoses who shared their stories with me for @GQMagazine: https://t.co/1uZjGD5pLH
— Haley Moss, Esq. ☀️ (@haleymossart) March 6, 2020
She continues to work hard every day to advocate for those who may not be able to speak for themselves. Like other influencers with disabilities, Moss promotes the importance of inclusion, and is a prime example of why people with autism should never be counted out. She is the kind of role model I wish I had growing up.
3. Molly Burke
Burke was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of four, which caused her to lose her vision by the time she was 14 years old. Her content focuses on her experiences living with blindness, educating people and fashion and beauty. She also discusses important issues such as disability discrimination.
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I just want to take a moment to thank you for all the love and support you’ve shown on my most recent video. Discrimination is not an easy topic to discuss, especially when it’s something you personally experience, but that’s the very reason I wanted to use the platform I have to discuss it. So many people have reached out to share their own experiences, their thoughts, or just to share their support. Just know that it hasn’t gone unnoticed and even though I can’t thank each of you individually I want to. I was very nervous to post Tuesday’s video but am so glad I did. . . . #accessibility [Photo Description : Molly is hunkering down o the street as she takes a moment to pause with Gallop. She is looking up at the camera and smiling. Molly is wearing a green coat with a lavendar top underneath and multi matching colors in her leggings]
Burke inspires me because she is doing things that some people don’t expect those with vision loss to be able to do. She does makeup, she travels on her own and she is just living life right now. She is showing people that just because you have a disability does not mean you can’t live a normal life.
4. Melissa Blake
Blake has a genetic bone and muscular disorder called Freeman-Sheldon syndrome. She is a freelance journalist who garnered attention when she was trolled online and told that she was too ugly to post selfies. She responded by posting more selfies on her social media.
During the last round of trollgate, people said that I should be banned from posting photos of myself because I’m too ugly. So I’d just like to commemorate the occasion with these 3 selfies… 📸😉👋🏻 pic.twitter.com/9ZuSYFOtwv
— Melissa Blake (@melissablake) September 7, 2019
She also caught the attention of Bradley Whitford, who is known for films such as “Billy Madison” and “Get Out.” It is amazing that Blake has made such an impact and inspired someone in Hollywood.
In what universe does Bradley Whitford follow me AND call me “wonderful”???
Seriously, thank you so much, @BradleyWhitford!!! I’m speechless, which is rare for me!!
Excuse me while I go watch more of The West Wing and act like a total fan girl… pic.twitter.com/PVaDO4TfAc
— Melissa Blake (@melissablake) December 31, 2019
As someone who is often hesitant to post selfies online due to confidence issues, I wish I had Blake’s fearlessness. She shows that she doesn’t care what people have to say about her.
5. Savannah Dahan
Dahan, also known as SavvyAsl, was born deaf, and her whole family is deaf as well. She came into the spotlight after she did an ASL version of Carrie Underwood’s “Champion” and the video went viral. She even met Underwood when she was on tour, and the country singer did a duet with Dahan.
Dahan has broken the stereotype that deaf people can’t listen to music. She reminds me of one of my best friends who is also deaf and loves K-pop. She can feel the beat and is able to dance to it. Deaf people are just like everyone else. They love music, and they love to dance as well.
6. Madeline Stuart
Stuart has become the first model with Down syndrome to walk in New York Fashion Week. Doctors told her mother that she would likely not function beyond the level of a 7-year-old. Thankfully, her mother did not listen to those doctors; otherwise, Stuart would not be where she is today.
Stuart shows that you don’t have to pay attention to people’s expectations of you. She demonstrates that you can make your expectations for yourself — to be what you want to be and not what everyone else wants you to be. She knows how to work that runway.
These women always inspire me to do better, to be who I am meant to be in life. As influencers with disabilities, they show that anyone can be whoever they want. Go give these beautiful ladies a follow on social media, and you too can be inspired by them. Because not only is the future female, it is inclusive as well.