New posting! Today we are showcasing Erin Hawley, a twitch streamer, middle-school teacher and disability activist from New Jersey. Check out what she shared with us.
Q: Introduce yourself and explain your disability.
A: My name is Erin Hawley. I’m a writer, avid gamer (tabletop and video), Mariah Carey fan, and bibliophile. I live in New Jersey, and work remotely for a non-profit. I’m also a middle-school teacher. I received my Master’s degree last year in English, with a concentration in Multicultural and Transnational Literatures. My disabilities are Muscular Dystrophy and anxiety. My MD limits my mobility; I use a wheelchair, and need assistance with all activities of daily living. I also have a trach to keep my airway open. As for the anxiety, it affects me every day – though some days are better than others.
Q: You are a very experienced video game player. How people react when they find out that, behind that good character, there is someone with a disability?
A: I mostly game with people who already know me and know my disability, but a lot of the folks I meet through Twitch are surprised at my skills. And I don’t even think I’m THAT good. But this is a normal experience for me, not just in video games. A lot of non-disabled people assume disabled people don’t participate in normal hobbies, or go to school, or have relationships. I think the fact that I have my Master’s degree and stream games on Twitch with my boyfriend blows people’s minds. And it shouldn’t. It kind of blows my mind that folks assume disabled people sit and stare at the wall all day.
Q: You are an activist for people with disabilities, and share your opinions in articles and Tweets. What do you think people with disabilities should do to end the misconceptions our society has towards people with disabilities?
A: I don’t think the onus is on us to end misconceptions. Just by living out lives, we challenge assumptions. I write about disability in media and the importance of accessibility, but that’s a choice I make. I don’t think disabled people should feel they have to educate, but with this political climate, we must fight for our rights. And within that fight, non-disabled people must join us and educate themselves. Activism isn’t a choice for those with lives on the line.
Q: Have you ever faced discrimination? How do you think people with disabilities should react to that?
A: Yes, all the time – ableism is every day. And disabled people should react the way that feels most comfortable to them, and what is most important to them. And reactions differ from day to day. I go from simply rolling my eyes and moving on, to writing passionate blog posts or angry tweets. A lot depends on whether I have the energy to do anything about the ableism I face. It’s tiring.
Q: Is there any message that you would like to send to the business community regarding the lack of employment opportunities for professionals with disabilities?
A: It’s almost 2018 – why isn’t remote work readily available? Seriously, there’s no reason I must be in the office to write articles or manage social media accounts. So many businesses fail to use technology that is available to make their work environment more accessible. Accessibility can positively affect everyone, not just disabled employees.
Erin Hawley on social media:
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