Building a Community

By Grace Stratton

Grace Stratton writes about the importance of a strong community, in real life and online.

A key part of navigating my life as a wheelchair user and person with a disability has been finding other people I could identify with, who had disabilities. These were people I could look to when I needed a ‘re-fuel’, assistance to get through something in my life or something to aspire. 

These people I look to, I do not identify with them solely because they are also disabled, I look to them and connect with them because of common-interests, outlooks - the fact they have disabilities, give another layer to my connection with them and their capacity to motivate me. 

Instagram post my Molly Burke of her posing with a bag and dog.

Molly Burke is one of these people that I look up to, Molly is a YouTuber and Fashion-lover, she lives in L.A with her guide-dog Gallop, Molly is blind.

I discovered Molly through YouTube, she has just done a 10-part-series with Samsung, about her journey to “see” the Mona Lisa, the series details how Molly goes about experiencing art without sight.

"I encourage you to go out and build a community, in both real life and online, that can lift you up."

Mine and Molly’s disabilities are different, I have not lived without full sight; only seeing light and shadow perception as Molly does. Nor has Molly been a wheelchair user, so although our experiences are different, aspects of them are the same. We have both dealt with and conquered physical and medical difficulties, we both exist in a creative space where the majority of people are not disabled; we both love fashion so in days when I feel a little bit over it, I look to Molly and what she’s achieved - and I keep going.

As a disabled person, it is really important to look to some peers you connect with, social media makes this easier than ever. There are countless young women and men out there who serve as amazing people to look to and connect with, Eleanor Wheeler is an example, as a writer, University (College) student and part of the LGBTQ+ community she is someone so many of us can connect to and whose poetry can be a guiding, aspirational and comforting light too.

Instagram post by elliewheels showing a girl in a wheelchair modeling.

I encourage you to go out and build a community, in both real life and online, that can lift you up.

In a recent interview with iWeigh’s Jameela Jamil, Sam Smith discusses his journey with body image, he talks about how his Instagram used to be images which only reminded him of what he thought he and his body were missing, but he’s made an effort to change that, seeking out people that made his Instagram a “safe space” for him.

Action this for yourself too. Ask yourself, do I really want to see this image? Is this profile or person empowering me, challenging me in a good way, not in a way that harms, is this person empowering my body, or are they just reminding me of all the things I am apparently missing.

Build your safe space.

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