From the CEO
I think it was on NPR when I first heard the story about the new Barbie doll with Down syndrome. Thanks to my impulsive buying and Amazon, I soon had the now elusive doll in my hands. At the office we all acknowledged that the toy maker, Mattel, had done right to transform this iconic “female image” into one with a rounder face, almond shaped eyes, the simian palm crease, orthotics, and even a necklace representing an extra 21st chromosome.
It was in 2016, after being called out for perpetuating an unrealistic image of beauty with distorted body proportions, that Mattel released different sized Barbies. What soon followed was an entire line representing dolls with disabilities. We now have Barbie in a wheelchair, with a hearing aid, and Ken dolls with a prosthetic leg and another with vitiligo. It wasn’t long until other Amazon packages arrived at our offices.
Mattel has worked admirably with the National Down Syndrome Society to capture a fairly true image of Down syndrome. Children with DS, or those in wheelchairs, are the more common images seen in those companies who include disabled models in advertising (Target and Kohl’s to name just two). Yet, we all know that some disabilities are not always visible ones.
My name is Hannah Hubley and I was born with total blindness. I attended Indiana Wesleyan University as a writing and honors humanities double-major, and I am currently an intern at Turnstone. College was a place where I grew not only in my academic skills, but also in my independence, confidence, and leadership. I also had to deal with many challenges there. I hope my experience can encourage you as you experience your own challenges or begin something new.
The start of college was not easy for me. As a Freshman, I was insecure and nervous about just about everything. I was living away from my parents, who were my biggest supporters. I had to learn how to navigate the college campus, which was much bigger than my high school. The size overwhelmed me, and I needed help getting to classes. Fortunately, I quickly made some friends who were kind to me. I had to learn new technology, since a lot of assignments needed to be submitted online. Despite these difficulties, I had a lot of fun with friends. Yet, that came to a screeching halt when the world shut down in the spring of 2020. I had to leave all those friends and the campus I was growing to love at short notice, leading to more anxiety and sadness.
When my Sophomore year came, I was glad to be back on campus. My confidence blossomed as I learned how to navigate campus on my own and submit assignments online. I continued to experience challenges, such as doing research online, but I did my best with all of them. I made the Dean's List every semester, and I made more friends than I ever had before. I also found my passion for disability advocacy. Another season of major growth came during my Senior year. I reached out to three of my peers who also have disabilities and we put together a presentation on disability awareness. I led the group and organized the event. Up until that point, I did not see myself as a leader to that extent, but now, I know that I have those skills. Once my last semester ended, I graduated Magna Cum Laude, and I could not have been happier with what I accomplished.
I learned some lessons from these past four years that can apply to anyone who has a disability. First, do not let your disability keep you from doing what you love. Also, do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it, and learn about whatever resources are available for you. The accommodation services at my college helped me a lot so I could reach my goals. Keep a positive outlook on life. Find the people in your life that can support you. That gave me strength to carry on, and my strong faith in God also kept me going. (I know everyone has different beliefs, but we all need something to give us hope). Finally, never give up. Challenges will come, but you should never let them stop you from being yourself.
Hannah Hubley was born with a visual impairment that left her completely blind. She attended Indiana Wesleyan University as a writing and honors humanities double-major. She has many interests, which include writing children's stories, promoting disability awareness, hanging out with family and friends, spending time with her cats, listening to music, singing, and swimming. She feels most fulfilled when she can help other people and make a difference.
Acceptance, Belonging, Community
by: Joni Schmalzried
As I spent time at the recent Disabilities Expo, I had some wonderful ‘confirming’ moments, and some even better ‘aha’ moments.
I was fortunate to be working at the information, raffle, and survey area located just inside the entrance doors. Throughout the day I had the opportunity to observe, interact, and support people…ALL people.
What struck me the most on that rainy Saturday was the intense feeling of community. There was a community of vendors who provide supports to those who need them. A community of volunteers who give of their time freely and do whatever is asked of them. Most importantly, a community of individuals with such a varying level of need (I couldn’t even begin to define it).
On April 28, AWS Foundation staff traveled throughout Northeast Indiana with self-advocates to distribute $60,000 in celebration of Pay it Forward Day. Self-advocates with Arc of Noble County Foundations, Arc of Wabash, Bi-County Services, Cardinal Services, Carey Services, Easterseals Arc of Northeast Indiana, Life Adult Day Academy, Pathfinder Services, The League, and Turnstone were given the opportunity to distribute $5,000 to local nonprofits who they volunteer with, who provide services to them, and who make a positive impact in their community.
In addition to the funds given out by self-advocates. AWSF staff selected another 10 organizations to receive an additional $1,000. These were selected for the work they do to positively impact the lives of people with disabilities.
Several AWSF staff heard self-advocates express how cool it was to give out money. One individual said, “I’ve never given out this much money in my whole life. It feels good.” Over 30 organizations received funding as part of the Pay it Forward day celebration.
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