Marilee Talkington stars alongside Jason Momoa in Apple TV+’s upcoming futuristic, post-apocalyptic drama “See”

Apple TV Movie poster with images of Marilee Talkington and Jason Momoa with the word "SEE" printed on it

A lifelong advocate and a voice for other actors that are also visually impaired, Marilee Talkington will be lighting up television sets alongside Jason Momoa (“Game of Thrones,” AQUAMAN) in Apple TV+’s upcoming futuristic, post-apocalyptic drama “See,” premiering Friday, November 1st.

Legally blind herself, Marilee will be playing more than just a role in a show, but a pivotal role in the fight for authentic casting and representation.

From the producers of the PLANET OF THE APES Trilogy, written by Steven Knight (“Peaky Blinders”) and directed by Francis Lawrence (THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE and MOCKINGJAY PARTS 1 & 2), “See,” tells the story of a future where a virus has wiped out most of mankind, leaving the survivors blinded. Marilee stars as “Souter Bax,” an emotionally complicated character, authentically representing the blind community. In addition to Jason Momoa, the show also stars Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning actress, Alfre Woodard (12 YEARS A SLAVE, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR) and Archie Madekwe (MIDSOMMAR).

Marilee also spends her time as a consultant for TV shows, films, theater, university, and conservatories for authentic casting and representation on stage and screen. She has even created an acting program for authentically blind/low vision actors and is heavily involved in SAG-AFTRA Performers with Disabilities Committee, as well as 50/50 by 2020. Marilee even went viral in 2017, being featured for HuffPost and the Observer, when at a panel for the World Science Festival, a female panelist kept getting cut off by the male moderator, Marilee jumped in from the crowd asking him to “Let her speak, please!” Passionate about her activism, she is fighting for those around her and coming after her.

Born with cone-rod dystrophy, a retinal disease she had inherited from her mother, Marilee had no central vision, and learned how to not just survive, but thrive. Heavily involved in basketball throughout high school, even earning herself a spot on the CA All-Star team, Marilee could not play in college as her sight continued to deteriorate. While studying Psychology, she took an acting class on a whim and fell in love immediately. Moving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, she worked hard, honing her craft before attending the American Conservatory Theater, graduating with honors as one of just a handful of legally blind actors in the country with an MFA in Acting.


Following school, Marilee took to writing and directing groundbreaking plays, including “Sticky Time,” a show that took place around the audience, rather than the usual format, and “Truce,” (shown in San Francisco, New York and the BBC), in which Marilee played 22 different characters. ”Truce’s” cutting edge aspect was its set design as it paralleled her own vision loss so that audience members could viscerally experience what it might be like for her. In all her productions, Marilee aims to break apart the normative theatrical viewing experience and create highly visceral and experimental story-telling moments. She innovates new aesthetics to integrate her specific physical experience of the world into each show.

Since then, she has starred in NBC’s “New Amsterdam,” CBS’ “NCIS,” and countless theater productions, both Off-Broadway and Regional. In the past 25 years, she has originated over 60 characters including lead roles in world premieres by Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket) and Lauren Gunderson (most produced playwright in the US, 2017).

Photo Credit: David Noles

Unifying Us All to End Bullying

Charles Colin standing hands in pocket looking over shoulder

Sixteen-year-old Charles Kolin is spearheading the effort to create a formal resolution by Congress to support Unity Day, celebrated each year in late October (this year on Wednesday, October 23) to honor and recognize the annual anti-bullying prevention day formally on a national level.

Kolin singlehandedly set out to contact Senators and Representatives in Congress directly to lobby them to help put this resolution, which he drafted himself, on the books. His Unity Day resolution includes the goal of bringing together youth, parents, educators, businesses and community members across the country to emphasize a message of uniting for kindness, acceptance, inclusion and mutual respect.

Kolin has a Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NVLD) that includes having difficulty interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expressions or body language, and impaired visual spatial and social skills. Kolin prefers to think of himself as part of a “neurodiverse” community, rather than having a disability. His NVLD made him different to other students, and this caused him to be bullied from 5th grade to 8th grade. Because he’s experienced bullying firsthand, it’s his mission to help create a world where no one is afraid to share their opinions and where being different is okay.

Kolin spoke with DIVERSEability Magazine about his experiences and goals for the future:

DIVERSEability Magazine (DM): What were your experiences with bullying? How did you cope?

Charles Kolin (CK): My experience with bullying was not physical—it was all mental and emotional bullying. Some people will argue that there is no such thing as mental or emotional bullying, but I disagree.

I had 20 plus kids a day for 3 years tell me to go kill myself; they told me no one cared about me; why come to school I didn’t matter. Hearing those things every day of your life is bullying. The bullying began in 5th grade following my move from New York to Connecticut. The bullying continued until the end of 8th grade. My peers would go out of their way to say cruel and insensitive things to me.

During lunch, I wasn’t allowed to sit anywhere; they would ridicule me both in person, and behind my back. On the rare occasion I was actually invited somewhere, my peers would either never show up or tell me they’d be right back before leaving and never returning only to watch and laugh from a distance. It was disappointing, hurtful and I didn’t understand why I was being treated that way. I am blessed at being a gifted athlete and I have a passion for soccer. This would also be stripped away from me as I was excluded on the field, and as a result, was discouraged from joining the soccer team.

I coped with this issue primarily through the help of my parents and certain school faculty. Although the faculty were empathetic towards my situation, there wasn’t much that they could do. The bullying wasn’t happening in front of their noses, but was hidden from view. Many kids saw and heard it all but they didn’t step in to help for fear that they would be the next one to be bullied.

DM: What led you to become a national voice and advocate? What are your main objectives?

CK: I know what it means to be bullied and to be the outcast and I don’t want anyone to ever feel the way I did. I knew that in order to stop this problem in not only our country, but the whole world, someone needed to step up and stand up for the voiceless. Once I moved to a new school, I was able to gain more confidence and decided to start looking for an organization to get involved in. That’s when I found the PACER center in Minnesota. After talking with Julie Hertzog at PACER, I got the green light to bring Unity Day to my school. Although ending bullying is a big part of what I’m trying to do, it isn’t my entire objective. My dream is for people to come together to celebrate and validate their differences. For example, those that are part of the neurodiverse community look at various things in the world in a different way. My dream is to create a world where people can disagree, be open to new views and ideas, but have civil discourse rather than contempt for one another. In this day and age, the country needs people need to have more respect for one another’s differences. Spread kindness, respect and include those that are different. That can make all the difference in someone’s life.

DM: Tell us more about your efforts to create a formal resolution by Congress to support Unity Day. How has that experience been?

CK: Once I established Unity Day at my high school, Greens Farms Academy, I wanted to go even bigger. That’s when I came up with an idea for a national Unity Day. What started as an idea would soon blow up to be a rewarding and humbling project! I started by emailing as many members of Congress as I could. When I didn’t get a response, I would send and resend the message again. I was relentlessly sending emails and calling offices for 3 months until I finally started getting responses. From there, it was a matter of time before I had a whole schedule full of meetings with 20 different offices in Washington DC. My local representative, Fred Camillo, was even able to help me secure a meeting with Senator Richard Blumenthal from my home state of Connecticut! After giving my pitch for a national Unity Day, all of the offices supported my idea and encouraged me to continue. After the success with my first visit in Washington, I continued to follow up with Senator Richard Blumenthal. He agreed to help me write a resolution to be presented to the Senate, and Congressman Tom Emmer lead the charge in the drafting the resolution for the House of Representatives. The most amazing and humbling part of the whole process was actually being able to edit the resolution. So here I was, sitting in my bedroom editing a resolution for a national Unity Day, when only three years prior I was being told to kill myself and that I didn’t matter. It was one of, if not the, most amazing moments of my life.

DM: What advice do you have for bullying victims and for those with Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities?

CK: What I would tell anyone who is being bullied now is DONT LET IT STOP YOU! Keep speaking out! Keep fighting! Tell everyone in school, adults, anyone until they listen. If we all stand together and unite for tolerance, kindness and respect, the bully will not stand a chance.

DM: We see you’re the lone survivor of triplets. How has that affected your perspective on life?

CK: Being a surviving triplet has played a big role in my life. It has instilled a sense of focus, confidence and self-worth in me. I know that I am here for a reason. I have a purpose in the world. It always shown me that others have a purpose too. It played a large role in me keeping my composure through the tough times. My outlook on life is that everyone is important and everyone is here for a reason. Confidence, however, is a luxury that many victims of bullying do not have. That’s why it’s important to stand with one another rather than against each other.

A way to get involved and show your support for not only victims of bullying, but also for unity would be taking the #UnityChallenge on social media. Go to to take part in the movement. Pick one of the 3 words that signify Unity Day: Tolerance, Kindness and Respect, and then write the word on your hand and take a photo. Then write a small caption on why you chose that word, what it means to you and post it. This small action can positively impact the lives of so many people around the nation and beyond!

Award-Winning Code Jumper Helps Kids Learn Coding

yound disabled boy playing with building blocks on coffee table

The Consumer Technology Association has awarded American Printing House (APH) with a highly coveted Best of Innovation award in the Accessibility category for its Code Jumper, an inclusive product that allows children who are blind or visually impaired to learn computer coding alongside their sighted peers.

Originally designed by Microsoft and developed by APH, Code Jumper is an incredible innovation that teaches children ages 7-11, regardless of their level of vision, computer coding skills.

Children not only learn basic programming concepts, such as sequencing, iteration, selection, and variables, but also learn skills like computational thinking and debugging, which can serve them in all areas of life.

“Every child should have equal access to the important jobs being created in the technology field.

Code Jumper gives them that access and opens a path to a meaningful career,” explains APH CEO Craig Meador. “We hope to inspire other companies to design products that are inclusive and ensure the future belongs to everyone.”

ADA Anniversary – What Does the Future Look Like for People with Disabilities at Work?

blind man holding cane in office setting and coworkers seated at conference table

The most recent episode of the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT)’s Future of Work podcast features Josh Christianson, Co-Director of PEAT, as he highlights predictions made by Future of Work podcast guests regarding anticipated changes resulting from emerging technology and the impact on the workplace and workforce of our future.

The Future of Work podcast is developed in partnership with as part of the PEAT’s Future of Work series, which works to start conversations around how emerging workplace technology trends are impacting people with disabilities.​

During the interview, Josh and Jessica discuss their five favorite predictions for the next 30 years of the ADA that they’ve had as part of this Future of Work podcast season, I guess, of the Future of Work series. They discuss predictions from the following guests:

  • Joel Ward, Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Chancey Fleet, New York Public Library
  • Alexandra Givens, Center for Democracy & Techhnology
  • Chris Baumgart, Imagine! Colorado
  • George Karalis, STRIVR

Listen to the complete interview with Josh on the PEAT website.

Meet Chelsie Hill, Founder, Rollettes

chelsie hill rolettes founder sits on sidewalk ledge of building with a foot up on her wheelchair smiling

The following post originally appeared on The Fem Word, a global platform broadcasting stories of bold women in creative spaces.

The Fem Word can be found on social media @thefemword @thefemword

Alyssa Sofat:

Hi, my name is Alyssa Sofat and I am a contributor at The Fem Word. The Fem Word is all about empowering women and finding women who are making a change in the world. You stood out to us and we love what you do – so thank you, Chelsie, for being with us today! I’m so excited to talk to you.

Chelsie Hill:

Thank you for having me.


You grew up dancing and always dreamed of becoming a professional dancer, but at age 17, you were involved in a drunk driving accident which left you unable to walk. You continued to pursue your dreams and moved to Los Angeles to create a dance team starring women in wheelchairs. You have inspired so many women to never let go of their dreams and to “Be Boundless.” I was reading about your life before the accident – do you ever wish that you spent more time just being a teenager? What would you tell someone who spends all their time working?


Before my accident, I actually worked two jobs and there was one time where I worked three jobs. I worked at Hollister, a breakfast place, and an Italian dinner place. Before my accident, I worked as much as I could along with going to high school. I don’t regret working because it taught me what it was like to work a nine-to-five job. It taught me a lot of discipline on how to manage my money as a young teenager and how to save my money. I don’t regret that at all. I definitely had a lot of amazing moments where I could go and have fun. I had a really good balance before my accident.


When the accident first happened and you were told that this would be the situation for the rest of your life…how did you wrap your head around that?


Oh, man. I was 17 years old, and I was in the pediatric ICU. Two weeks later, the doctor came in and he said, “do you have any questions for me?” The first thing I said was, “why can’t I feel my legs?” For those two weeks, my friends and family that were in the room with me said that it was just the medication and they wanted to wait until I was fully coherent after all of my surgeries to actually let me know about the paralysis. So the first time I asked “why can’t I feel my legs,” he said, “well, you’re paralyzed, you’re never going to walk again.” I had no idea what a spinal cord injury was at the time. My second question was, “can I have children?” He told me, “I have to talk to your parents because you’re underage.” The first year, I was really in denial. I thought, you break a bone, you go to the doctor, they heal you, and then you go back to your normal life. I had no idea that you could break a bone and it could alter the course of your entire life. I couldn’t really understand it. I’d have waves of moments where I couldn’t believe it was real. It was really hard. Really, really hard.


Did you feel that people started to treat you differently after the accident, and what was your reaction to that?


My friends didn’t really treat me differently. If I wanted to go out with my friends, they’d be like, all right, let’s figure it out. It took five girls to get my wheelchair apart and put it back together. They really took me in and supported me. I’d be at school and I’d have books on my lap and people would help carry them for me. My accident was so public that every time I’d go into the grocery store, people would stare at me. I was known as the girl that was paralyzed in the drunk driving accident. I was going and speaking at schools about drunk driving and distracted driving. I was always in the news, and that was really uncomfortable because I didn’t know how people felt about my accident. My family was always by my side. They said, “whatever you want to do, let’s figure it out. You want to get into a car without a slide board? Let’s figure it out.” I had a great support system very early on.


Ultimately, you decided to move to LA from your hometown to do what you love most – which is dancing – but in a wheelchair.  On top of that, you had to navigate and learn about a new city. What was that like for you?


I was a few years [into being] injured and I was talking to my dad and I was like, I still want to be a professional dancer. I want to see if I can do it. I want to go down and take classes at all of these top dance studios. My dad was like, “all right, let’s do it, we’ll go down, let’s find you an apartment.” I got an apartment down here but it took me about six months to start going to classes. On social media, I never saw any wheelchair users in any of these big classes. I knew I could do the choreography, I wasn’t scared of that. It was more so being the only wheelchair user in that room of able-bodied dancers. Nobody knew who I was and nobody knew that I was a dancer before. I had to explain myself. I remember going into a dance studio and taking a beginner class for the first time ever. I left feeling so out of place, like people were staring at me, like I didn’t belong there because I was different. My first few times were really hard. I was definitely discriminated against very bluntly in a few classes. But I kept going because I have the same passion as the girl or guy standing next to me. Why is that any different? I kept going back and then I started getting into videos that were at studios. That’s when people started seeing me and taking me seriously.


What’s the term that you feel people should refer to you as? I don’t believe disabled is the right term to use.


I get this question a lot. I don’t really have a strong opinion because I know people that say, “that girl is disabled,” don’t mean it in a negative way. They’re just uneducated. I would always prefer people to say, wheelchair users, because we are wheelchair users. I don’t agree with the term wheelchair-bound. A lot of people say, wheelchair-bound dancer or wheelchair-bound actress. I don’t sleep in my chair. Do you know what I mean? I don’t shower in my chair. I can get out, it is just a device we use to get around. A wheelchair user is probably the most correct term.


What’s the biggest challenge that you have had to face by having to incorporate this new normal into your life?


With a spinal cord injury, paralysis comes where the level of injury stops. My level of injury hits my belly button, so everything below there can’t feel temperature. I can’t feel bathroom functions, none of that. If I break a bone [in that area], I won’t be able to feel it. I think the hardest part of a lot of spinal cord injuries [is] maintaining and understanding how to use the bathroom. That is the biggest struggle. I can get through life without walking, maintaining the bathroom function is the biggest thing with wheelchair users or people with spinal cord injuries Every spinal cord injury is different. It’s very interesting how powerful it is. Two people could be injured at the same level, like me and my friend, Maria – same exact level of injury in the beginning, same car crash and everything. But now she can move her legs and feel different things. Her level of injury went down, but mine stayed the same. So it’s very interesting, the spinal cord.


Will it be like that for the rest of your life?


Probably. It’s been about 10 years. I did physical therapy for about six years and really pushed [myself] to walk again. If I do enough physical therapy, I’ll walk again. That’s not the case for every spinal cord injury. I had to make a decision a few years ago, do I keep paying $150 out of pocket to try and regain something that I don’t know is certain? Or do I make the best of my situation and love my life even more? I still work out, I still get cardio in, and I still stand. I still do as much physical therapy, but it was mentally a really hard decision for me because I felt like I was giving up on walking. I don’t think I was giving up, I just have a different mindset.


I love that positivity and I love the name of your organization: Rollettes. What is the meaning behind that name and how did you choose it?


I thought of the name Rollettes back in 2013. It just came to my mind a few years ago, but I opted not to do it because my dad and I had a nonprofit at the time called Walk and Roll. I decided to shut down the nonprofit because it was not working for me, volunteering for a nonprofit is so hard and then you’re running it a lot. I shut it [down] and I said, I’m going to make Rollettes a business and I’m going to do a camp every summer and we’re going to have a wheelchair dance team and we did it.


You started Rollettes in 2012 and from that time you have been noticed by The Today Show, Ellen, Access Daily, Seventeen, etc. You have also performed at NY Fashion Week! Did you ever think that this would happen?


I never in a million years would have thought my story would be all over. I started this purely because I wanted friends. I just reached out to girls to start this team and start performing because I just wanted to meet people. I wanted to feel like I wasn’t alone. I’m so thankful for all the friendships that I have gained from it. The publicity is just the cherry on top, but it’s just about the mission. It’s about empowering women with disabilities to live boundlessly and shift perspective through dance. I’m beyond thankful for everything that I’ve been able to be a part of and where I’ve been able to share my platform. Laying in the hospital at 17 years old being classified as disabled, I only dreamed of where I am today and living it. It gives me a purpose to wake up every morning.

Best Friends Given 2% Survival Rate at Birth Beat the Odds, Graduate Together

Best friends Odin Frost and Jordon Granberry in wheelchairs next to each other on graduation day

Two best friends given a 2% survival rate at birth beat the odds and graduated from their school in Tyler, Texas, last Thursday.

Odin Frost is non-verbal autistic, and his best friend, Jordon Granberry, had brain damage due to complications at birth that led to a lack of oxygen in the brain, Odin’s dad, Tim Frost, said.

Frost shared a post of the two best friends that went viral on Reddit, showing Odin and Jordon on the first day of school and on graduation day.

The father recalled Odin and Jordon playfully bonding from that very first day of their special needs school, which started at age 3.

“Jordon had just bit Odin, and Odin retaliated by pinching him back,” Frost said to NBC 5 via Instagram direct message. “I think that was their way of showing each other what they were capable of, and in a funny way, a bonding moment.”

Frost explained that the two were told they would never walk and live in a vegetative state if they made it past 7 years old.

But Odin was the first to walk, and he would push Jordon’s wheelchair as the two defied the odds and developed a special relationship that endured through 18 years of school.

“Most kids Odin’s age, as well as adults, have not been kind to him,” Frost said. “They look on, stare or even are scared of them … [However], with each other, there never was any thought in the world that there was something different or wrong with them, as it should be.”

And on June 16, Odin and Jordon both graduated in what Frost called a “surreal” moment, holding his son’s hand across the stage and trying to hold back tears.

“We almost didn’t go,” Frost said. “We wanted to keep him safe, same with Jordon’s parents. But something in us said, ‘We can’t let Odin miss out on graduation.’ I never graduated high school or even went to high school, so I didn’t want him to be robbed of this privilege.”

And now Odin and Jordon are officially high school graduates and also internet famous.

Continue on to NBC News to read the complete article.

Becoming Part of the Voice Revolution

Project understood promotional poster with people in background walking and man with Down Syndrome upfront and close

By Kristen Halpen

Imagine a young adult starting their day in 2032. They wake up to an alarm playing the latest hit they requested the night before, are greeted by their friendly robot in the kitchen with suggestions on what to have for breakfast to fuel their morning, and a handy voice reminder to take their medication.

Another chimes in, advising them of what is on their agenda, offering suggestions on what to wear based on the local weather and the day’s activities. They leave for work in their driverless car with a bag packed with everything they need while away from the house for the day. The door locks, heat turns down, lights turn off behind them. And this was all made possible with voice technology.

Now imagine this voice-first future not working for people with Down syndrome. The reality is that some of the people who could benefit from this technology the most might be left out.

According to Google, the current error rate for people with Down syndrome is on average 30 percent. But there is work being done to improve this. A few years ago, Google launched a program called Project Euphonia to make voice technology more accessible for individuals with non-standard speech. One challenge for Google has been recruiting enough people to participate in the data collection process. The Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) saw this as a great opportunity to collaborate and reach individuals within the Down syndrome community. Between Google’s technological expertise and CDSS’ connections, the partnership works to further Project Euphonia’s research. CDSS wants to ensure that individuals with Down syndrome are being well represented in the future of voice technology, and so Project Understood was created.

“For most people, voice technology simply makes life a little easier. For people with Down syndrome, it has the potential for creating greater independence. From daily reminders to keeping in contact with loved ones and accessing directions, voice technology can help facilitate infinite access to tools and learnings that could lead to enriched lives,” says Laura LaChance, Interim Executive Director with CDSS.

Project Understood aims to collect voice data from adults with Down syndrome to improve its voice recognition models. “With the help of CDSS we were able to sample a small group to test whether there were enough patterns in the speech of people with Down syndrome for our algorithm to learn and adapt,” says Julie Cattiau, Product Manager at Google. “It’s exciting to see the success of that test and move into the next phase of collecting voice samples that represent the vocal diversity of the community. The more people who participate, the more likely Google will be able to eventually improve speech recognition for everyone.”

“This project has really struck a chord with the Canadian Down syndrome community,” says Glen Hoos, Director of Communications for the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation. “As we’ve shared Project Understood with our families, there has been a great deal of enthusiasm for it. It’s easy to see how the technology can be leveraged to create greater independence for many people with Down syndrome, if it can be successfully adapted to diverse patterns of speech.” So now it is up to the Down syndrome community to take action. Machines learn through data. The more data they get, the more accurate they are.

Source: Project Understood

Podcast: Understanding Workplace Accessibility Technology Testing

A man's finger on keyboard key that says Accessibility

The most recent episode of the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT)’s Future of Work podcast features Hadi Rangin, Information Technology Accessibility Specialist for Accessible Technology Services (ATS) at the University of Washington, as he discusses the importance of accessibility testing in the technology procurement process.

The Future of Work podcast is developed in partnership with as part of the PEAT’s Future of Work series, which works to start conversations around how emerging workplace technology trends are impacting people with disabilities.​

During the interview, Workology’s Jessica Miller-Merrell notes that 2020 is the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and she asks Hadi what emerging workplace trends or technologies he thinks will have the biggest impact on people with disabilities in the next 30 years. Here is what Hadi said:

“I think the technology that we are using for remote work, kind of hybrid work, that would be the theme or the one of the biggest areas that we have a lot of room for improvement. As a person with a disability, I know that some of us cannot secure a position because of the transportation or commute. I think this pandemic situation due to Coronavirus has given us or forced us to try the remote work or kind of hybrid work and see how it works. I’m hearing, I cannot verify the data, but I’m hearing from some companies that they say that the performance of some of the employees has been increased since when they are working remotely. I’m not sure it can be applied to every job. Not if you are a cook. You cannot work remotely. But there are many types of jobs that can be performed remotely or in kind of hybrid format offices, will be different. In a home, probably, we will have in the future a more dedicated home office. There would be some concern, you know, about the accommodation of people with disabilities at work. If I am a person with disabilities and I need some equipment, who is willing to pay for that or who can support me with that or who is, who is responsible for the insurance if something happens while I am working from my home office. Does the work insurance cover that or not? I’m pretty sure, I mean if you go that route, the laws and regulations will change. But I think, as technology that allowing users to work remotely becomes more mature, more flexible. And I think this will be something that we should look forward to.”

Listen to the complete interview with Hadi on the PEAT website.

Gucci’s Latest Beauty Campaign Stars a Model With Down Syndrome, and It’s Beautiful

Ellie Goldstein Down Syndrome model poses in gold sequined blouse smiling

Ellie Goldstein, an 18-year-old model with Down’s syndrome from Ilford in Essex, just got her first modeling gig for Gucci Beauty. In collaboration with the Photo Vogue Festival, Goldstein starred in the new Gucci L’Obscur Mascara campaign alongside four other models, a project that continues to support the company’s overall goals of “supporting emerging talents and promoting the theme of unconventional and non-stereotypical beauty,” according to a release for the campaign.

“I designed L’Obscur mascara for an authentic person who uses makeup to tell their story of freedom, in their way,” said Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, explaining the concept for the mascara.

As part of Gucci and Vogue Italia’s #theguccibeautyglitch” — an Instagram scouting project that started back in January 2020 — photographer David PD Hyde was selected to shoot Goldstein along with the other models — Jahmal Baptiste, Enam, Kadro Vahersalu, and Ruoyi Yi — all of whom were selected by Hyde and artist Catherine Sevel from over 6,000 photos posted on Instagram.

Continue on to Pop Sugar to read the complete article.

Writer-Activist Keah Brown Redefines Disability on Her Own Terms

The Pretty One Book cover

How do you say the word “disability”? Does it feel shameful or derogatory, or does it roll off of your tongue, matter-of-factly? Writer and disability activist Keah Brown wishes we were all less precious when talking about disability,

because while it may be a fact of her life, it’s far from the whole of it, as she reveals in her new but already acclaimed book of autobiographical essays, The Pretty One, which has garnered praise from luminaries like Deepak Chopra and Roxane Gay, who wrote:

“What does it mean to live at the intersections of blackness, womanhood, and disability? In her admirable debut, The Pretty One, Keah Brown answers this question with heart, charm, and humor. Across 12 finely-crafted essays, Brown explores the matter of representation in popular culture, the vulnerability of facing self-loathing and learning to love herself, the challenge of repairing fractured relationships with family, the yearning for romantic love. Through her words we see that Brown is not just the pretty one; she is the magnificently human one.”

For those of us whose knowledge of cerebral palsy extends about as far as remembering “Cousin Geri” on The Facts of Life, it’s worth noting that the title of Keah Brown’s debut book is a story, in and of itself. Aside from being born with cerebral palsy, she was also born a twin, just ahead of able-bodied sister Leah—who was often dubbed (you guessed it) “the pretty one” by classmates and potential suitors. Keah’s reclaiming of the phrase came after reckoning with years of physical and emotional pain, insecurities, jealousy, reconciliation and ultimately, accepting her ridiculously talented, #DisabledAndCute existence, the hashtag that garnered the writer her first book deal (and earned her a spot on 2018’s The Root 100). Speaking with The Glow Up, Brown explains how she found her pretty—and why she neither desires nor will accept anyone’s pity.

The Glow Up: You have cerebral palsy, which you describe as a disability both visible and invisible. You also talk about having a part of your body “working for and against you at the same time.” For those of us unfamiliar, can you explain how that manifests for you?

Keah Brown: Well, CP [cerebral palsy] is different for everyone who has it. For me, I have a mild form of hemiplegia that impacts the right side of my body. This means my reaction times are slower, I have delayed motor function and the right side of my brain sends its signals to the right side of my body at a slower time as well. I also walk with a limp and tire quicker than your average non-disabled person. My body is working twice as hard to function. So, it’s working for me to live, which I love, but because of my disability, it’s also twice as much work so on the bad days it feels like it’s working against me.

TGU: Your story would be revelatory enough without the added dynamic of having an identical, yet able-bodied twin, often called “the pretty one.” How did you come to reclaim that title for yourself, and why was it important to make it the title of your book?

KB: My former editor, Jhanteigh Kupihea, actually came up with the title and it felt right immediately. We—being my agent Alex, Jhanteigh and I—really just felt it clicked. It was sort of like, “Ah! That’s the one.” The reclamation didn’t happen for me until we titled the book. I was always too afraid to say I was pretty because pretty felt too far from my reality, but after naming the book, I was sort of like, “Oh, wait. I am actually the Pretty One too, cool!” It was important for this to be the title of the book because I wanted to challenge others ideas of what pretty can be and let them know that I can be and I am pretty, too! Definitely worthy enough to be on my own cover!

TGU: You live at a very specific but less acknowledged point of intersectionality: You are black, a woman, and disabled. Can you elaborate on why you feel “the conversation around beauty and fashion cannot happen without the discussion of race”—and ideally, ability, as well?

KB: I feel these conversations can’t happen without race and ability because without them it’s not a complete conversation. We buy into and help keep these fashion and beauty industries going and a lot of us—including I—really love them, so to exclude us is a loss of opportunity for these industries to grow and expand for the better. We deserve a voice in the conversations of the industries we are financially taking part in, too. Even though these industries are built on exclusion, inclusion is what keeps them thriving.

TGU: People are often fond of saying that “fatphobia” is the last acceptable bias. I’d argue ableism is the most insidious because those of us who are able-bodied generally take it for granted. What do you wish people knew about ableism?

KB: I wish people knew how much harm ableism actually does. Ableism is the root of physical violence against disabled people, harmful policies that impact our livelihoods, and everyday experiences. To put it simply, ableism kills and is not just fodder for jokes and memes on the internet. Disabled people and the ableism we experience have real consequences and non-disabled people need to truly work to correct the ways in which they can be ableist, as well. Try to take the words “retard,” “stupid,” “lame,” etc., out of your vocabularies because words mean things and impact the way we view the people most impacted by them. Ableism doesn’t have to happen. We can eradicate it.

TGU: In the book, you reference the lack of disabled people in beauty campaigns, which is very true. How do you feel about the fashion industry’s recent, though as yet, very small expansion into adaptive clothing?

KB: I am excited about it! I hope it influences other fashion brands to follow suit. I’d look great in designer clothes adapted for me and people like me. I’m just saying…I always said I had the face for a red carpet! Ha!

TGU: I agree with you that like race, “disability” is not a dirty word. Why do you think so many of us are uncomfortable saying it? Is it fear, pity, political correctness? And how do you feel our reticence contributes to ableism?

KB: I think it’s definitely a mix of pity and fear; I find that people are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that they infantilize us and cease to see us as human beings at all, in favor of people that they must coddle. We don’t need to be coddled. We deserve respect and for people to listen. For me, disabled is the word I prefer and I welcome people to use it with me. What helps with the discomfort some non-disabled people may feel is to remember that our comfort should be more important, in this instance.

TGU: Outside of the discussion of disability, music is another strong theme in your book (and life), and at times, it almost feels like a confessional; like a claiming of blackness that sits outside of the presumed margins. Why was it important for you to include that conversation in The Pretty One?

KB: It was important for me to include the conversation because music means so much to me and I never get the chance to write about it. I thought this was the perfect opportunity. It was in many ways a confessional; I felt I needed to admit that I loved this music because it felt like a secret I was keeping as though I was ashamed and in talking about it. I wanted to show that I wasn’t ashamed—I was proud. I also wanted the space to discuss things outside of disability because I do have interests outside of it, and I wanted people to see I can write about other things, as well. Disability is the lens through which I see the world, even though not always the subject of my world.

TGU: What do you hope your presence and platform bring to our understanding of disability?

KB: I hope it helps shift the cultural view of disability from pity to respect and gives us the rights we deserve and the ability to be seen and heard in mainstream media and culture in a positive light. I want to be a part of that change and to see it in my lifetime.

The Pretty One is available in stores today.


Podcast: The Role of Universal Design in Workplace Inclusion and Accessibility

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The most recent episode of the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT)’s Future of Work podcast features Brook McCall, Director of the Tech Access Initiative at United Spinal Association, as she discusses the workplace technology challenges that people with mobility disabilities face.

The Future of Work podcast is developed in partnership with as part of the PEAT’s Future of Work series, which works to start conversations around how emerging workplace technology trends are impacting people with disabilities.​

During the interview, Workology’s Jessica Miller-Merrell notes that 2020 is the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and she asks Brook what emerging workplace trends or technologies he thinks will have the biggest impact on people with disabilities in the next 30 years. Here is what Brook said:

“Good question. Our partners consistently point out and agree that in the accessibility space, it’s really about improving the experience for those who have been left out. So, I really look forward to continued inclusion and opportunities for unique experiences and perspectives to help build tech devices and services that meet needs universally. Also…as I mentioned before, I do think transportation is huge. So, AV and some kind of…Hyperloop trains or more accessible airplanes will really allow for increased independence and ease for folks with disabilities to move about our world.”

Listen to the complete interview with Brook on the PEAT website.




*Please be sure to check event websites for latest updates on postponements or cancellations due to COVID-19 precautions.