In a new era of inclusivity where brands are reaching out to make sure that all people feel included and represented, one YouTube influencer is pointing out why a one-size-fits all model for diversity doesn’t always work.
Molly Burke is a 25-year-old visually impaired content creator who is known online for her unique take on a number of lifestyle topics, as a result of her disability and the hardships that she’s overcome because of it.
The YouTuber tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she lost the majority of her vision at age 14 as a result of a rare genetic disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which led her into an extremely difficult time in her life.
“I became severely bullied, lost all of my friends, was in severe depression. It was really tough for a long time and I had to go on a long journey of recovery and self-discovery,” Burke explains. “Now, I'm able to share all that, share all the life lessons that living as a disabled woman has taught me. How to overcome challenges, how to truly live self-love and acceptance, and to take my pain and turn it into purpose.”
But even after connecting with an inclusive audience of over 1.8 million people through the content that she creates on the video-sharing platform, Burke explains that there are still several challenges that she faces as a disabled influencer trying to break into an exclusive industry.
“Disabled people are chronically forgotten,” Burke says. “The amount of brands that tow the word diversity around, the amount of times I go to conferences and sit in diversity panels and there’s gender represented, there’s sexuality represented, there’s religion represented, there’s skin tone represented and there’s never disability represented, ever.”
The conversation about diversity and inclusivity, she admits, is controversial. Still, it’s something that she feels inclined to talk about and does so in her content, especially since she faces the added challenge of accessibility.
While YouTube has made its content accessible for the visually impaired to consume, Burke explains that her friends help to bring her vision to life through the editing process. Now, after partnering with another accessible brand, Audible, she’s exploring a different way of storytelling through an audiobook.
“I’ve always wanted to write a book, but it was never the right time,” Burke says. “So people would always tell me, you need to write a book, can you try a book?”
Beyond not being the right time, however, she also had difficulty imagining what that process would be like as a visually impaired person. But with different people pitching in, she was able to make it work.
“It was very much a group team effort,” Burke says about the writing process. “I never typed a single word of the whole manuscript. My assistant, Mesa, was very crucial in that she would read a paragraph and I would stop and be like, ‘No, I really don't like how that sentence flows actually.’ And we would rewrite and reread and rewrite and reread. So she was doing sometimes 12 hour days of just reading, me stopping her, asking her to delete and retype. And it was a lot.”
Recording the book was also difficult — but overall, it was worth it. “It definitely took longer than it would for most people,” she says. “And it was a learning experience for all of us for sure.”
As for other companies, Burke still has trouble finding completely accessible brands, which is something that she explores on her channel. But she’s cautious about speaking for the entire visually impaired community. “I am not every blind person, I am one blind person,” she says, “and this is my story.”
Molly Burke’s “It’s Not What It Looks Like” debuts exclusively as an audiobook on August 1st on Audible.
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