Where the Hope is
Editor-at-Large Sinead Burke reflects on the community
As I write this letter, snow dances outside. It’s the kind that crunches under feet and wheels. The Irish climate means that it’s momentary and will soon melt and ebb into a local river, but for now, it’s mesmerizing to watch.
In recent weeks, I’ve needed the reminder that what we are experiencing is momentary and will eventually change. Since the beginning of the year, my body and mind have weighed heavy. In the first days of January, I was hopeful; an energy that rested on my shoulders but as vaccine rollout strategies were designed without equity, that feeling dissipated.
In many parts of the world, disabled people were not prioritized to be some of the first to receive the vaccine, despite being identified as ‘vulnerable’ or having ‘underlying conditions’ when restrictions were made and death notices delivered. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it should be that we must make policies and decisions with the voices and perspectives that make up our world.
Though they shouldn’t have to, disabled people rallied and advocated for change. In January, when the State of California announced that they were taking an age-based approach for vaccinations, Alice Wong, activist and editor of ‘Disability Visibility’ created a hashtag #HighRiskCA to bring visibility to the mantra, ‘High risk is high risk. We are not disposable’. This was followed by beautiful Valentine’sDay cards from the #NoBodyIsDisposable Coalition, Fat Legal Advocacy Rights and Education Project, and Senior and Disability Action. One of the cards is millennial pink outlined with a red border and features a cupid graphic that reads, ‘Be Mine Covid-19 Vaccine! You give me life, literally.’
Today, it looks as if the policy might change but there’s always time for you to have a say to accelerate that change.
There is always hope in and with community.
It’s one of the many reasons why I’m proud to hold the title of Editor-at-Large at JUNIPERunltd. Alongside our new Managing Editor, Hebatullah Issa, (whom some of you might have met already), we aspire to create space for our community to narrate the stories that matter to us, in our own words. That importance isn’t quantifiable and differs from person to person, moment to moment.
This month, I was taken by Kaycee Marshall's perspective on the adaptive pieces that we need in our lives and in our wardrobes. I liked how she thinks Valentine’s Day is a time in the calendar to treat ourselves and/or a loved one (even when it’s not romantic). Kaycee recommended gifting someone a piece from Yarrow and as she is both Disabled and a designer, she knows the beauty of agency and independence.
So, I leave you so that I can send my friends and my family a voice note to remind them of how wonderful they are, how much they mean to me, how we need to change the world, and how I’m here if they need help – especially when they think they don’t need it.
Maybe you could join me – reach out to the friend that you haven’t spoken to in a while. I bet they’ve missed you, as much as you’ve missed them. There is always hope with and in community.
Editor at large
Sinéad Burke is a teacher, writer and advocate. Sinéad works towards accelerating systemic change within the domains of diversity, education, inclusion, design and disability. She consults within the fashion and design industries to ensure that spaces and products are accessible to all.
Sinéad is a TED speaker, her talk ‘Why Design Should Include Everyone’ has amassed over one million views and resulted in her achieving some ‘firsts’: Sinéad is responsible for the introduction of the term for little person, ‘duine beag’, into the Irish language, she was the first little person to attend the Met Gala, and is the first little person to feature on the cover of Vogue. Sinéad has addressed the Business of Fashion’s VOICES conference and the World Economic Forum too. Sinéad was presented with The Leadership Award at EcoAge’s Green Carpet Fashion Awards by Gucci CEO, Marco Bizzarri and by appointment of President Michael D. Higgins, Sinéad is a member of Ireland’s Council of State.
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