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Disabled Lives Matter

Season 1, Episode 14

Co-Hosts: Nadine Vogel & Norma Stanley

Guest: Dr. Donna Walton

Intro: [Music playing in background] Disabled Lives Matter… here we go!

Voiceover: Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the disabled lives matter podcast with co-hosts Nadine Vogel and Norma Stanely... yay!

Nadine Vogel: Hello, bello, hello everyone, welcome to this episode of disabled lives matter, this is more than just a podcast, it is a movement and even bigger one thanks to my co-host Norma Stanley. Say hey Norma.

Norma Stanley: Hey Everybody.

Nadine Vogel: And if I didn't tell you this is Nadine Vogel. Today we are so excited because it's not about me it's not about Norma, it is about Dr Donna Walton and Donna, welcome to the show we're so excited to have you.

Dr. Donna R Walton: I am so glad to be here, thank you for inviting me.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely, you know, like we were talking before you, and I hadn't talked in a really long time. But the one thing that always stuck out with me and I think still does is that you have this power this power to reinvent yourself to help others reinvent right not in spite of what happens them but because of it, I think you were diagnosed with disability around I think was right at 1976.

Dr. Donna R Walton: So yeah so 1976 I was 18 years old and my whole life sort of turned upside down when I got the diagnosis of osteosarcoma. And that resulted in the left amputation of my left leg above the knee, and I think that that's the journey that's when it all began in terms of reinvention. Because if you really think about it, I was 18 years old pre adult hood if you if you will and so I was on the cusp of not even have my own identity of even just defining what my own my identity or I would say my identity was in flux at that time. And so the reinvention came when I started off, I wanted to be a performer I mean, I still am a performer, but that was my dream I mean you could not tell me, I was not going to be in Hollywood and you know I wanted to be an actress and I wanted to just I want to be a performer, that that was where my heart was and that's what I trained to do that's what I went off to school to become. And you know when life serves you, you know, lemons you make lemonade and or you may sometimes have to take a new direction. So fate had it so that essentially I’m still a performer but I use the classic, I sort of transition from my vision, my vision sort of morphed into thinking that I was going to be in Hollywood on stage, but in fact my stage was my classroom and my students were audience. And you know that's where my sort of first reinvention became because I transitioned from being this performing arts actor or performer to being an educator. Using the classroom, you know teaching school and then because of my own disability I sort of reinvented again to learn and to teach special education. And so, because I never wanted, little do my students know they were my experiment, because I was learning about myself through them. In terms of what disability look like, I mean I didn't know. It was my you know first year, if you will encountering of living with one leg and so you know from there you know it seems like I kind of came into this this knowing of myself, the more that I sort of learned about who I was, gained my confidence, because of course my confidence and self-esteem oh that was shattered so reinventing had to be I had to sort of reinvent, retool, reshape who I was now as a woman, a black woman with a disability and so that has taken on many, many forms, so today I am now wow I wear many hats I’m a writer I’m you know I’m an actor I’m you know Disability inclusionist and I'm a founder and director of two major organizations that all sort of Center around living helping people live their life passionately. Redefining what disability looks like you know, and so you know that that's where I am you know it's like reinvention retool rebrand and I think I’ve done it so many times I’ve changed jobs okay I tell folks I have had more jobs I think the average individual because, again, you know, I was on this journey of finding, who I was so I mean I get it I’m like nah, this is not me I don't want to do this and I’ll change the job or sometimes I even got fired from jobs, you know um because I wasn't a good fit I wasn't a good fit it was a square peg in a round hole sometimes. So yeah, yeah, I hope that gave you some insight on the real stuff.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely, and you know it's funny because I think when we first met your organization was leg talk.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Yes, and it still is, yep.

Nadine Vogel: That was one of the organizations right and that's focused is, if I remember correctly, I’m going back now lot of years.

Dr. Donna R Walton: You’re good.

Nadine Vogel: Focus on like empowerment, how to empower yourselves and others.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Yes. So, leg talk is lessons of empowerment for achieving goals and greatness, and that is correct it basically serves as a platform for teaching others how to work and live passionately. And so, and I sort of had another piece of it that I did the disability awareness and accommodation and sort of consulting with organizations.

Nadine Vogel: Right no, I remember that and then your other organization is divas with disability. Now I love that name.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Oh yes. That's the star organization that and I would say that that really has really culminated. Everything that I’ve done over my light time to now because it ain't over, has culminated to the divas with disabilities project because it is a reflection of what I wanted to see life be. I mean what I wanted to society to visualize people with disabilities. And it just so happens that I happen to be a black woman, I happen to live with a disability, and I happen to know how what it looks like not to be included. And I found out that I wasn't the only one. So, diva sort of started off as this digital campaign we started out on Facebook as just a way of coalescing around topics chatting and then it just grew it because there were so many women with the same lived experience and saying you know, passion and interest in ensuring that their lives are seen. Not only you know just on the big screen, you know it desires to become actors and performers, so now the mission has more to amplify the images of black and brown women with visible disabilities and promoting these women on various media platforms, so its global we are a global organization of divas it’s dynamic illuminating achieving sister and you know, and so we embrace all of that we live by our core values of social justice and inclusion and equity and body image. You know, all of this body image transformation, all of these things and dynamic illuminated victorious achieving sister, I may have misspelled it, but I had to go back. Because victorious was important and I noticed I said, I'm like I don't remember hearing victorious. So that's how so that's diva and our vision, clearly, is just to see more divas if you will.

Nadine Vogel: Right.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Reflected throughout Television, film, advertising, we need to be there, you know, we want to be the change. We want to be that change. And that was pretty much my mantra I kept saying well you know we're not on TV we're not in film. So, I’m like okay, well then let's do it lets be that.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely, absolutely, well, you know I may not be in the black or brown community but let me just tell you I am a diva.

Dr. Donna R Walton: And you don't have to be, but you know you're an ally.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely, you know Norma and I we have adult daughters with disabilities and so Norma, I mean, how do you feel about this.

NORMA STANLEY: I absolutely love it and one of the things that I really love about it is especially in the advertising and marketing arena, where you know, the general market advertising agencies or companies, they tend to say you know where all the advertisers or the marketing people are who are of color, we can’t find them. We can say yes, you can, if you really look. And so, same thing with people with disabilities who they can include in their advertising and marketing strategies, if you really want to find them, you can find them.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Well absolutely but they're leaving money on the table. We are consumers, you know I don't know how many times I have to sit you know and tell the message you know people with disabilities are consumers. We do, you know we're integrated in society. So, wherever society is we are too right, I mean it doesn't make us absent from going to the grocery store, I mean living life, transportation.

NORMA STANLEY: Doing what everybody else does.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely. You know, in the school system they call it mainstreaming. It's inclusive it's not just about you know diversity, so let me ask you this if I may. I think sometimes it's the words that people use and the images that get developed as a result of those words and when I think about is beauty right so talk to us about what you believe defines beauty and what maybe is getting in the way of that.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Good question, and you know and the hard part and well, not the hard part, but the piece just said is the piece that such a conflict defining you know we have to remove ourselves away from always having things neatly placed in a box with a definition. So, beauty extends or transcends beyond body, you know, the way we define beauty, the way I define beauty, is that it transcends beyond our body parts. You know, beauty is different beauty, is not the same, you know it's, it encompasses everything about a human being, that exists, you know that brings that person to the space that they live and show up, right. If you show up in that space to me, your beautiful right because you're there you're there yeah of course society places all the emphasis on what. You know the nose, your ears, you know where things are neatly placed you know symmetrically and your body shape all these things, but with disability, I have to look at, I have to look at flipping that, the paradigm of beauty on its head, because we can no longer look that way now that I want to bring up this organization. Wonderful, a friend of mine as well who runs this organization called positive exposures. And he was a well renowned photographer, and he took his mission and now he was photographing all these beautiful women and blah blah blah, and he just got he said he got tired of it, and he now takes photographs of all of these medical children with medical conditions and uses them to bring a face to these children and other people. He highlights people with Albinism.

Nadine Vogel: Albinism.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Yeah, you know all of these different conditions if you will that society wants to cast aside. These things, these unique characteristics.

NORMA STANLEY: Absolutely, I like to call it perfectly imperfect.

Nadine Vogel: Ah, I like that.

Dr. Donna R Walton: I like that. I like that, so you know Nadine, in terms of defining you know it's like there's not a there's not a definition for it, you know and because I think once you start putting placing definition on it then that's what you get into people having to meet the standards we want to remove so that people have to meet a standard you show up you're beautiful and then we need to really use that word, embrace that word more. You know, because sometimes people are a little tentative about calling someone beautiful right because they're like no they because this image of what they have seen beauty to look like.

Nadine Vogel: Right, absolutely. And Norma, you know Sierra, your daughter, my daughter they've modeled right.

NORMA STANLEY: That's right.

Nadine Vogel: But there’s a but here though. I don't know about Sierra but for Gretchen the modeling has been within fashion shows, although during fashion week in New York, but fashion shows for people with disability, we have to get passed that. We have to get into all the fashion shows.

NORMA STANLEY: And that's yeah you're right and that's one of the things that I want to make sure happens to my daughter has been included in the ones with the typical models, as well as not just for, and that was something the designer who we tend to be a part of it shows she insists on it, she wants the typical models and those would you know special needs and disabilities, all in the same show, showcasing anybody's beauty. And you know the beauty this in each individual and that's what we need to get more of we don't feel nothing bad.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Yeah, and there are some organizations out, you know you know, to the credit of the of the organizations that do sort of a highlight and emphasize beauty across the spectrum, if you will, right. I kudos to them, I mean, and we can talk more about some of those organizations, fashion runway is one. There are number of them, so if you want some references.

NORMA STANLEY: It’s definitely growing.

Nadine Vogel: Well, so my question is and we're going to have to take commercial break but when we come back from commercial Donna what I’d like to talk about is, you know what you said right. We don't want to paint people into a box having these very you know clear definitions, but I’m wondering if then you can talk about how either having those defined spaces, rightly or wrongly, is impacting the inclusion of black and brown women, girls with disabilities. In arts, in entertainment right, how is that all coming together, or is it not and is that part of the problem right so let's go to commercial break and we will be back in just a minute with my co-host Norma Stanley and the incomparable Donna Walter. Thank you.

Voiceover: And now, time for a commercial break.

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Many things have changed due to COVID-19 but what has not changed is the obligation to ensure you’re built environment is safe and fully accessible what was considered accessible and safe for someone with a disability prior to the pandemic may have changed. Especially as it relates to the physical space emergency evacuation the EEOC’s definition of a direct threat and more. What this means is that having a physical barrier universal design assessment is more important than ever Springport innovative physical barrier universal design team is now offering this service not only in person but also utilizing a virtual model a self-service model or model that serves as a hybrid between two don’t delay hire Springboard to conduct your assessment today contact us at info@consultspringboard.com or visit our website at www.consultspringboard.com

Voiceover: And now, back to our show.

Nadine Vogel: All right, ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to tonight's episode of disabled lives matter. Norma and I are talking with Donna Walton and before we went to commercial, I should say, Dr Donna Walton. Before we went to commercial, I was asking Donna to talk a little bit about you know, earlier we were talking about beauty different definition of beauty shouldn't be defined not be defined, but I’m wondering how those definitions, the ways we put people into boxes impact if it impacts, the inclusion of black and brown women and girls with disabilities in arts and entertainment. So intersectionality of disability and race and gender. How does that all come together for you.

Dr. Donna R Walton: It does it, you know it does play a significant role well, first of all, we have to move beyond that people with disabilities are not a monolith. So once we get the first of all get that on a table.

Nadine Vogel: Right.

Dr. Donna R Walton: And so, once we get that then we have to also realize that we have to acknowledge. We have to acknowledge, as you mentioned intersectionality, we have to acknowledge the intersection of identities and that each of these identities bring a unique experience, but they also can create oppression so they you know acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of just you know of discrimination and oppression. And we have must consider everything right and anything that can marginalize people and that's unfortunately what in a, I guess systems or organizations that tend to say, I want to include and make these individuals are part of leave out. Because they want to say oh, we want, we want actors with disabilities, but you know what hey a black actor may show up with a disability, does that person still count because that's what we're seeing in Hollywood you have many white males with disabilities, that will play a role, before anyone else will play a role right, I mean you, you don't dare oh it's like less than 2% I mean it's really a logo.

Nadine Vogel: Is the focus here, gender, race, what do you think.

Dr. Donna R Walton: And that's the thing you never know I look I live with this. People of color I would say, I know I do, live with this triple line or triple jeopardy, as I call it right. You know, being black female disabled okay now and you never know which of those identity markers are working against you, you never know, and I give an example. In a little story quickly applied for this job my first broadcasting job I was ready you couldn't tell me; I was not a bad system to apply for this position. I was paired and so, but I get in there, and you know as pass the writing tests and you know do all these things sit down speak with the interviewer and the first thing, he says to me is how would you run to get the story, you know. This is pre-Ada, of course, but regardless of it still was a question, and so, and then, and of course you can imagine, I didn't get that job. Okay now, but then other situations I go in, and I don't get job you know that you're just checking the boxes everywhere, but you don't get the job. You leave out of that room as a colored girl I leave out of that room thinking okay, was it my race, you know was it my disability, you know is it because I’m a woman. What is it that that kept me from that space? Well, it's the intersection of all of them is the triple jeopardy that it could be, all of them and that's what's so insidious about working you know sort of operating in this. These spaces of how organizations try to include us because you never know what's working and you and they don't even know what's working well, they know I take that back. They know what's working okay, it's just that we always have to work against all of these you know sort of pressures and discriminatory, you know basis.

NORMA STANLEY: People who say that those things do not exist, I simply do not understand it, you know it exists.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Of course, it exists, well, first of all its various is offending, offensive to because when you when you say I don't see color where the same thing. But you know we can’t leave out the big R word, you know we can't leave out the big R word and we, which is racism, of course, and we can't leave out the big A word which is ableism. And so, we have to think about ableism, takes on many forms and that operates as well, in terms of sort of making these spaces not accessible to individuals with disabilities. So you, like I said you don't know which of these elements are working against you, you just know that you're not included right. You know you're not included.

Nadine Vogel: You know, so what advice you know what guidance, do you have for I’ll say you know young girls or young women who are from the black and brown community who have a disability, who are that who have that triple jeopardy, as you say. What guidance do you want to give her?

Dr. Donna R Walton: You know that's a great way, first of all I, I guess, when you speak about guidance, you know I always say know thyself that I think that is the core of advocacy and sort of working through barriers.

NORMA STANLEY: Know and love yourself.

Dr. Donna R Walton: That's right know and love yourself, you, you have to have a certain, I would say sense of confidence. You're going to have to have it it's just no way to get around it, and that means you're going to have to self-disclose you're gonna have to self-disclose I mean I really believe that when you empowerment or power comes from knowing who you are showing up unapologetically as you are. And so, the more you do that, that gives you confidence, the more time someone you walk through a door and that door is closed, okay. Take the next door that door is closed okay take the next door the next door is closed, you know what you do you do the reinvention you knock a hole in the wall, and you make a new door. I make a new door. Okay. That's what you do and so I’m going to say to that young girl, you have to be resourceful you have to be relentless you have to be almost.

Nadine Vogel: Another R word.

Dr. Donna R Walton: You have to be almost radical. You have to be radical, relentless you know you and you cannot and it might sound cliche but you cannot give up you really cannot because you're going to get a lot of you're gonna get a lot of no's oh yeah you're gonna get some no’s, but I tell you, the more you know what you are and what your worth is and that's another one, knowing that you are enough. That's another one, knowing that you aren't enough it's very sustaining. I mean I can't tell you how many times I’ve had incidents where I come home and I’m like wow, but you know. You gotta say hey you got to look in that mirror and say you know you have more than enough. You got you got this you got this, and I say also guidance. Network with those who know more than you and don't be afraid to share your vulnerabilities with them that's really important. Just be vulnerable right, I mean ask for help if you need help, ask for help, I mean that there's sometimes there's this, some mystique around people with disabilities, that we don't need help and some of us, you know don't want no I’m like oh no that's not me. I do, I will ask you.

NORMA STANLEY: That’s with anybody actually tell you the truth. Some people are just not comfortable asking for help. You know entrepreneurs us know people who are just kind of getting started or people who just need their help to guide them to success.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Yeah

NORMA STANLEY: We don’t like I know I’ve had trouble with asking for help and so that is something that we do have to learn how to do unapologetically you know.

Dr. Donna R Walton: You have to be vulnerable.

Nadine Vogel: Right, it makes you vulnerable, you feel like it shows weakness, when you want to be out there, showing strength right we've all been there, but you know the other thing I want to make sure that our audience knows is that Donna, you are a certified cognitive behavioral therapist.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Yes.

Nadine Vogel: The words, the guidance that you're providing is not just life experience but truly trained professional experience.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Absolutely. You know, dealing with the mind you know, dealing with the way you think it's all about your thinking and I really should emphasize that. You know my philosophy moves from or speaks from. How we think is our behavior that's what you think if you think it, you be it. Right and so self-talk, I mean I really work with my clients a lot about this negative self-talk, you have to avoid negative self-talk at all times, because sometimes we can be our worst saboteurs.

Nadine Vogel: Right.

Dr. Donna R Walton: I mean trust me, I mean in my book, I talk about this, you know. I talk about how you at all costs have to you know don't sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff but at the same time, you really do have to work on navigating your throat your thoughts, you know monitoring your thoughts.

NORMA STANLEY: There's a scripture that says when a man thinkith so is he when a man speakith so it shall be so what you think and what you say is critical.

Dr. Donna R Walton: It is really critical, and I think we play a down a lot, because you know, because it seems as though it's it doesn't work, maybe. You know, but. But it does it really truly is about that, and you know also I can’t get, I can't get the big P word which is prayer. Prayer and the big F word which faith right um and so you know, these things are necessary in order to changing behavior and becoming and being sustained in your being. There is the things that are going to sustain you.

NORMA STANLEY: It’s helped me, just being a mother of a child with disabilities, it has been my foundation.

Nadine Vogel: Right absolutely so we don't really have a couple minutes left, but what I do want to get to because you did bring it up and I forgot is your book. Shattered dreams broken pieces right.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Yeah, shattered dreams broken pieces it's some it's a memoir and you know I want to say I don't want to say it's a self-help book is. If it helps someone that's fine but it's really more of a memoir and to show whatever happens to you in life, you can retool reshapes it’s about reinvention resilience and having faith in know when something sort of doesn't go your way in life that you that that you don't have to throw in the towel, so to speak, um, but if you do choose to throw into throw in the towel you don't have to stay there, you know there's always ways in which you can change. There are always ways to change. There’s no no endgame in this thing. No endgame.

Nadine Vogel: When I get down on something, Donna, when I get down I always I give myself 24 hours. I’m like okay it's just going to be that kind of day I’m just going to wallow in my misery. When I wake up tomorrow morning it better be a new day a new dawn

Dr. Donna R Walton: That's right.

Nadine Vogel: Because back to what you said. I have to activate that in my mind right, I have to have that conversation with myself, I call it my come to Jesus meeting.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Yes.

Nadine Vogel: Be with myself and really take charge of those thoughts and actions to make that happen and it sounds like that's really what you're talking about.

Dr. Donna R Walton: It is. And you, and you have to practice it, it has become a muscle. You know you have to really become good at that, and then, because that you know people like well how did you do it I’m like it's not overnight, this is not overnight stuff I’m talking about this is work, this is, I mean I’m not gonna say my age here on this live broadcast. But trust me it's been decades, decades of work. And you know what it is still work it's not over yet. I’m still working you're always evolving and that's the piece book emphasizes about resilience and reinvention that you can do it as many times as you like, as long as you're here, you can you just got time to do it. Yeah, and there's um there's a piece that I talked about in my book, it talks about how not putting ourselves in a box. How society puts us in a box, so it says something like I think I remember it like this, it says don't put me in a box, don't try to constrain me don't put me in a box of your own making because I am more so much more more than you can imagine, more than you can force to fit a tiny space limited by your lack of vision. So you have to remember that you have to you are the persons who are perceiving you are their vision is very small. Because immediately if you show up in a room with a disability, sometimes with a visible disability, I should say, because I mean the whole invisible, not invisible but non apparent disabilities. that's another topic, but I just so I can only speak from my experience of a visible. And I know when I walk into the room, I change it it's changed automatically right because first of all there's not many black women walking into the room with this cane who are beautiful okay, who can just command that space. You know because we're not saying we're not we're not comfortable with seeing disability and pretty and all of these things don't go together, no, no, no, no, no, so it flips everybody's brain cells. They just scramble they just, they just can't they can't manage all that um but that's what we have to do as persons who are living in this in our bodies that might be different, we got to change that.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely wow what a great way to end this episode, although I’m really sad that we're ending me at this is so much more Donna, for you to share with us.

NORMA STANLEY: It was awesome.

Nadine Vogel: I know, and you know you are all that and I am so glad that we had the opportunity and honor to interview you today.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Yes, thank you.

Nadine Vogel: Let me, let me ask one last question if someone's listening and wants to get in touch with you find out about you know anything that you're doing.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Very simple you could go to Donna walton.com and you can also go to divas with disabilities.org.

Nadine Vogel: I just love that diva thing. Well, for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this as much as Norma and I did. Signing out for another episode of Norma what's our title.

NORMA STANLEY: Disabled lives matter.

Nadine Vogel: Because they do. See y'all next week. Bye-bye.

Dr. Donna R Walton: Thank you very much thank.

NORMA STANLEY: Be blessed everybody.

Dr. Donna R Walton: All right, bye-bye.

Closing comment: [Music playing in background.] Thank you for listening to this week's episode of disabled lives matter. We look forward to seeing you next Thursday. Have a great week!

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52 episodes