Episode 2 | Transcript

Published: Thursday June 29, 2023

Disabling Ableism | Hello TEDx

Awakened from her sleep in 2018 with an idea, Alycia’s journey to combat ableism became clear

Episode Transcript:

Alycia Anderson: Welcome to Pushing Forward with Alycia, a podcast that gives disability a voice. Each week we will explore topics like confidence, ambition, resilience, and finding success against all odds. We are creating a collective community that believes that all things are possible for all people.   

Open hearts. Clear paths. Let’s go.   

Welcome back everyone to pushing forward with Alycia. I am Alycia, so excited to open up some more conversations today. We are diving into ableism today. Last time we dove into advocacy and I thought maybe the next best step. Was talking about what I am advocating for with my business and with my platform, which is ableism. It is actually disabling ableism. Ableism for me has been present my entire life. If any of you know me, you know that I have an identical twin sister, and ableism has probably been in my life equally as much as she, literally from the day I was born.

Ableism, for me, has been the doctors recommending that I am institutionalized and put into hospitals and not given the surgeries that I needed when I was born. Because at the time it was thought living a life like mine would be not worth living, obviously my parents fought against that, but that was ableism. Ableism is when you are in school and you are denied going to overnight camp with all of the other kids because it is not accessible. Ableism is when you do not get invited to be a part of team building events at work. Ableism is the discrimination and the prejudice that we place on disability and ableism is something that I was really unaware of most of my life. I did not even know it was a thing though. Like I said, it has been one of the most active participants in my life.

It is literally dictated the things that I have received and the life experiences that I have been denied. It has also been the main catalyst for me to advocate. It has been kind of my path to find the places in my life which hopefully will open up other opportunities for people, but really identify the places in my life where there has been some inequities and dive into the whys and try to educate on that a little bit.

Ableism is so ingrained in our society and the way that we think about disability, most of us do not even realize it is there. Harvard Business Review defines ableism as a discrimination or a social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. It is how we look at disability in favoring an able body over somebody with a disability.  It is where we look at disabilities, if they need to be fixed to be whole or we look at disability and we defined a person solely by their disability. For me, that would be the wheelchair and we miss the person altogether.

Ableism is the thing that puts disability in a state of invisibility. It is the blockade to our collective pathway to inclusion. It is the no ways absolutely not, do not adapt, do not hire, do not love, do not befriend. It is the fear and the pity lens in which we see people living with disabilities through. It manifests as exclusion and discrimination and the stigmas and the biases that we hold on about disability. For me and my business, I started doing this business, my advocacy work, speaking. What I am doing today was my dream, and because of ableism, I almost did not even go down that path.

To be honest, with internalized ableism because it is something that has challenged me to push through, to get to the other side of opportunity. Ableism has been this blocker in my life. Whether it is placed on me by others or by lack of accessibility or lack of belief or If sometimes I am driving it in my own past. Because I am believing what society is telling me that, “you can’t, you won’t… exclude.”

I started speaking and leveraging this dream, rolling down the path of trying to achieve my dreams in about 2018. And that was a moment in my life because several things happened that made me have like, an aha moment.

Alycia, you need to say what you are going to! You know that you need to say… you need to speak and share. That takes you pushing through ableism and pushing through adversity and pushing through fear, to try. And so, in 2018, I stopped all of the “I wish I could speak” “Oh, I really feel like it is in in me to do this thing.” But never taking the action towards it, because I was so afraid, I was going to fail.

And in 2018, I was done with all that and I decided to start chipping away at this dream and this goal of mine, which was at that time to be a speaker on a stage and to share my story in hopes that it’s going to help someone so they don’t have to have as many obstacles, or even if they do have many of the same obstacles, maybe they’ll be a little bit more brave or bold to go after their dreams sooner than I was.

I started this in my 40s. I started chipping away at it and I would speak for free here or there and have opportunities, and I would speak on disability inclusion in the workplace and the empowerment of hiring people with disabilities and accessibility. My platform is called heart of inclusion because I believe that inclusion is about love. Inclusion is about collaboration and putting our shoes in someone else’s wheels and vice versa. So, we can learn about perspectives that we do not know and this is like something that we work on together and it is hard and comfortable work. And, this was what my platform was.

Fast forward two years. The pandemic happens. We are all home. We are starting to see injustices in our society in a way that we have not seen since the 60s and 70s, where people are coming out and marching and advocating for solidarity and for equity in our society. And this stemmed from the tragedies of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the many, many, many others that are out there.  Their stories, that in plain sight, show us the inequities that are happening for people that are different.

So, we started to see these movements, these attempts, for people to use their voices for change. To challenge the status. Wow. To learn from other people’s perspectives and to advocate for each other, this stirred up a lot of feelings and emotions for me. As I am watching all of these marches and advocacy happen on our TV screens, on the Internet, and because of these inequities and discrimination and tragedies are happening too frequently.

That gave me an opportunity to start to look within and as I was watching all of these things unfold during COVID, we’re having our mortality in check along with all of these inequities and advocacy happening where people are fighting for representation, fighting to be seen for who they are and to have a place in society, and that led me to reflect on my own opportunities on my own privilege, but also my own oppression, and what do I want my legacy to be? What do I want to say while I can? What positive role can I leave on this Earth to help the path of other people?

It made me realize that disability is hidden many times in this advocacy, so it opened up this creative space for me and my platform to start to talk about ableism, to dive into what ableism is, because ableism is driving the lack of inclusion for people with disabilities. It is driving the invisibility of who we are.

We are home during COVID and I am writing and trying to create a lot and I am having a lot of waking up in the middle of the night moments. You know those aha moments like get up and write that down. And one night I was sleeping and I woke up out of a dead sleep and it came to me, disabling ableism!

We have to disable ableism for people with disabilities to be seen, to be included, to create opportunities, to remove bias. And, that led me down a path of exploring that content. I decided to apply for a TEDx Talk. Got up the next morning, my husband and I over early morning coffee, wrote down an outline for a speech called, disabling ableism the modern pathway to inclusion, and this is the speech that we ended up pitching. And out of, over, you know, 100 plus applicants, seven of us were chosen. I was one of them, [chosen] to give a TEDx talk, and then I had this opportunity in six weeks to not only write the speech, but memorize it. And, that is what we did, my husband and I crafted the [speech] and then my twin sister Regina sat on the phone with me for hours every single day so I could memorize the speech and deliver it in the way that it was supposed to be. To give it the space that it really deserved.

TEDx is about sharing ideas that are worth spreading, and we do not understand in our society what ableism is. This is definitely an idea that is worth spreading, because it is our modern pathway to inclusion. It opens up avenues of inclusion once we realize what our biases are towards disability, and that is what ableism is, it is a discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior.

It is the thief in the night of inclusion, so, I wrote this speech. I practiced this speech. I delivered the speech, then my business completely opened up and now I am on many stages globally. What is it five years later? Since 2018 and when I really started to push my fear aside and start my business and go for my dreams and have all these like opportunities.

The life that I am living today is what I dreamt about my entire life, and I had to challenge myself to push through fear and then talk about something that felt uncomfortable at the time.

And now global companies are inviting me to talk about disabling ableism from all over the world, eHarmony, Hyatt Resorts, triple-A… huge organizations. I have created a platform where we are not only motivating and giving inspirational speeches on disability inclusion, disabling ableism in the workplace, but I am including this content and advocating for it in diversity equity inclusion departments.

I am advocating for educating the workforce on the value of disability inclusion in the workforce, and the value of accessibility and the value that comes! So, many layers that we are gonna definitely dive into all through this podcast.

We created a microlearning series on disabling ableism and what I realized is, this is something that we need to learn! Ableism is the blockade for us too.

Move forward and create additional opportunities for others. Ableism has been in our society for millennia. During the disability rights movement in the 50s. 60s and 70s is really when the term was elevated. We started to look at all of the layers of exclusion that ableism is driving.

If we favor one over someone else, which is what ableism is, that someone else has a tough time achieving. And we internalize the beliefs the of the cannots, the wonts, the this, the that, and it is crippling. It is way more crippling than a disability.

The philosophy of disabling ableism or flipping the switch off and turning on the flip of believing in possible as our default. So, it is flipping off our idea that we think we know what someone else can do or accomplish and turning on believing. And then the possible for every human being, no matter the package we come in, disabling ableism is creating a world where we are creating products and services and infrastructure and social settings and education and employment, all of it. 

Where we are creating a path of accessibility for everyone. Where we are not looking at the able body only as the only box, we need to check off to make everything work.

It is that whole like equity over equality. We are all different. We all come in different shapes and sizes. We are all gonna need different accessibility for us to succeed.

It is not a one size fits all, and ableism is a mindset where we are living in a one size fits all world.

And if that does not fit It is the do not include. Do not hire, do not love, do not adapt.

That does not make sense. Like it…, it does not work for all of us.

One in four of us have a disability. So that means that we are not taking into consideration one in four of us, that is a large number.

I have had this opportunity since 2020 to reflect and to find my voice and to use my voice to demonstrate what is possible for people with disabilities to advocate for people with disabilities for them to have opportunity. It is that which I had to fight for or did not receive growing up because of ableism.

Where I was excluded, where I was sitting on the sidelines and that is in school and that is at work. It is everywhere now.

We are in 2023 and we are seeing all these voices of change start to band together of people with disabilities as well. And, it is amazing because these are the voices of change that are going to progress the opportunities that open up for those that follow us.

Disabling ableism is checking our biases today at the door and turning on possible for all of us.

When you turn on possibility for humanity, magic will happen.

I am seeing it now in my own path, that is what we are doing on this podcast. We are pushing forward through tough things, so as uncomfortable as ableism, as it might seem to talk about it. At first, we are going to bring out the beauty and the opportunity of disabling it, and when we start to listen to some of the guests that we have coming on… that are going to tell their stories of pushing through their adversity, [and] how they’ve disabled ableism in their own past, and what they have accomplished, we are going to all be inspired to be an ally moving forward in our own lives.

Hopefully, it is going to give you some encouragement to push forward in whichever way that is, disability or not, in your own life, disabling ableism is a challenge for all of us to move forward into a modern pathway of inclusion, that has space for everyone!

This is pushing forward with Alycia. Thank you so much for joining. I cannot wait till next time.