95. How to Talk Respectfully to a Person with a Disability
“I don't want people to just be reduced to their disability, I want people to know that they can be so much more,” explains Jessie Wolinsky, social justice advocate and Badass Blind Babe Podcaster. Jessie was diagnosed at 7 years old with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative condition that causes blindness. At 14, she started the Jessie’s SightSavers fundraising group and raised a quarter of a million dollars for blindness research. Now, she is the President of the Los Angeles chapter for The Foundation Fighting Blindness. Today, she talks with host Alejandra about mindful communication and how to speak respectfully to a person with a disability.
Many people do not interact with people with disabilities regularly. This unfamiliarity may cause them to act or speak in ways that are unintentionally disrespectful. Jessie explains that one of the most powerful things someone can do is to ask every person with blindness or another disability how they wish to be referred to, as language surrounding a disability is incredibly personal. Some may choose to refer to themselves as ‘blind’ as Jessie does, while others may view that language as harmful. The language you choose to use can inadvertently reduce a person to their disability, when in reality they are so much more than that. This is why it is so important to be mindful and use respectful communication.
Disabilities are a spectrum and just because two people are both blind, they may not have the same symptoms or experiences. By changing your language to reflect the individuality of the person you are speaking to, you are respecting that each person with a disability is unique.
• “Everyone deserves to have the right to be referred to in a way that makes them feel comfortable and resonates with who they truly are and how they truly want to identify.” (0:00-0:10 | Jessie)
• “I'm going blind, I can't control that. But I control how I respond to it.” (6:05-6:09 | Jessie)
• “Everyone struggles with always finding positivity in their life and trying to come to terms with things that they cannot control.“ (7:39-7:46 | Jessie)
• “The most powerful thing that someone can do is ask every person with a disability or ask every person who suffers from vision loss, how do you want to be referred to?” (9:47-9:57 | Jessie)
• “I don't want people to just be reduced to their disability, and I want people to know that they can be so much more.” (16:26-16:31 | Jessie)
• “Everyone has the power to create the life that they want, regardless of what they might be experiencing, regardless of the things that they might not be able to control or change.” (21:06-21:15 | Jessie)
Connect with Jessie Wolinsky:
Jessie's Instagram: @jesswo
Jessie's Tik Tok: @badassblindbabe
Jessie's Podcast: Badass Blind Babe (available on all podcast platforms)
To join the Bay Area's Vision Walk of Donate to Jessie's NoCal Fan Club: https://give.fightingblindness.org/team/497720
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Podcast Music composed by Gary Lapow: open.spotify.com/artist/1HlMhcNfKIELxYil5mVqD