3 Simple But Important Lessons From Molly Burke on Inclusion and the New Normal

Over the last few weeks while able to stay home due to COVID19, I have been excited to find better educational content on disability. When I found Molly Burke online recently, she reminded me of Coretta King’s words. “There is a spirit and a need and a man at the beginning of every great human advance. Every one of these must be right for that particular moment of history, or nothing happens.” By opening up her world to us, she reminds us that our work, the work of creating an enabling environment for all awaits us. She is right for this time when we are evaluating what a new normal is. Our new normal must be inclusive, otherwise, throw the word “new” away.

Finding Molly Burke, author, speaker and fashion and beauty influencer who happens to be blind (her words) matters a lot to me. Two years ago, inspired by the brick-by-brick crowdfunded work my friend Maria Omare has done over the last nearly 10 years, I joined the Action Foundation Board. The team at The Action Foundation want to create a world where all children and young people living with disabilities are included. They are based in Kibera and other low income residential areas in Nairobi, my home city. To better support their work, I read widely, especially on how many others across the world are coming into adulthood as young people with disabilities. An important part of last year was when the team launched Somesha, an app which allows educators in the disability space empower learners with disabilities with the resources they need which you can find on the Playstore

A picture of young Kenyan children on the right. On the left, a caption which reads : "It is always a good day when all children meet and learn together  in the same classroom using the same resources. " The Action Foundation - Somesha

You have to watch the full Allure’s interview with Molly, who is passionate about education to get her radical honesty about getting around using ride share apps (most are still not doing enough to help the visually impaired and blind users!), some ways she approaches food sourcing (hello, food delivery tech) and how mental health care plays a role in her day-to-day. It was so good. I knew a little, but she showed me that when it comes to doing more for everyone living with blindness, our collective knowledge really falls short. This is not a puff piece, it is a call to get more people working on opening up for the blind and visually impaired community now!

Lessons on Inclusion and the New Normal for All

  1. Walk in each other’s shoes : Molly’s impeccable fashion and beauty sense is stunning, and she is often mistaken for someone who is not blind. To make it clearer just how different her experience of the world is, the video creators simulated a walk through her life, particularly how audio allows us to hear space change and how she navigates her environment. Most of us never walk through other’s life experiences. In fact, too many of us can testify that it took a global pandemic to see each other and see the unique circumstances each of us walks through daily. Molly was able to take extensive training to learn to navigate using auditory support – we can get a better glimpse of what this is like for a few minutes in the clip below. Most of us just do not pay our other senses enough attention, let alone what others experience. Check that part out below:

2. Allow yourself to appreciate the beauty in the world : Molly’s family and loved ones power her zest for life, and quest to find joy in well constructed apparel, spaces and everything she is part of, including adrenaline-raising sports. She credits her friends for growing in finding ways to share their take on the world more descriptively – using words to capture what those who are blind will not experience visually. She also raises the bar for the beauty industry by using her powerful voice to talk about not only what products make sense, but demonstrating why certain products feel and stay a certain way – pushing for more inclusivity and better quality. This clip jumps ahead to that part.

3. Stay a constant learner : Molly shows us how to build the kind of environment to remove the obstacles the blind community face if we stay learning. Her voice effectively advocates for the kind of companies, schools and homes where we welcome everyone and do so meaningfully. I watched this short doc taking notes throughout. Thirty minutes long, Molly opens up her world to us and allows us to challenge our own assumptions about how far we have come in creating the kind of world where we pat our backs and assume that we have done enough. Her 2019 release, Its Not What It Looks Like (Audible) is now at the top of my audiobooks wish list and it should be on yours too. During this time when everyone is staying home, Molly’s IGTV video on what isolation is like for her nudged me to check on my own self care around COVID19 isolation indoors.

Have you encountered a short doc or interview that you cannot forget either? Please tell me about it below. I enjoy hearing back from you!

Josephine

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