Easter Seals Thrive: Empowering Young Women with Disabilities
By Guest Blogger Erin Hawley
Growing up, I was one of the few visibly disabled people in my small town. I was immersed in an abled world by default, and often struggled with my identity and how I fit in. There were times when I didn’t even want to be associated with disability because I thought it was something negative.
During my formative years, I was privileged enough to have a loving family who encouraged me in whatever I wanted to do. But I soon realized society was not ready for people like me. I hit roadblocks consistently in finding employment, going to college, dating, getting health care, and living independently.
While I adore my family and local friends, for the longest time they were my only support. Looking back, I could have used the relationships I have now in online disability community; while I had access to the internet throughout highschool, communities back then were mostly through email and random chat rooms. Social media altered the way we approach social justice and share our stories – this is especially true for people with disabilities. To know that someone in another city, another state, another country is meeting the same barriers as you is an immensely powerful thing. People with disabilities caring for one another is invaluable.
Easter Seals Thrive is an online community that I noticed two years ago. They reached out to me after I wrote something for my personal blog about disability in comic books. Thrive named itself as a resource for the empowerment of young women with disabilities through online community – this was something I could get behind. I attended their live Twitter chat on accessible fashion and followed them on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Finally, I thought, a place for young women to express themselves and learn from each other! I was a bit older than the target audience, but I was happy to help out any way I could.
Fast forward to June of 2015, when I see a job advertisement on Thrive’s Facebook for a Digital Content Producer. I applied, somewhat nervously, but confident in my skills. A month later, I was hired, and so excited to work toward something I am passionate about.
Over the past eight months, the Easter Seals Thrive community has doubled in size, and we’ve held chats on everything from disability and college, to restaurant accessibility. Our social media pages share disability-related content every day, and our quarterly book club has been a hit. We also have a media page with the latest blogs and news about disability in TV, movies, and music. On March 9th, we’re even having a Twitter chat about disability on reality TV!
Even more exciting is Thrive’s upcoming offline mentoring program at Easter Seals Massachusetts. Originally, Thrive stemmed from this program, so we’re happy to see it coming back! 10 women mentors with disabilities will be paired with ten younger women mentees to foster support during such important years. They’re also having a retreat in April over two days, featuring guest speakers, open swimming, and other activities.
The Thrive community continues to expand and reach this often overlooked demographic. I am proud of my work, especially when I see the positive impact it has on young women.
To learn more about Easter Seals Thrive, please visithttp://www.easterseals.com/thrive. You can also follow Thrive on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Join our mobile community.
About the Guest Blogger
Erin Hawley is the Digital Content Producer for Easter Seals Thrive. She’s a self-proclaimed geek, N.J. Devils fan, and lover of all things Star Trek. Erin is also going after her Master’s degree in multicultural literature and hopes to have her poetry published soon.