INTERVIEW: Creating a safe space to bridge the disability gap, this International Women’s Day with Emily Davison

This International Women’s Day (IWD), we choose to challenge. Disability and lifestyle blogger, Emily Davison speaks to Enable about how her blog is a space to challenge misconceptions around disability.  

Emily and her guide dog, Unity
This year we’re being asked to Choose to Challenge on IWD; what do you Choose to Challenge? 

Challenges that are faced by disabled women, the stigma and the stereotypes that are placed on us and our opportunity to achieve, aspire, and be ourselves in whatever that sense that means.

I think [the theme] also means personal challenges; about overcoming personal challenges. We’ve had a lot of time with ourselves and a lot of time to reflect and be in our own company during lockdown, I think, for a lot of people, it has highlighted what they want to work on in themselves.

I think this year’s theme is also about personal growth and overcoming the challenges that are intrinsic to you that only you as a person can change. 

Your blog, Fashioneyesta, is a great space for education and awareness of what people can do with a disability. Why is it important for you to change perceptions of disability through your media work? 

Just by being and doing what you enjoy, that will undermine and debunk myths already.

For me, my blog started after people kept telling me I didn’t look blind or you look too this to be disabled; it was about teaching people to do the things I can do that have similar disabilities but also to invite non-disabled people to the community to ask questions and learn about projects they didn’t have any understanding of. It was bridging the gap between these two communities and creating a safe space to do it in a fun way.  

I choose to challenge by creating content by showing me the way I want to be show, because I am the creator. It is making a space online where I can positively challenge myths, and do it in a way that people who don’t have an understanding feel they actually can learn and can positively understand disability. It is creative a positive environment for everyone. 

A very obvious question, but why is it so important that we still have events and days of celebrations such as IWD? 

It’s really important, because the big conversations around feminism is that we don’t need it anymore; women have the right to vote, women have equal pay, women have this.  

But it’s a look at all the facets of being a woman in this day and age and how not every single woman is treated fairly around the world.  

There are so many issues going on around women’s rights in many different areas and reasons. The plight of disabled women is just one of those issues that needs to be talked about.  

I think it is important because it stimulates conversation from lots of different women who have different life experiences to be able to say that there are still things that need to change and have to move forward; it is giving people a platform to talk about that and it is also celebrating the achievements of where we’ve come so far.  

We all need to celebrate what we’ve done and remind ourselves that the work is not done. Maybe the work will never be done, days like this remind us to keep going. 

Alongside your blog and social media work, you’ve worked closely with Leonard Cheshire and their campaigns on accessible transport and disability hate crime. Why are these campaigns so critical to ensure disabled people are treated equally and fairly in society? 

For me Leonard Cheshire has a varied range of campaigns, they have different areas and campaigns that really do affect people’s lives.  

Transport is a big thing for me because travelling alone as a disabled woman there is a lot about safety and being aware of your surroundings, you have to keep safety in your mind but having a disability you have added barriers and issues around that.  

In terms of hate crime campaigns, I have had a lot of experience in the past where I’ve had very negative, derogatory, ableist comments.  

A lot of it has to do with the fact I want to wear make-up and I want to look good, and feel good. I’m teared down for that because it is as though if you’re disabled you shouldn’t have an interest or be able to do this.  

This campaign is about really creating a safe space online where people can go. It does take a lot of courage for disabled people to go online and put themselves out there and talk openly about the issues they have faced; I think that can be completely ruined within five seconds of someone posting a comment.  

I think it is really important that we have campaigns that highlight the stigma and ableism that disabled people can face online. 

This International Women’s Day, what words of advice or encouragement do you have for disabled people? 

Embrace your individuality, be comfortable with yourself fully and not allow people to bring you down for any part of your identity. You are in control of your own identity, self, you are the only who has the right to have an opinion about you because you are you.  

Be you and don’t let other people have a weigh in on that, you are the only opinion that truly matters. The theme of challenging ourselves, we need to remember that the biggest challenges we face is ourselves: we are, often, the ones who put the greatest amount of judgement on ourselves.  

Being a disabled person, society puts a lot of pressure on people to be a certain way and there is an unspoken pressure that you need to excel, there is a subconscious pressure.  

We’re maybe all a bit unkind to ourselves, this year, challenge yourself by being kinder to yourself and not judging yourself so harshly. Just check yourself, you lived through 2020 you’re not doing a bad job, you’re doing alright. 

You can follow Emily online on her blog, twitter and Instagram. More information on Leonard Cheshire and their campaigns can be found here. 

What do you Choose to Challenge this IWD? Let us know on social media, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.