Disabled Lives Matter


June 24, 2021

Disabled Lives Matter

Season 1, Episode 17

Co-Hosts: Nadine Vogel & Norma Stanley

Guest: Vincenzo Piscopo

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 Stanley... yay!

Nadine Vogel: Hi I’m Nadine Vogel and your co-host of disabled lives matter and with me, is my co-host Norma Stanley.

Norma Stanley: Hello everybody.

Nadine Vogel: Norma, this is not just a podcast it's a what.

Norma Stanley: It is a movement.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely, to help us to help us with that movement, we have a wonderful guest today in Vincenzo Piscopo, did I say that right.

Vincenzo Piscopo: Perfect.

Nadine Vogel: Alright. I love the Italian language but I’m always afraid of botching it up.

Vincenzo Piscopo: No, no, you did wonderful.

Nadine Vogel: Okay, so Vincenzo you are a public and community affairs and corporate social responsibility, professional I believe you've worked in the US and global you have worked in corporate and in nonprofit, and today I believe you are the CEO of united spinal association. Is that correct. So tell us because I think that's fairly new right just since maybe the end of last year.

Vincenzo Piscopo: Yeah, six months.

Nadine Vogel: Okay, so tell us a little bit about yourself and your background, as I’ve said, and then let's talk about united spinal.

Vincenzo Piscopo: Yes, absolutely, so I am from Venezuela, I was born and grew up in Venezuela my parents are Italian, but I came to the US 27 years ago I came here to get my MBA and right after I finished my MBA, I was hired by the Coca Cola company, and I worked for Coca Cola company for 25 years. And then, after that, I decided to make the big step of moving from the for-profit world to the nonprofit world. I am, I was injured 10 years 11 years ago with a spinal cord injury that left me paralyzed and that was the time you know when I started working and advocating for the community of people with disabilities, and so I have been in the Community for close to 11 years. And, and the more that I work with this Community, the more that I am passionate about it because I, II super impressed with the brilliance of that community of people with disabilities but also disappointed with the fact that society does not leverage such brilliance, so my legacy or my role in United spinal but also as a human being is going to be, or you know I’m trying to be, to actually remove that stigma that is stopping the world from you know, taking advantage of the brilliance of their community of people with disabilities.

Nadine Vogel: See now our listeners know already why we're interviewing you. Because you are the perfect example of disabled lives matter.

Vincenzo Piscopo: Right.

Nadine Vogel: Let me ask you, that transition from for-profit, to non-profit um you know, going from a company, a very large global company, where you know, yes, has initiatives around disability to a nonprofit where everything is about disability. What was that transition like for you?

Vincenzo Piscopo: It was fun, I mean I’m happy and I’m enjoying it a lot, you know from it from a managerial perspective, you know the difference is that. You know, instead of working for the stakeholders, or for the stockholders right it, you know you're working for the Community right, so the profits, you know. With both instances, you have to develop and execute strategies that allow the organization to generate profits, with the difference that the profits in the nonprofit actually go to help that community. That we're serving and for me that is so energizing because I really, you know, as I said before, I think that you know we are wasting a lot of talent. And so, for me it feels very good that all my efforts are going towards specifically to help in that community other than that. You know the nonprofit world is definitely a different world you know they're limited resources and you really have to be more creative on how you use the limited resources to have that that great impact in our body, so I had obviously we know where you come from such a big company with so many resources and you move to a you know, a relatively small organization it's always you know shocking. But you know it's also you know, makes me very proud of the united spinal team because it's a team that with limited resources has been able to accomplish so much for the community in the last 75 years.

Nadine Vogel: So, what is the mission of the organization.

Vincenzo Piscopo: So, the mission of the organization is actually to empower and advocate for people with spinal cord injury and disorder, so people that live with paralysis, so that they can have the best quality of life, so that they can exercise their passions, they can be innovators and they can actually you know, the way I always say is that they can live their life at their fullest potential. So the organization does a lot around advocacy for bills and policies that advocate for the quality of life of people like me and or people with paralysis in general but also we have a very successful thorough resource center that we provide services to the Community, and we give them tools, services, that allow them to you know to get that information they need to be able to really go out and conquer the world.

Norma Stanley: Speaking of conquering the world, one of my favorite places number one place on my list to go see next year is Italy and would love to take my daughter, who is a wheelchair user. I don’t know how long it’s been since you've been there, but you know, how easy is it to get around and the chair it tasted like I don't know, any place, Rome.

Vincenzo Piscopo: That’s a great question, Norma, I was in Italy as a wheelchair user several times as a wheelchair user, you know it's not the US from an accessibility perspective, you know I can tell you, for example, when I was rolling on the streets of Rome I fell a couple of times because of that, the roads are very bumpy because they're so it's very bumping and when you're in a wheelchair, you know it's very easy to you know to fall forward, you know. You know if you are propelling your daughter, you might be a little bit different you know safer, because you can control it more but if you're self-propelling it's you know it's a challenge because it's not as smooth row. You know finding accessible bathrooms in you know unless you go to like a big place for you know, but if you go to one of those tiny restaurants in the middle of you know, Rome and all that. You know, accessibility is an issue like you know getting in the restaurant, because they would have like a big step with you have to go down. Right or you know the bathroom is like you know tiny, tiny but on top of that, they have like a big you know they use it also for storage so like you know there's no way for you to get in. So those are the kind of things that I faced but I would not stop yourself from going to Italy it's such a beautiful place that you know you will figure it out.

Norma Stanley: Yeah, well I look forward to it.

Vincenzo Piscopo: I was going to say, especially if your daughter does not you know if she does if she doesn't use the power chair, like a manual chair. It may be easier because they're you know they're not as bulky and all that, and you know but it's doable it's doable and you and your daughter will love it.

Norma Stanley: I look forward to it.

Nadine Vogel: You almost need like the MARS Rover you know, like one of these like mechanical things that can go over rocks and go over a wall.

Norma Stanley: Yeah.

Vincenzo Piscopo: Exactly. Exactly.

Nadine Vogel: The next iteration of wheelchairs for travelers.

Norma Stanley: Right.

Vincenzo Piscopo: It’s funny, I’ll tell you I went to, I was, I was in Spain, a couple of years ago in the Canary Islands, you know what you know those are little you know they're not that big of islands. And I was very impressed with their transportation services, you know. All the buses were accessible, so they had like a little ramp that went down and allow me to get in with a wheelchair, and all that and that made my life they're very, very you know easy. So, I mean you know you'll find anything, you will find all things, but you know just be there with a good attitude, and you know, and you'll be fine.

Norma Stanley: Well actually, Spain is my number two place to go so thank you.

Nadine Vogel: We’re going to have to take this to the Travel channel.

Norma Stanley: Definitely, I just I thought he would be the best person to ask.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely. I mean it's true traveling you know with a variety of disabilities every country has its own legislation. And you know around the world there are some very old countries and yeah it can be very challenging and then you add you know language differences and everything else so certainly, I think that can be an issue. So I’m curious to bring you back to United spinal I mean, when you provide you said resource Center right and tools and services does it include things like you know if you're traveling and you know you have a spinal cord injury, I mean do you do that kind of support as well.

Vincenzo Piscopo: Yeah, yeah, we do all that, I mean you know our focus is to ensure that you know you go out there and live life to the fullest, so we have a network of hundreds of peer support groups around the country because we are our Organization has 50 chapters around the nation, and you know the chapters have beautiful groups and you know, during those peer support encounters you know we touch up on any kind of topics, but also, you know we have. Four or five specialists that are ready to answer any question so from you know from traveling to bladder management. To get in the right wheelchair, and they are a team of amazing individuals they are all with spinal cord injuries or with a disability, and you know if they don't have the information, they will find it for you.

Nadine Vogel: That's great well you know I want to know more about these chapters, because I actually didn't know that I didn't know that united spinal did have chapters around the country and so we're going to go to commercial break, but when we come back I’d love to know more about you know, do the chapters have different focuses depending on where they are in the country, you know how big is really the membership, how we can get involved so stay tuned Norman I will be right back talking within Vincenzo about united spinal as soon as you come back from commercial break. Thank you.

Voiceover: And now it’s time for a commercial break.


Voiceover: And now, back to our show.

Nadine Vogel: This is Nadine Vogel, I’m with my co-host Norma Stanley we are back on today's episode of disabled lives matters with Vincenzo Piscopo. So Vincenzo before we broke for commercial we were talking about and to my surprise that United Spinal has 50 chapters, does that mean there's one in each state.

Vincenzo Piscopo: So, we do have 50 chapters, now, there is no unfortunately we don't have one in each state but we're looking to open, you know as many as possible. It all depends on you know how many people in the area are there are willing to start the chapter, so we have many, many, many states, there are some states that we have more than one chapter. Okay, and yeah. And they vary, some of the chapters are big chapters, some of them are little bit smaller but, most of them are you know, some of them have like full time employees that receives salaries, some of them are all run by volunteers.

Nadine Vogel: Got it got it and do different chapters have different, I guess, I want to say focuses under that umbrella mission in terms of what they do.

Vincenzo Piscopo: To an extent right, so you know the chapters are very independent and the sense that they will work on the areas that they believe their community needs the most. But, but in general they respond to you know, to the macro needs of the Community, so that you know we can all work together for the same you know you know, with the same focus on the same hand however you know, there are chapters that are you know, bigger than and do many more things and have the ability to do more things for the Community. And they're all the chapters that are smaller and they're more social in nature, so it varies depending on the size of the chapter and the energy of the Members, but at the end you know we all want to do good by the community.

Nadine Vogel: Yeah absolutely. So, when we first started, you were talking about one of the things, one of the big things that United Spinal does, is advocate and advocacy around policies and bills on, is there any one piece of legislation or policy that right now is a big deal for you guys.

Vincenzo Piscopo: There's several you know there's four things that we always are. With our eyes wide open and making sure that you know our government is doing the right thing you know one is transportation right, so we want to make sure that the people with disability in general, but people with mobility, disabilities in specific are well taken care of that have access to public transportation, but also have access to technology that is being developed as it relates to transportation, you know, to give you an example of autonomous vehicles, so making sure that the industry of autonomous vehicle are taking us into consideration when developing technology. To ensure that you know we will have access to that technology, which is extremely important for the community of people with you know with paralysis, so that's the first one. The second one is employment, you know everything related to employment and making sure that you know that people with disabilities and specifically with mobility, disabilities with paralysis. Have access to employment and are not discriminated against when they're being employed and have all the accommodations that are required to be successful when they work. The third one is technology, you know everything around technology is also you know, with efforts on minimizing the digital divide a technology divide and all that that's something that is big priority for United spinal big priority for me and therefore big priority on our advocacy efforts. You know I always say with technology it's a little bit worrisome because technology is advancing so fast but unfortunately, is not always including us as it's being developed and what that creates is a bigger gap. That is very hard to recover from. So we as an organization, have to be in the forefront, to make sure that the technology world that technology industry is taking it into consideration at the beginning. Throwing paper when developing technologies so that our needs are addressed, and that gap is not increased. So, you know one thing that I always tell technology partners of United Spinal is that when technology organizations are developing products that are addressing our needs, they are also innovating for mainstream. So that's extremely valuable for them, so it really makes sense for them to take care of. But anyways from an advocacy perspective, we want to make sure that you know that technology that they all the technology related bills and policies really makes it easier for us to stop that digital divide, and not to make it bigger and, finally, is access to health care. You know so that's another one that you know it's big it's enough to tell you the truth is embarrassing you know because of all the limitations and all, the hoops that we have to go over to be able to get the right wheelchair the right medical treatment and so on, so forth, and not only that you know all of the inconsistency around Medicaid Medicare as it as it relates to caregivers and covering caregivers and then your ability to work if you're getting a caregiver and all that that actually what he does it's penalized people that are talented yeah I know like people that really want to advance in life so me as a CEO and united spinal’s organization is going to have that you know as a big fight for the next 75 years.

Nadine Vogel: Yeah, and I would imagine and Norma, you and I have talked about this that that you know the healthcare access under this timeframe of covid has been particularly difficult.

Vincenzo Piscopo: Yeah, and it hasn't been you know it hasn't been exacerbated by the other things that I mentioned, like the digital divide, like their lack of access to transportation, that is accessible. So, it really, it's you know it's a full circle, if you think about it all those four things work in tandem to really that you know if they're not working to help us they actually create big problems for us that really stop us from living our life at its fullest.

Nadine Vogel: Right, so you can’t even though each of these are four separate areas that you're focused on you really have to look at them like you said in tandem, they have to be fully integrated. Because, you know as an individual, you need transportation, you want to be employed you're going to need transportation you especially in covid we're using technology and if you're not healthy you're not going to be able to work so.

Vincenzo Piscopo: Exactly.

Nadine Vogel: So, it all comes together oh my gosh wow that's a lot so um I know that your full-time job now is a CEO of united spinal, but I believe in your not-so-distant past, you founded an organization called wheels of happiness foundation, and that was specifically to help people with motor disabilities, I believe, but I think it was global can you just tell us a little bit about that.

Vincenzo Piscopo: Yeah so wheels of happiness is you know my side job or I don't know how you want to call it, but yes, I founded that organization with my wife little bit after my injury and you know we did it because we realized that people with disabilities outside of the US, especially in poor countries were not living life with dignity because their disabilities right, so we are you know, we were able to meet in fact that the person that inspired me to start that nonprofit was a priest from Uganda His name was Father Thomas and father Thomas, he got injured. From a motorcycle accident and right after his accident and he you know, he was left in the road for hours until a pickup truck saw him and put him in the back of the truck took him to a hospital and three days later he was sent back home with no rehabilitation and so he spent a whole year in bed with no bowel program no bladder program or anything so not living life with dignity and that's not right, you know for us, you know as a Member of this world as Christians For those of you know, for those of our there are Christians is not right. But also, you know, one of the things that really was important for me that was a big Aha is that we were able, through the work and help of Samaritans. Father Thomas was able to be brought to the shepherd Center, he spent a month and a half at shepherd and then he was able to go back to Uganda and serve his community. So, he just needed that little push and compassion and then he was able to multiply by a million by giving back so the whole mission of the wheels of happiness is precisely that. Provide those folks that little push. That they need to live life with dignity and be able to give back to their communities and that's what we do with wheels of happiness we help many people in Venezuela, because at the country that I am from. But we also help people in Colombia in Peru in Mexico in Uganda in Kenya in Nigeria, so we all are more organization, you know we're not big at all, you know we live, because you know, thanks to the contribution and compassion of our friends and compassion of our friends and family. But with that little help that we're getting we're able to help many, many peoples and really, really packed life which you throw in your child theme and invigorating.

Nadine Vogel: I love it I think that's amazing. Beautiful. God dude you're doing some amazing stuff they're going Enzo and my understanding, we only have about a minute left, but my understanding is on a personal note, you are a wheelchair tennis player and, from what I hear you’re pretty good.

Vincenzo Piscopo: Oh, please, who told you that lie. There’s a truth and a lie right there. The truth is I do play tennis, I love it I enjoyed the lie is that I’m good. I am terrible if you see my friends and I worked at ease with me they're always frustrated with me on a plane tangent, but you know what I don't care. I love playing it I enjoyed. I never thought that you know I never played tennis that's an able body, in fact, I was a terrible athlete before I became injured, but you know through shepherd. They really inspired me and motivated to start playing tennis and it's a great sport and keeps me active it's allowed me to meet a lot of great people and I’ve done it for several years and I keep on sucking.

Norma Stanley: You’ll grow into it. How’s my friend Marguerite.

Vincenzo Piscopo: Say again.

Norma Stanley: Isn’t her name Marguerite.

Vincenzo Piscopo: Oh, Martina, Martina.

Norma Stanley: Martina. Oh okay. Martina. I always thought it was Marguerite.

Vincenzo Piscopo: Well Martina, she is she's loving the pandemic, you know because she's with the family all the time she doesn't have to do anything she sleeps, eats and sleeps.

Nadine Vogel: Well that works, but you know I did I do want to come back and I know you said you suck at wheelchair tennis but you know I’m not sure that that matters, I mean not to me anyway, because I, you don't want to see me on a tennis court but anyway, they think it ties back, though, to one of your four pillars for United spinal which is healthcare and healthcare access. Because participating in sports is part of what enables all of us to stay healthy. yeah, keep our bodies going, and I think that for people with disabilities, in particular, that is so important, whatever sport, it is, and no matter how good you are or not. The fact that you're participating, I think, is that, as a health component is a social component for all of us, not just people with disabilities.

Vincenzo Piscopo: And I totally agree and also extremely important for your mental health. Because you know it gives you a sense of community a sense of accomplishment and you know when you meet people you, you really you know challenge yourself and challenge your brain to and all that, so I definitely think it's a great thing and I’m so glad that I do it. And you know, and I, for me, because I force myself to do it and to keep on edge, because you know with you, you live, you know really very busy lives and all that, and you know and having you know, unfortunately, it takes a lot right to because you know you get into you know getting from your wheelchair to the Chinese culture and then back and then you know all that stuff it's a lot of work but it's a lot of fun work and it's completely worth it, and, and again, you know it's very important for your mental health, you know social skills and all that I’ve been able to meet amazing people you know playing tennis both able bodies and Local user on is the deal has been you know incredible and also you know, to keep your, you know, to keep you healthy, in general, you know it's been great.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely. I cannot believe that a half hour has already flown by out of time, but then Vincenzo thank you so much for speaking with me and with Norma and with all of our listeners, we wish you the very best of luck with United spinal and in your wheelchair tennis.

Vincenzo Piscopo: Thank you. I will need that a lot.

Nadine Vogel: Maybe one day I’ll ask, and you’ll say you don’ suck anymore. So, I’d like to say thank you once again Norma, thank you for always being here with me as my co-host and we hope our listeners, today you have enjoyed another episode of disabled lives matter see you all soon.

Norma Stanley: Till next time.

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!

Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed during the Disabled Lives Matter podcast series are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of Springboard Global Enterprises, Springboard Productions, and its employees, contractors, subsidiaries, and affiliates.  The developers of the Disabled Lives Matter podcast are not responsible and do not verify for accuracy any of the information contained in the podcast series available for listening on the Podbean hosting site and/or any other associated hosting entity. The Primary purpose of this series is to educate and inform, and does not constitute disability, medical and/or other professional advise and/or service(s). This podcast is available for private, non-commercial use only. Advertising incorporated into, in association with, or targeted toward the content of this podcast, without the express approval and knowledge of the Disabled Lives Matter's site developers is forbidden. You may not edit, modify, or redistribute this podcast.  The developers of the Disabled Lives Matter site assume no liability for any activities in connection with this podcast or for use of this podcast in connection with any other Website, Computer, and/or Listen Device.




June 18, 2021

Disabled Lives Matter

Season 1, Episode 16

Co-Hosts: Nadine Vogel & Norma Stanley 

Guest: Jacquelyn Thornton

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 Stanley... yay!

Nadine Vogel: Hi and welcome to today's episode of disabled lives matter. I’m Nadine Vogel your co-host of this most important podcast and movement, and I am with my friend and partner in crime Norma Stanley.


NORMA STANLEY: hi everybody how you doing today.


Nadine Vogel: Norma you and I have so much fun doing these it's almost like it's not really work right.


NORMA STANLEY: I love it, I really am having a good time.


Nadine Vogel: I know and obviously not only part of it, but really all of it not, that we're not fun people, but because of our guests like the one we have today right Jacqueline Thornton so Jacqueline I, first of all welcome to the show.


Jacquelyn Thornton: Well, thank you for having me it's a pleasure being here.


Nadine Vogel: Absolutely. So, it's my understanding that you are the executive director for two sparrow’s village. I’m wondering if you could just, I know it's a nonprofit, but I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about what it does and why, and all that.


Jacquelyn Thornton: Absolutely so two sparrows’ village was founded back on May 1 actually 2017 so we've made our fourth year. And primarily really to find solutions for co-housing opportunities, neuro diversity, and housing options for individuals that are differently abled. So rather they are intellectually disabled or if they are on the autism spectrum, we wanted to create housing and home for individuals and community for lack of a better way of saying it is really to make sure folks could have Community as they age.


Nadine Vogel: That's really important. So, I'm assuming than the impetus behind it, is that you found that that just doesn't exist today.


Jacquelyn Thornton: Absolutely or let's say few and far between less than 300 in our nation.


Nadine Vogel: And where are you actually located along with the organization.


Jacquelyn Thornton: Sure, we're located in Union city, we also are hopeful to develop a 33-acre plot of land, if you will it's kind of a campground right now and it's owned by Professor shepherd Lutheran church in Fayetteville, and so we hope to be.




Jacquelyn Thornton: Georgia.


Nadine Vogel: We should be clear of Georgia, right. Nobody will know what state you're doing this from good. You said that there's only 300 in the country.


Jacquelyn Thornton: About 300 countries that are registered.


Nadine Vogel: wow, wow you know, I have to say as special needs parents, although my daughter lives independently. That scares me a bit thinking that you know if she couldn't live independently, if that limited in terms of what's out there and available like you said it's registered that you know you can count on for quality right.


Jacquelyn Thornton: Yes.


Nadine Vogel: So, did you just wake up one morning and be like this is what we gotta do we're like where did that incredible vision come from to do something like this.


Jacquelyn Thornton: So, it really came from I’ll give you just our own personal journey I’m a parent our son is 20 he's almost 21. He's in college in Leesburg Florida, but when he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder which was then termed Asperger’s said you know, we thought about what about his life, you know lifeline when we are no longer able to house him and care for him and support him in his journey through life. You know what next and that's what our founder Jennifer literally woke up one night her daughter is Abby and just a beautiful young woman young lady she's like she's still a kid she's 12 years old, just made 12 years old, but the reality is that you know she woke up with this inspired audible voice from God she says, and it was Matthew 10 29 31. That says take I look after the sparrows you know aren't you worth more than that, and not to worry about Abby and her future that you are to create this new housing Community called two sparrows’ village as simple as that. And it was those parents and a few thought leaders and advocates as anything happens, we know that it's the talented view that put their heads together and said we got to get this done.


Nadine Vogel: Oh my gosh. So, Norma you know you're a special needs mom you have an adult daughter that has intellectual disabilities, I mean, how do you feel about thos what's your perspective on this.


NORMA STANLEY: Well, I absolutely love the idea of it has cause what I understand about the two sparrows villages, it’s not just for the intellectual, the challenge or disabled continuants but aging constituents also so it's a possibility, as I age and as my daughter ages we can put something together. I don’t know what of mine, you know as I get older if anything happens to me, you know my daughter can't call the cops or the ambulance or anything like that so how do I, I'm a single mom and how do I do that how you know, so I definitely want to learn more about two sparrows village and what they offer, because I know that a lot of families just like me out there about the future of the child, as well as themselves as they age.


Nadine Vogel: Right now, now, in turn, let me ask this in terms of the aging population versus you know the disabled non aging population are they all together, is it separate, how does that work, what kind of support services and the same for both, different.


Jacquelyn Thornton: It's so beautiful because Christian city, which is where we are going to actually open in the fall two sparrows village cottage at Christian city. It's already a what we would consider a life plan Community supporting older adults, but they also have a village, the children's village for children that are waiting to be adopted. Right or may not ever be adopted, but they're living there in this wonderful community that support it and it just is quite natural for those IDD population. and their parents and families, to be able to live in a community that already understands. We need Community lifelong right. And the supportive services are really I think the hallmark of how we differ from other communities in that we will have adult day we will have activities, both morning and afternoon and evening. Opportunities for volunteerism at Christian city, they serve already over 1000 people live there. It’s 500 acres and it's a planned Community just would not even believe all the myriad of resources so like what they often would say is cradled to grave there's even a hospice center on site, everything in between. It's community living at its best and now they're opening their arms to families like mine, you know and like yours Norma.


Nadine Vogel: Yeah so, in terms of activities can you give us an example and lets you know let's go back a little bit, specifically the housing and you know programs of two sparrows Village so for those on the neuro diverse spectrum and those with intellectual disability, what kind of activities are we talking about.


Jacquelyn Thornton: Yeah, we're talking about truly enrichment activities, so we've already partnered with a local photographer who is going to take text on a journey of self-discovery through photography. And at the end of that we will partner with like the woodruff Center for the arts, to be able to display and having Community neighborhood parks and those laminated we are living, you know, in the age of covert so we know that was there aren't these opportunities to go to the museum like they used to be so we're going to create the museum actually in the communities that are in the surrounding areas. And it's not to spotlight the individual and their diagnosis right we don't go around saying hey you're the one with cardiac disease and you're the one, hey disabled person with diabetes, no, we don't do that right. So, it's really to show and shine that individual’s on the spectrum or with intellectual or any disability can still live life to the fullest. Can still contribute greatly and it's all about right reciprocity I think is our model is we have something to give our Community and the Community has something to give to us.


Nadine Vogel: I love it. Norma, this is this is amazing isn't it.


NORMA STANLEY: Yeah, I really love the idea, because I know too many families, you know. There's a group home, and then there’s group homes and you know, I’m hesitant, you know I know family who has people that they loved ones in group homes and not all of them, they just don’t have the understanding of what it is that we may want for our loved ones who may be sitting there, and a lot of them just don't pay attention to detail that I would like to see if my child never did something like that. So, I like the idea of what you guys are doing is to two sparrows’ village where you know, let a family member feel comfortable if they have to go out of town or take a vacation there's an opportunity for someone to take care of their child or an adult to be there still needs some caregiving. That's something that you guys offer to or will be offering.


Jacquelyn Thornton: So that is really where you would tap into the Assisted Living model that exists at Christian study what two sparrows is trying to create is Community independent living for all right, and what we're hoping to be able to achieve is to help individuals to see their own potential. Right, so our real focus is really around Community integration, abundant life, and I really mean abundant life right their full potential and inclusivity. Its seeing the joy of living with people who truly care about you and who celebrate your life and know that you have something to contribute right.


Nadine Vogel: I love that. I absolutely love that Jacqueline and I do have a question, because based on what Norma asked and what you just mentioned so. If someone's civil, is there a difference, or what is the difference between two sparrow’s village and some group, a group home and an independent living Center, what would you say.


Jacquelyn Thornton: I would say we are that independent living community that has supportive services that you haven't yet imagined.


Nadine Vogel: I love it. So, it's really like the best of both right it's coming together. That's really cool I mean I you know I know that you haven't been around all that long but I’m already thinking okay so you're going to have one of these in every state in every major city I’m already making you guys raise the roof, because I think it’s, oh my god, I get goosebumps you know as I hear you talking about it because I just know the importance and I know so many families whose kids are on waiting lists and they're, the parents are aging, and they may not have family and they're really stressing and struggling with what to do, especially after they're gone, but even while they're alive to be able to your point, you know, see the see the quality of life that their children can actually live, and I think this issue of full Community integration is key. One of the things we talked about is you know seamless integration, like in the workforce in the workplace. And how we bring people with disabilities into that so we're going to go on commercial break but when we come back I would love, if you can touch on that I’d love to touch on so how do we integrate you know employment into this and is it integrated and somehow so stay tuned for our listeners Norma and I and Jacqueline will back in just a minute.


Voiceover: And now, time for a commercial break.




Voiceover: And now, back to our show.


Nadine Vogel: Hello everyone, this is Nadine Vogel and Norma Stanley, and we are welcoming you back to the second half of today's episode of disabled lives matter. We are speaking with Jacqueline Thornton executive director of two sparrow’s village. And this has been a really, really important conversation, because this is about living, this is about quality of life right, I mean there can’t be anything more important than that. But Jacqueline when we talk about quality of life, you know employment is important, is an important piece of you know people identify something their own value or self-worth right getting paid for job well done. And I think companies, sometimes forget that individuals with disabilities, including those on the spectrum can be those employees, so you talked earlier about full Community integration so, can you tell us how employment factors into that.


Jacquelyn Thornton: Absolutely, so the beauty of having an actual concierge on the premises and two sparrow’s villages to help individuals navigate their opportunities that are in their surrounding areas. And where we're located is really a city Center both with all types of jobs, including Amazon and Coca Cola has location that's near probably within five miles of location and what we want to do is also to integrate individuals on the campus of Christian city into job opportunities. So, when that thing goes up in the Community, we all have an opportunity to vie for it okay. Also, it gives an opportunity for training, vocational training and talent development by having those opportunities on the grounds of your community to be able to walk live and play in your community is really important. One of the opportunities that we've been exploring, and we've already started vetting out the space is extending the garden that exists at Christian city to actually have hydroponic fishing farm so that individuals can learn that particular really phenomenal to me what scientifically speaking. A way of creating a job for yourself, creating entrepreneurship for yourself, being a bell what you grow and in being able to educate the Community. Local schools around hydroponic fish farming right, so there are all these opportunities that we see that are going to actually. become born out of two sparrows’ village, because they were things that you know Christian city was thinking about, but no-one really actualized it right. So here with all these big ideas, because we know that workforce is so critically important what we want to have is a sustainable model right, sustainable model, you cannot just house we want to teach people how to fish, we want to teach people to be able to sustain themselves, and we want to teach adulting right. You know, and all of that comes with it, you know continuing education.


Nadine Vogel: Yes, I was just gonna ask about that Jacqueline you know so when you talk about adulting right is, you know continued education does it include you know life skills, you know how to balance, a checkbook had I like to do all that as well.


Jacquelyn Thornton: Absolutely and that's under our adult day program. So even if folks have a job, maybe they're only working part time oftentimes that's what's happening, that they still have enrichment beyond that and we will be teaching what we call financial resiliency will be using the model that arp actually has in place and teaching young adults and older adults, how to make financing how to plan life now on so absolutely.


Nadine Vogel: I gotta tell you need to go into colleges and teach college students. They come out they don’t have a clue.


Jacquelyn Thornton: Yeah. It's surprising, but yeah, my neighbor next door came home, one day, and his daughter was distraught she's an attorney and she was like what’s up check is like all this missing money. Good. I said all that Medicare.


Nadine Vogel: Absolutely I get it, you know my younger daughter graduated college in December, so I really get it.


Jacquelyn Thornton: Yeah. It’s like what did they teach you.


Nadine Vogel: They teach education, but I think they forget beyond the academic sometimes just the practical life skills that we all need to have, communication even communication these days, because everything is, you know how many characters on Twitter right or let me show you an image to show you what I’m talking about. Obviously, I’m old and that just confused the f*** out of me.


Jacquelyn Thornton: You’re aging and everyone’s doing it, it’s a verb, just embrace it.


Nadine Vogel: Making me crazy but let me ask this because the fact that we are trying to build this independence right, for these individuals how involved are or should be the parents, you know, because you don't want, you’re trying to probably eliminate the helicopter parent right. And that's always hard and, especially, you have a child with disabilities that's even more difficult so how do you do that, or how do you create that balance.


Jacquelyn Thornton: Sure, you know family's important we call the part of the they are part of the care partner team and essential right there is essential players in in the development of any individual human being. So, what we provide is a monthly get together with all of the care partners, as well as the residents, we would call friends. Friends of two sparrows that live with us, and we have conversation about how things are going, what are the patients are we meeting you know those smart goals for each individual and are we in fact creating community, and do people feel at home. We know that there will be a lot of anxiety and separation anxiety and just like we did when they were in kindergarten right growing up. And the same thing happens in adulthood, and we want folks to feel that they can be a part of every one of the individuals lives. But, yet they do you have to step back and let them make some of the choices and decisions for themselves. Part of what we are inspiring the individuals, especially with now zoom and other video platforms, you can always tap in you know you have facetime if you know you can always tap into see how your loved ones doing. But we are so, having great deal of support will be working with the Clark Atlanta university school of social work and their interns and that will be you know, helping the parents to kind of give up some that social service, you know management that they've been doing managing the life of that young person. Give them some autonomy to do that with a coach right. And they best of it is asking the parents to participate in some of these really fantastic events that we’ll be having. It really is supposed to be Community driven will have a fire pit in the middle and the quadrangle of the Community connecting the communities what's beautiful is that Christian city is trying to connect all of their neighborhoods through a continuous path. And help visuals to come together there'll be fitness exercise experiences and even if the adult parent I mean the parent can't you know be there in live in living color they can tap in you know virtually and organize and we can see one another and participate with one another, so there are many ways I know it's tough right sending a kid off to college, you know my first was there were a lot of you know just missing that role as a parent. I don't think that ever really goes away like my mother we're on vacation right now, but she just made me a sandwich before.


Nadine Vogel: Once a mom always a mom.


Jacquelyn Thornton: Right, so that that doesn't go away, and we don't want it to go away. But what we do need to do as parents is to be able to step back to allow for as much independence and growth as possible because one day, you know as Norma said we won't be there. Right, that's the reality of this. We won't be there and we must teach them how to fend for themselves how to. Understand that they are choices matter and how to be vocal about it.


Nadine Vogel: Right, be their own self advocates.


NORMA STANLEY: What are you getting from the Community as people learn about what you're doing, are they embracing this are they excited about it.


Jacquelyn Thornton: There is always a lot of excitement until the doors open like what did we agree to what did we sign up for. Integration is hard in any Community you think about HOA and neighborhoods when someone new moves into the Community there's a lot of chatter right some of its good chatter and some of its not so much right. Until they get to meet the human beings that walk through those thresholds, and they then become so supportive and encouraging and they want to be a part of their experience right and so that's what we look forward to. So, we're doing a lot of letting folks know hey we're coming hey we're coming and here's what we're contributing. And I asked what's helped the Community at Christian city, as well as in other municipalities that want a two sparrows’ village to come into their Community they get to see the vibrant lives, these are not individuals who are disabled, they are differently abled.


Nadine Vogel: What's interesting in hearing about this, you know and how you describe everything, and I actually visualize you know, a college campus right. I mean that’s kind of what it sounds like, and you have the center campus where everybody comes together, and you have the social and it's kind of interesting hearing about it because it, it sounds like a really cool place to be right. And I think that one of the challenges with other I’ll say programs that have tried to be like what you're doing the typical group home let's say right or even independent living Center sounds so much more clinical. Where this, right Norma, like this doesn’t, this just sounds like okay I'm gonna call it like a social being we're gonna get together and eat we're gonna go to the movies. And I think it goes back to everything you said, the very beginning Jacqueline, which is that you're building a community. A fully integrated inclusive community, and you know it's interesting because that's what you started with but I’m ending with that because that's in fact what you've done. Yes, it's amazing to me, so let me ask this if folks want to get in touch with you and for because they have a child that they'd like to inquire about that. They themselves would like to volunteer, you know give money whatever or they're listening to this and they're saying okay, I live in how do I create one, how do I put a team together to create your own use you guys as a model, how do they go about doing that.


Jacquelyn Thornton: Well, first of all let's go to our website at www.two sparrows village.org. or give me a ring 404-883-1841. I love to talk with anyone about those any of those options that you just shared, you know we are available and others are in the Community that supported us and we definitely want to reciprocate.


Nadine Vogel: Well, I think you know this clearly shows and Norma, I know you're going to agree, you know disabled lives matter. And you have really illustrated that in what you're doing because you're not creating something separate and special and different and limited. It’s integrated and when it's integrated it really shows that you're focused on inclusivity. And that people's lives, whether they have disability or not, that they do matter and that their quality-of-life matters, and so I just personally as special needs mom want to thank you for everything that you're doing. Because it touches my heart and it's something that's just oh my gosh so incredibly important nor.


NORMA STANLEY: Actually, I’m getting ready, I'm going to be doing a tour when I come back from out of town so I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like, you know in person.


Nadine Vogel: Norma you know what, Norma in an upcoming episode, you need to share once you've gone on the tour, need you to share with our listeners what that tour was like. And what your experience was.


NORMA STANLEY: Absolutely.


Nadine Vogel: Because this is just this is amazing to keep talking about it.


Jacquelyn Thornton: I’ll have to chime in and say Norma, you get an opportunity to see the studs that they call walls, but they're not quite there yet.


NORMA STANLEY: It’s okay, I’ll be back when everything is up to.


Nadine Vogel: Yeah, you know what you can do, once you do that bring your camera maybe we can figure out how to video at some point to show our listeners. Well Jacklyn we are, we are out of time, but oh my gosh thank you again so very much and for every one of our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this episode of disabled lives matter, Norma.


NORMA STANLEY: Thank you so much, thank you for being here and yes, disabled lives matter and be blessed.


Nadine Vogel: And we'll you see you on another episode.


Jacquelyn Thornton: Bye now.

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!

Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed during the Disabled Lives Matter podcast series are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of Springboard Global Enterprises, Springboard Productions, and its employees, contractors, subsidiaries, and affiliates.  The developers of the Disabled Lives Matter podcast are not responsible and do not verify for accuracy any of the information contained in the podcast series available for listening on the Podbean hosting site and/or any other associated hosting entity. The primary purpose of this series is to educate and inform and does not constitute a disability, medical and/or other professionals advice and/or service(s). This podcast is available for private, non-commercial use only. Advertising incorporated into, in association with, or targeted toward the content of this podcast, without the express approval and knowledge of the Disabled Lives Matter's site developers is forbidden. You may not edit, modify, or redistribute this podcast.  The developers of the Disabled Lives Matter site assume no liability for any activities in connection with this podcast or for use of this podcast in connection with any other Website, Computer, and/or Listen to Device.



June 11, 2021

Disabled Lives Matter

Season 1, Episode 15

Co-Hosts: Nadine Vogel & Norma Stanley

Guest: Greg Van Borssum

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: This is Nadine Vogel your co-host of disabled lives matter, this is not just a podcast, this is a movement and movement with my co-host Norma Stanley.


NORMA STANLEY: Hi everybody.


Nadine Vogel: Hey Norma how's it going.


NORMA STANLEY: I’m resting up from a fun Mother’s Day happy belated Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.


Nadine Vogel: Absolutely, absolutely well, we are joined today by someone I’ve now known a really long time Greg than foursome and Greg you know, whenever I think of Greg, I remember one thing he said a long time ago when he was speaking in advance of ours, he said your greatest disability is above the neck. And I remember the first time Greg that you said that I was like what the heck is he talking about, so we are joined by Greg he really talks about that and talk about mental toughness and his organization called GVB mind warriors so Greg welcome to the show.


Greg Van Borssum: Thanks for having me on board.


Nadine Vogel: So, you know because it's a podcast folks can see you, but you are one big muscle guy. But, you didn't really start out that way, did you.


Greg Van Borssum: No I was a very skinny kid and I grew up in a housing Commission area. And most of the kids in my area werel five years older than me so they were a lot bigger and used to pick on me and beat me up and bully me all the time. So, you know, it took it took a massive toll on me as a kid and I had to make that decision at 12 years of age that I’ve had enough. And I had to make a decision to change, and so it was it was a very tough decision to make because you know many times in life when it does beat you down and you quit and or you fold into it, or you give into it, or you become a lesser person than you could have been. And you know, and I remember the time it happened, I was very fortunate to have a grandmother that was quite an amazing woman. And she'd flown back in 1921 in biplanes with Hudson fish the man that went to start quantum, some of the money she gave him went towards funding the airline. And she always said to me, you have to learn to fly you know you've got you’ve got to stand up for you believe in and become the person you can be. And so, I remember being surrounded by this group of kids this time they had me up against this tree and they were trying to hit me, and I just looked left and ran home and I made a decision right, then, that I was never going to get picked on again. The next day I started martial arts, I started weight, training and I never looked back.


Nadine Vogel: And that's important because if I remember you had shared with me that I think that is how you were like kindergarten need you kicked out of school a few times right, but I think, I don’t know if it was your family or the school said, you know by 21 you need to be in prison or dead.


Greg Van Borssum: Yeah, they said if I was lucky, I’d be in prison or dead by 21. My kindergarten teacher pulled my parents aside and said I’d be the reason she quit the profession. I was kicked out of all preschools as well, actually one of my friends from primary school has actually taken over one of the preschools that I got kicked out. And we were laughing about it, the other day I haven't seen her in years. She said I run green trees now and so I remember getting thrown out of green tree. It was the fourth one that I had been thrown out of for being disruptive and I was just an energetic kid I think a lot of kids are really energetic and they don't have anywhere to let this stuff out. And it makes for a for a wild child, and I think if you get two things one you get inspirational teachers and people around you that actually give a rat's backside about you, and you have a community that instills better qualities in a kid then you've got, you've got somebody to let that stuff out I think we've looked, we’ve sold ourselves short these days, with that stuff because we've given in to the Xbox’s, the phones and all the other stuff that we spend our time on and we don't give our kids the attention they deserve, and I think. And the kids are losing out this whole generations lost it’s focus. Because they don't understand how to get their focus because we've given them so many offerings from Facebook to snapchat to Instagram to Twitter to email to Xbox to PlayStation to Netflix you name it they've got so many things to focus this attention on that you can't hone it, hone their attention and what I said to my son all the time, and my daughter my daughter mason is that you if you spearhead your focus and focus on the one thing you will make it and masons just proved that he’s 13 years of age, his team is tap team, mason's a tapper, taught by the top dogs and his tap team just won the overall national championships and you know at 13 and he's become an amazing speaker and my daughter's doing amazing things and because I’ve taught them and my wife and I’ve taught them to spearhead their focus. And it's important thing that kids missing these days and it's having a massive effect up top in their brains.


Nadine Vogel: Yeah, and we're gonna we're gonna talk more about that because this this issue of what's going on in our heads and our mental health is really, really something else, so I do want to come back to that. So, let's go back you 16 you decided, enough is enough, and I think you said you had two or three goals that you just put out there day one.


Greg Van Borssum: I had, I had a number of things I used to spread out to my mother, so one I wanted to be big and strong. And also, to be heroes I always admired the phantom and the phantom had these amazing skills, because he was a human being in the comic book series, he was a really good pistol shooter and he's a really good fighter. And he was meant to be the ghost that walks, and so I wanted to be like that I wanted to be this guy that can really fight could really handle himself who was big and strong and could shoot. And so, all these things were in my head the whole time as a child, and I wanted to make movies, so I had this whole amazing imagination, that I wanted to use and. So, I wanted to make movies, and so, and I really wanted to be a champion, because my father, being a world champion kayaker and I wanted to be like that, and so I just thought well if I’m going to do something I’m going to do it all the way. And I was actually 13 when I decided this fully because when I took on weight training, because I was so skinny, I was at the gym and I found a magazine that was totally dedicated to the sport of bodybuilding. And I found a photograph in that magazine of a man called Bob Paris and he just won the US nationals. And I was at my friend's place at the time on the floor reading these magazines and I found that photograph and I just jumped up, I was so excited and said that is what I’m going to do I’m going to win the national championships. My friend’s parents looked at the photo Bob Paris, it was like a Hulk looked at me and laughing their heads off and to the point that I left their house and never went back. And I went back to the gym, and I sat on the bench I looked up at these photos of these champions of the wall like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno. And thought you know what I wonder what they did to get where they got and I thought you know I’m going to do it, and I said I’m going to show everybody what I can do what I can be. And I went at it 100% I lived it breathed that and I immersed myself in it and age 16 I did my first show I didn't place it in, I didn’t place in the show. But I kept working at it and eventually age 19 you know I won the teenage nationals, and I won the overall nationals at 20 and went pro at 20 as the world's youngest pro natural bodybuilder. So yeah, it's all doable and I was a skinny kid, and I didn't know anybody, I taught myself everything from the ground up I just had that much hatred to what I was like as a person, and that much desire to change what I was that nothing was going to stop me getting there.


Nadine Vogel: And I think that, and Norma I know you'll agree, you know, for all of our listeners, especially you know those who have disabilities, it goes to show you know if you put your mind to it, yes, there will be limitations, so it's based on what your body allows you to do. But there's rarely limitations that your mind can't take on right.


Greg Van Borssum: And here's my thing on that and I’ve got a really big point on that is that. Okay, and I’ve got lots of injuries in my youth and doing stunts and fights and all that stuff and I literally just almost smashed my ankle tonight and I’ve had lots of fractured spines I’ve enjoyed myself had snap the tendons up my legs, I had to learn how to walk again, I mean I’ve been through levels of disability. And the biggest thing I learned from all of this, and this is something I’ve learned for a lot of people who have physical impediments, and I don't call it disabilities, I think that the disability is about the neck. Is that when you can't do something, you have to say yourself what can I still do. What can I do, you focus on that you know I know now because my knees are smashed and all the things I’ve done that I’ll never win the Olympic hundred medal record so I go well I can't do that, and when I when I had you know in 2016 when I suffered a major stroke training to climb Everest. You know I had to go well, I can't do that now what but what can I do so, I started writing a book and I started developing other things, and so, if you can re-channel your thinking process into other areas. You never fall into that level of depression and negativity because you're always thinking forward to the next thing.


Nadine Vogel: Right, right.


NORMA STANLEY: Absolutely, the mind is a powerful thing, and we really have to focus on, you know sharing and obtaining and absorbing those positive thoughts, because that is really what makes us. You know the scripture says guard your mind with all your heart because that’s where everything lies. You know, it controls your body control, it controls so much, we have to very, that’s why mental health is so important.


Greg Van Borssum: You can go right there for genetics and all kinds of stuff about us know, because our brain is refractory you know mechanism we get up in the morning, thinking about the past all the time. And it has a massive effect and a future if we're living in a bad part, it's like ptsd. The amount of friends of mine that I’ve helped in the special forces and other areas in my life who suffer ptsd, now what ptsd does it puts that that thinking of the situation happened at the forefront of your brain. And because of that it's all you think about and then you dwell on that, and then you suffer because of it, and then your life changes, and you can lose your life because of it. So, you have to change that, and it takes a lot of work to change that stuff. And ysou have to get up and alter what you do your processes, if you get up in the morning and have coffee and this and that and saying. change it start doing something different and start writing in a journal I think journaling is one of the most amazing strengths a person can have because it gives you a thought process, thinking forward, it gives you a structure and you start putting stuff in place, you know my two greatest skills to this day and people think I joke when talking about this what I’m talking about this is naivety and stupidity. You know I’m too naive to know I can't do it too stupid to stop once I get started. Now, like even my speaker’s academy I started, I said to my wife, we have to teach these local kids how to speak there's no confidence they're having umming and aring they stay stunned when they when they get up to speak, they cry and said let's do it, so I started the next day I started it and went okay let's advertise it and put it at the local community and do it, and now it keeps selling out into the point now it's gotten such a great REP from the Community, I have major businesspeople out here who are now wanting to fund scholarship programs for the kids to do it. Because it's making such a change, and I just think you just start stuff you'll work out the bugs on the way, and you. You figure it out and I don't care what physical disability or impediment you have there's always a way to move forward in something. You know, one of the great interviews that you know, but people I got to speak to was in Florida with you guys when I when we were down there, and I was talking to one of the one of the fellows they had lost both arms and both legs overnight for meningococcal and you know, he had such the most amazing outlook on life and since losing that he goes, you had to learn to do everything again. And I went from a kid it was a soccer player and a guitarist suddenly now can't brush my teeth. I can't do this, I have to learn this I’ve got to work out how to use these legs and I’m going to get I’ve got a, and the thinking processes that he had to put in place, there’s a man named pedra menta and I’ve got it on my page somewhere Pedro’s interview. And just hearing the way he spoke and what he talked about and how he trained his mind to work even seasonally was a beautiful thing to listen to and I don't think that’s, and he became an engineer from that you know he's taken all these losses and move forward and become something wonderful. And I just I just don't think there's a I understand people have physical impediments I wrote, I understand that 100% I have friends that are ex-military that have lost their limbs and lost everything. And, but they still think forward so they what can they do my friend Trevor walk and he was a top black hole couple of pilots went down and Afghanistan’s some people on you got killed in the accident, he broke his back he's never walked again, even though he wants to. Instead of that he got into the shooting sports on competitive pistol shooter. And now, he runs events and now runs a bunch of people in wheelchairs and runs events for people that are missing body parts and then it's become this beautiful amazingly strong, powerful event and everyone supports it. Because they’re always thinking forward you can't dwell on what you've lost you gotta fight for what you got.


Nadine Vogel: Well and it's also you know and Norma you and I have talked about this that you know it's not what happens to you in life it's what to do with it that really counts, right. That makes that difference and so we're going to go to commercial break, but when we come back Greg I’d love for you to share with us, I remember you taught me something about the warriors code and living by the warriors code and I think that most people don't know what that is and how, especially from a mental health standpoint, it can really make a difference, so stay tuned so listeners will be back in just a minute.


Voiceover: And now, time for a commercial break.




Voiceover: And now, back to our show.



Nadine Vogel: Hello, and welcome back to disabled lives matters podcast and movement of course this is Nadine Vogel and I’m joined by Norma Stanley. So we have the amazing incredible Greg Dan Borssum with us today, and we are talking about mental toughness and just disability of you know, the neck up. And what really can be done if you put your mind to it, and one of the things we started on just before we broke for commercial was something that Greg you had talked about in the past that I remember very, very vividly, which is about thankful the warriors code and that you spent a lot of time kind of figuring out what that was and how to apply it so could you share that.


Greg Van Borssum: I can well it's, it's funny because we focus so much and I learned this the hard way, because when I was at the top of my professional sort of bodybuilding career. And I was the biggest externally and most strong and powerful looking that I’ve ever been I was most self-conscious of most afraid that I’d ever been. And I realized, I had to step away from that and get back to what was inside, because I had to re-ground myself. And all my user martial art training taught me that there's so much more to learn and so much more to do, which is the reason why, if you look at a black belt a true black, not the monkeys you see run around with like black belts on these days. When you see a true black belt, the belt is actually made by charades people to make them that the belt is made with your name on it before they actually make the belt and they wrap the black stuff around the actual white belt, so the longer you've been training, the more the black fades away. And the white reveals, which means you're always a beginner and you're always learning so, the more you think you know the less you know and the journey continues, and I think that's what we've lost we keep this level of entitlement this level of you know we don't need to work, the things and we have an expectation, now we aren’t prepared to go the hard yards, and I think we've fallen into victim status with a lot of things today. Everyone’s a victim everyone's suffering and everything it's like you know what we came from warriors we came from hunter and gatherers we came from people that have fought for generations and generations survived just to be here. We are all so fortunate to just be sitting here today. To have life is so much amazing more amazing than people that go, I just want to end it it's like you know what there's so much to live for people just don't see the positives that are out there. So, I had to study deeply inside and find out what that all was about and what the warriors sort of code and I don't really, I don't call it a code it's a warrior mindset. How do I tap the problem, how do I look for the solution, how do I search for the opening it's like when you watch kids fighting with swords, they hit sword on sword. When in truth sword work, you're meant to be looking for the opening. It’s like why people have car crashes they look at the car they're going to hit my go straight into it rather looking for the opening of the side of the vehicle, the square of the vehicle around it. And my way of thinking is to always find the opening, you know something doesn't work, how do you find a way that does toys away before there's always a way that to find it find an answer. And I learned everything firsthand because I’m self-taught and all the things I’ve done, I never I never went to school for filmmaking I’m self-taught I was a carpenter, the only thing I could go to school for was carpentry. I was a carpenter and hated being a carpenter, so I taught myself at night how to make movies, and you make all the mistakes but if you have what I call passion through pragmatism or pragmatism through passion. You know if you love something enough to be obsessed by you will find the way and you'll find discipline and discipline is just means basically that you get your bum in gear every single morning and you do it, no matter how you feel. You know, I think every one of us has a little voice on either shoulder every morning we wake up and you can either sit up and listen to the one that tells you to lie back down and forget about it. When you guys get up and it's a battle you go to win every single day, and somedays you get up regardless we're losing that fight, and you go, you know what I’ve  got to move forward anyway.


Nadine Vogel: Right


Greg Van Borssum: Because plenty of times in your life and I don't care what you suffer from this plenty of times we all go through stuff again what's the point, unless you the light the end of the tunnel. And you’ve got to get out of your own way. That’s the discipline that’s the warrior spirit, where you go I don't give a rat's backside if there's 1000 people in front, Ii'm going to fight through those thousand people to get to the goal I’ve got to get to that's the mindset when you get back to because we all have that and the biggest thing we've forgotten is that part of us there's so much more we have and I pushed my students to the hills. Everyone on my march last year, I had kids in tears tonight. Because I work them so hard, though there are tears but guess what when they finished doing the hundred push-ups at age eight years of age when they finished 100 sit ups and the hundred squat kicks in their stuff. They run out until their parents, mom, dad, guess what I just did 100 of this and 100 this they're so proud. And I told them I said, your parents can do this. And suddenly this kids building pride and if they worked with the tears there going to be tough, because I told them, life's going to be tough and I tell them is going to be roughly get out there, and you need to be prepared for it, so, if I can push you and make you work past what you think your barriers are and find new barriers and break them and break the next ones. You're going to find that warrior spirit that you realize, you are much stronger than you ever dreamed you were and you're going to fight for the next thing you go find people won't be able to knock you down you'll always get back to your fate and always go another route.


Nadine Vogel: Right, absolutely.

NORMA STANLEY: Absolutely, that is so true, one of the things that I learned as a mother of a daughter with intellectual and physical disabilities is that you know I learned up need to take care of her, and in doing so, I learned that you know those barriers that I thought were there actually I found a way around them, and you have to find a way around all the barriers. Because they’re going to be there you just got underway, but you find a way, make a way.


Greg Van Borssum: It's from the great leaders of all you know they talked about that they talk about you know, make a way, find a way to do something, you find the way you will find a way. If you're if you really have a want to get somewhere, you will make it happen and if you don't know how long it's going to take this as a one of the great lessons I learned, is it. Everything I’ve ever done in my life, and I’ve been fortunate to take a lot of things to a global level. And it's been through hard work, but everything takes he is the shortest thing I ever did I think was my public speaking accreditation that took me five years. And that was everyday, people don't see the work you do. You want to be great at something it's always what I say to my students it's the work you do when no one else is watching that makes a difference. I’ve sat in my studio every night and I practiced and I practiced for hours and hours and hours of free speaking recording watching speakers, I never stopped and I’m very obsessive when I do something and I made it to that, but it was still five years. My pistol shooting World Championship was seven years, my bodybuilding was eight years, my getting the movie for 15 years it's like there's no promise there's no guarantee of success there's no money. You just got to keep going with the hope and heart in yourself that you have what it takes to make the faith that you've got the skills and you'll get the mustard inside yourself to keep fighting forward, no matter what happens. And people are quitting too fast, these days, and you know I’d prefer to I prefer to keep going to my life and not get there and then realize that the end that it was still a great journey. Think, I would have been wonder if I could have. Because you never know what's around the next corner. I’ve made it to the end of and go well, I never thought I get it like I failed in my accreditation three times you know or twice before with the third one, but that's a year between each one. You know the first one that video wasn't good enough, the second one, the stage was a stuff up, and so you keep coming back, and you can either end everyone goes to the moment of getting hung up on us stepping, I’m quitting this, it sucks you know you everyone goes through that. But then. two seconds okay all right I’m booking and do it again. Because you can't quit on yourself but there's one of those things that you if it gets ingrained in you, you’ll quit forever and you cannot do that because I tell people everything I’m known for now as an adult the strength, the martial arts, the filmmaking in the speaking we're all my greatest fears as a child.


Nadine Vogel: No, absolutely.


Greg Van Borssum: Let it go towards your fears you got to put your face in the fire and you got to be willing to take what happens.


NORMA STANLEY: Hear the fear and do it anyway.


Nadine Vogel: That's right. Well Greg you know, you and I we've talked a lot about you know folks who can't see that they can't get past some of this and they tried to die by suicide. Hopefully, not successfully, but I know that you've done a lot of work in that space, so you know what's the message you know, obviously it is the message to them as well, what you're saying, but if they can't get themselves to see through that day, what do they do.


Greg Van Borssum: The hardest thing with mental health and suicide is that the amount of people that feel alone. And when you're suffering and I’ve been there, I know how it feels and when you when you're going through a problem, especially you know, especially men we don’t talk about things we keep it all inside. When you're going through a problem you feel like it's just you and you feel like no one understands and you feel like you're going to be a burden and that you're not worthy and you're not you're not valuable and what I truly believe what causes suicide isn't one thing I think it's a whole heap of events thrown together, so you lose your job missing your wife leaves your husband leaves you then you lose your home and you know you lose your money and it goes bing bing bing bing and I equated to a martial arts when I get someone in a very strong joint lock. So if I get you an unfair wrist lock, for example, and I do it very slowly. When I do it slowly, what actually happens is you get strengthened you get stronger you get tougher you hold up and suddenly you're fighting back and hit me. But if I do quickly the human body has a natural cut off chemical that releases to make you drop to stop you getting injured. And I think that's what happens to us mentally it becomes too much pain in a short period of time, and we just go, you know what's the point of this. Because we found out the suicide is very impulsive so when all the Suicide Prevention bridges got the covers on them over here in Australia, the suicide rate on bridges went down by 90%. Because people when they go up, I can't do it well I’ll go home and maybe I’ll do it tomorrow, and tomorrow might be another day a better day, where things aren't so bad and. And the biggest thing is for people is when someone is struggling everybody knows their friends. But there's this small sign that people miss and I always talk about these signs that they're very physical you know when someone becomes distant when someone becomes more disheveled their work they take extra sick days they turn up late, they're drinking more that they're sitting there smoking 25 cigarettes telling you they're fine like if you see these things reach in and help them out because people won't reach out for help. You know people can reach out and call me and no one's ever going to call you jam the phone throw it up your backside because no one's ever going to ring it, you have to reach in and help them out and it's much better to do face to face. Because people love face to face and that one minute, how do you actually give someone that releases that oxytocin after one minute hug and does actually physically clinically proven to make you feel better releases an amazing chemical in the body which just makes you feel joy and you also know, someone cares. You can do that do a zoom call if you can't do that do a phone call do something, but always try and make it a physical condition it's really important and let people know they're not alone. When I did a speech in Colorado a couple of years back, and I was couple of thousand people in the audience, and I’ve got them all to shut their eyes. I said I want you to raise your hand if you've ever felt days didn't want to get up felt there was no hope in life if you've been directly affected by suicide, I said raise your hands. Every single hand went up I said now open your eyes and look around, I said your never alone. Everyone's going through something everyone's going through something or they're coming out of something and everyone understands. So don't be afraid to say I’m having a hard time a little thing about raising hands up and saying you know I’m struggling help me. It's one and we can't be worried about being judged by people and if people are judging that they're not good people anyway.


Nadine Vogel: That's for sure.


Greg Van Borssum: We have to be more human; I think, human beings were missing the humanity but, at the moment. You know we're definitely beings but we're not human and we've stepped away from what we should be, we need to get back to the fact of being humanity and community like community helps each other.


Nadine Vogel: Right.


Greg Van Borssum: And I did a wonderful speaking event, with a friend of mine in the states a few years back when we did this community one Mississippi and so many people came out and so many people embraced each other, and everyone got enough and that was community. We need more of that we need that back because we were really separating each other, and we need to fight to get their back.


Nadine Vogel: Well, and especially now, you know in covid, we've been at this covid thing for over a year. And you know you said something about you know people not feeling alone, you know there's other people here, but I think that during covid people are feeling very alone. And feeling, you know isolation, especially if they're working from home and we're finding that more and more people who prior to covid did not say that they had any mental health issues. Are feeling like they do now and then I was reading a statistic, actually from the White House yesterday that as many as 30% of folks who have had covid are going to be long haulers. Meaning that those you know the symptoms are going to last for quite a long time, and that when they do go back to the workplace they're going to need even more in terms of accommodations and things like that so Greg talk about that, I mean you know covid is real and everybody is dealing with it in different ways, but you know if you have you’re a long hauler and how is this going to impact them.


Greg Van Borssum: And look it’s going to affect everyone differently depending on the mental state before you went into an afterwards, but also how to fix it financially, you know you take the money out of the situation. You know you strip it away from something you've increased that situation tenfold. Because the amount of stress and pressure that brings to the life, now that you know you know yourself, we've all had those months we go geez am I going to make them that bill. And, and when your money's cut and like I don't know what's happening states over the financial stuff, but that stuff all finished here for people, you know so all the all the government handouts finished. And so, people that run this thing called shopkeeper it's stopped, so I still know there's more people that are going to lose their jobs and other things so there’s more to come and it's all that side of it it's going to be worse, I think, then the covid crisis, I think, because the crisis is a financial crisis more than anything that the people will handle I think the medical side of things we've got a our system at here medical wise is very different from the US with a very big public system that people don't have to pay for medical you know, to be seen medically. I know in the states is a different animal and so we have that at least but. You know I think financially, people are still going to struggle, I think that's going to be the biggest downfall that's going to play into depression and there's been a plan to anxiety and that's going to play the all the other things and that's a very quick to cascade I mean. I call the vortex of negativity where you start off here and suddenly you go down, then it becomes a very slippery slope, and that last pit piece of the puzzle is very compacted. You know you go for somebody who's been off today and then tomorrow they're gone. And they don't necessarily have to make a plan people go they've had met know that people sometimes just impulsively do stuff and we have to, if they're our friends, and we think they're different and we think there's something happening, we think they're showing signs of depression or anxiety and you've got to reach in and talk to them. And let them know you're there for them with them and the three big words, we need to use with it with everybody we're friends with us, we end together. Because when we are going through an issue mentally, we feel it's me it's me I’m alone but it's not a few reaching ago you have an ally, you have a friend. We will get through this together, together will make this happen, we will get help some of you've got a friend that you know you can trust them together you feel like there's something to do with.


Nadine Vogel: Well, I think that's you know we're out of time, so, unfortunately, but I think that's a great way to end this right us, we and together, I love that so Greg I know that you speak globally, how can folks get in touch with you, if they'd like to hear more from you have their companies hear more from you, what's the best way to engage.


Greg Van Borssum: So my website is gvbmindwarriors.com.au, and that has everything on it from my speaking with people want me to speak to my martial law school to my speakers academy to all the stuff we do. All my YouTube stuffs on there, you can directly click on that my mind worry minutes and things and yeah we're really trying to push up the ante to help people move forward and I think it's if we get them young and the reason I started the martial arts school speakers academy see if I can help kids young they don't have to fix them when they're broken and the older. You know and biggest thing for adults and two if you think you got this release you don't get mental disabilities are anything so step up and find a way find a way to move forward to get towards where you want to go and remember midlife is now 40 years. everyone's forgotten that we all wake up and we think we're dead at 40 now we got 40 more years of stuff to do so, keep achieving keep working to what strains and I don't care if its tiny little things keep moving forward that's what it's all about and enjoy the journey because it's a fun one.


Nadine Vogel: What a great way to end, Norma oh my gosh this is has been such an amazing session hasn’t it.


NORMA STANLEY: Speaking my language here.


Nadine Vogel: Well, ladies and gentlemen, I hope you enjoyed this podcast with Greg Van Borssum, and my co-host Norma Stanley and we will see you next time on disabled lives matter bye-bye everybody.

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!

Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed during the Disabled Lives Matter podcast series are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of Springboard Global Enterprises, Springboard Productions, and its employees, contractors, subsidiaries, and affiliates.  The developers of the Disabled Lives Matter podcast are not responsible and do not verify for accuracy any of the information contained in the podcast series available for listening on the Podbean hosting site and/or any other associated hosting entity. The Primary purpose of this series is to educate and inform, and does not constitute disability, medical and/or other professional advise and/or service(s). This podcast is available for private, non-commercial use only. Advertising incorporated into, in association with, or targeted toward the content of this podcast, without the express approval and knowledge of the Disabled Lives Matter's site developers is forbidden. You may not edit, modify, or redistribute this podcast.  The developers of the Disabled Lives Matter site assume no liability for any activities in connection with this podcast or for use of this podcast in connection with any other Website, Computer, and/or Listen Device.



June 3, 2021

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.



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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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