Welcome back to our “WordPress.com Favorites” series! In these interviews, we’ll be highlighting bloggers about their passion project. Caution: contents guaranteed to be inspiring. This interview has been lightly edited.
Shortly after Empish Thomas earned her journalism degree in the mid-’90s, she began experiencing severe headaches and sensitivity to light. After a visit to the eye doctor, she was diagnosed with uveitis, a generalized eye inflammation that can quickly escalate to permanent damage. Unfortunately, Empish fell into that category, losing her sight fully within a few years.
Since then, she’s been a writer, journalist, and advocate for blindness and disability rights, telling stories and championing awareness along the way.
Empish generously took the time to answer a few of my questions and share some ideas on how we can all be better advocates for disability rights.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you write about and why? How long have you been blogging?
I am a freelance writer and blogger. I started off as a writer many years ago and later started blogging in 2013. Although I have a journalism degree, I love writing for the pure pleasure of it. I launched my own blog about two years ago as a safe place to write my own thoughts and ideas about things that concerned me. I write especially about my life as a blind person because when I became disabled 20+ years ago, I rarely saw positive and interesting stories about the disabled.
2. What are some of the most common negative portrayals you see about folks with disabilities in the news or in pop culture?
Well, there are actually two things I notice. One is the “superhero crip” image. That is a disabled person overcoming these incredible challenges and doing amazing things that everyone is impressed by. It sends a message that all disabled people are supposed to or want to be that way. It communicates a false expectation. At the end of the day, we are all human beings and live lives like everyone else.
The second one is that we are not visible at all. Many times, I will read a story or watch a news segment and wonder, “Where are the blind people? What is happening to those with disabilities?” This is not necessarily a negative thing, but more [shows our] exclusion from the storyline.
3. Let’s move to the workplace. How can employers become better allies and advocates for disability rights?
First, making sure that disabled employees get their accommodations to perform their jobs.
Then, providing the support, encouragement, and motivation to help them move upward in the company the way you would an abled-bodied person. Sometimes I think that people with disabilities are not encouraged to move up into management or higher-level positions. It is like people can’t imagine a blind person as a supervisor or director. But with the right support, they could do the job like anyone else.
A Few of Empish’s Favorite Posts:
- Working and Writing in the Disability Non-Profit World
- I’ve Become My Own Tech Support When Working From Home
- It’s a White Cane Not a Stick
- My Laundry Isn’t Smart But I Am
- My Blindness Protected Me From the Full Grief and Horror of September 11th
4. You’ve mentioned podcasts in a number of blog posts. Do you have any favorite listening experiences to recommend?
Yes, some of my favorite podcasts are HISTORY This Week, LeVar Burton Reads, The Stacking Benjamins, Code Switch, and Grammar Girl.
5. What can someone do today to be a better advocate for disability rights, especially in the online space?
For me, being a better advocate is learning as much as you can about blindness and visual impairment. Reading things written by disabled people in their own voices. Through my years of writing about the disabled, I have had people reach out to me to learn more and that is a good thing.
Also, helping those of us with visual disabilities get access to the internet. I can’t begin to tell you the number of websites I go to with accessibility issues. It is a regular challenge. Reaching out to web developers is hard and exhausting sometimes. But having allies to help in this process would be wonderful. It could be a simple thing like bringing awareness, because people don’t think that blind people are online.
6. Do have any tips for aspiring bloggers or freelance writers?
Depending on the type of blog you are writing, it is so important to be organized. I use an editorial calendar where I jot down blog ideas for each month. I think about things coming up, current events, trending topics, etc., and add them to the calendar. This helps me to keep a good flow of blog posts.
Once people start subscribing they expect to see posts on a regular basis, and having an editorial calendar helps me stay on track.
Want to learn more about being organized and consistent with your writing? Sign up for our free, self-guided Intro to Blogging course today:
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Author: Jeremy Anderberg