Disability and Innovation

Jakayla Dixon, Founder of Feel The Color

Closed Caption Transcript:

Hello, everyone,
I am so excited to be here.

My name is Jakayla Dixon and I'm a local
changemaker right here in Fort Worth.

I am so excited to be with everyone.

But before I even get started
with my talk, I just want to give a quick

thank you to everybody at Impact Fort Worth
for organizing such a wonderful event.

And I know it took so much
hard work on the opposite end.

And I just want to say thank
you and I appreciate you.

And I'm so honored to have been chosen

to give a talk on something
that I'm so passionate about.

So as you can see for this title,

we're going to be talking about
disability and innovation.

And next slide is going to be me

in a video talking about what my company
is doing and who I am and I think it's going

to give us a wonderful introduction
into merging disability and innovation.

What color are your pants?

Will they match your shirt or blouse?

Will people judge your appearance?

These are all the questions that go

to a person who is visually
impaired mind on a daily basis.

Hello, my name is Jakayla Dixon and I'm

the founder and president of a company
called Feel the Color at Feel the Color.

We create important fabric tags of Braille

and alphabet lettering,
enabling those with visual impairments

the chance to literally feel
the color of their clothing.

Growing up, I was often watched
by my legally blind Cyn.

She loved fashion,
but she would have to ask me to help her

to match and identify
the color of her own clothing.

Over two hundred and eighty five million
people in this world are visually impaired

and over 90 million of those
individuals are legally blind.

And that's when I knew
something needed to be done.

These tags can be ironed on or
sewed on whatever you may choose.

And at Feel the Color we're promoting
a world where the visually impaired can do

all, no matter any obstacle
that may come their way.

And as I sit here before this camera,

I hope the passion that I have for this
company transcends through the screen.

We're merging the lines between fashion

and accessibility, and we want to see
a world where nothing is impossible.

So if you have any questions,
comments or concerns,

please send us an email at hello@FeeltheColortags.com

or reach out to us

on all social media platforms
at FeeltheColorTags.

Thank you.

Thank you guys so much,
I just love that video and I love the fact

that I can just see the passion that I
have transcending through the screen.

And I hope as I give this talk today,

everybody who's watching it can feel
the passion that I have and leave this

feeling motivated and inspired to go
out and to create change in Fort Worth.

And so something that I mentioned

in that video was my first encounter with
knowing someone who had a disability.

And it was my Aunt Cynthia.

And she loved fashion,
but she would have a hard time matching

and identifying the color
of her own clothing.

So when I was a sophomore in high school

and I had the opportunity to come up
with an innovation that never been done

before, I wanted to merge the lines
of disability and innovation and create

a product for people
with visual impairment.

And as I sit here today and I think about

how much research I put into this,
there are so many ways that we can create

and innovate new strategies to be
effective community members for people

with visual impairments living
in our own communities.

So a little quick story about my Aunt Cyn is
we all know this pandemic happened

and a lot of our lives got
moved around and shifted.

And so for her, she has two grandchildren,
one who happens to be in the fifth grade.

And so when his school went online

for the semester, she had to be
in charge of Zoom school.

And so for the first time in Aunt Cyn's
entire life, she got WiFi.

And mind you, she still
has a little flip phone.

So getting WiFi was a really big deal.

But the biggest deal was that was
that my legally blind aunt was having

to operate and navigate Zoom
school for her grandchildren.

And I think that's so important because
my aunt is one of the most tenacious

and most dedicated and most
innovative people that I've ever met.

And she's never let having a disability
define her in any way, shape, or form.

And I'm so glad and I'm
so grateful to know her.

And I'm so grateful that through

my experiences of running Feel the Color,
I've got to become more connected

with people with visual impairments
in our own communities.

But as I give this talk,

I'm going to talk about people with visual
impairments and I'm going to talk about

people with so many different spectrums
of disability because I want

people to leave this talk feeling
motivated and dedicated to create more

innovative practices in their businesses
and their own daily lives to better

support the disabled community
in our own community.

And so

I want to give a little bit of statistics
and a little bit of facts surrounding

statistics and disability
in our own community.

So almost 70 million people in the United
States have some form of a disability.

And disability is a very
hard word to define.

And it is on a large spectrum of what
types of disability somebody could have.

There are physical, there are cognitive,

there are developmental,
there are invisible disabilities.

And so there are so many different ways
to define them, but they're so important

to acknowledge how we can do and create
more innovative practices,

to acknowledge all of them and create
a more accessible community.

And so Texas has the second largest

numbers of individuals with people
with disabilities across all 50 states.

And fifty-two percent of Texas's
individuals with disabilities come

from Tarrant County, which is so important
because our own county is contributing

to such a large statistic of individuals
with disabilities within our own state.

And I think it's so important that we here

in Fort Worth, in Texas, in this world,
we acknowledge how can we be better

citizens to our community
members who have disabilities.

And so during this talk,
I'm going to focus on three key topics,

and it's going to be talking about poverty
and education and employment and how all

three of those topics are interconnected
and how they all, in some way,

shape or form, are influenced or
affected by having a disability.

And at the end of this talk,
I'm really going to hone in and focus

on strategies and innovative ways that we
here in Fort Worth and as business owners

and as community owners,
community members can build a better

society and create a more inclusive
community for people with disabilities.

So the first thing that I'm going to focus

on is poverty,
and the most interesting thing about

poverty and connection to disability is
that it is both a cause and a consequence.

So, for example,
I knew an individual who was visually

impaired, but before they were visually
impaired, they had diabetes and they had

gotten diabetes because they had
a lack of access to health care.

They did not have a good,

healthy food supply in their
neighborhood and in their community.

So they developed diabetes
from these barriers.

And then eventually,

once they got diabetes,
that led to them becoming blind.

And for other people that I know,

I've met individuals that were
born with a disability.

But because they have to spend so much
money on health care and medicine

and housing and the lack of employment
opportunities, they are impoverished.

And so disability has this really ironic
and weird way of being both a cause

and a consequence because of barriers
to food insecurity and the inability

to pay rent and access to health
care and affordable housing.

And I truly believe that poverty is

the root cause of what we're going to be
talking about today and how we can better

leave, better stop this
trend and circle of poverty.

And so even from my own Aunt Cynthia,

she lives in an impoverished
community in Louisiana.

And the hard thing about that is

there's not enough resources
when she lives in Louisiana,

there's no support services or anybody
teaching her Braille or any of these

independent living skills
in relation to her disability.

She's kind of just learned how to navigate

it on her own because of the
community that she lives in.

And I think this leads us
to the next topic is education.

And so there are a lack of resources,

there's a lack of accommodation,
there is social exclusion and a lack

of accessibility and our
own education systems.

So for people with disabilities,
it's so important that they have access

to things that will teach them
independent living skills or

help them with their disability
for my Aunt Cyn, for example,

because she is blind, she never got
the opportunity to learn Braille.

But if she had the opportunity when she

was back in school,
she would have been able to be more

proficient in using Braille
in her everyday life.

Or when she goes into a restaurant or
restroom, she can be able to read

the Braille signs on the wall,
but unfortunately she can't.

And it's so important to acknowledge

the fact that everybody is
entitled to quality education.

And I've spent a lot of time working
with children with disabilities.

I was a part of best buddies
even when I was in high school.

And I really got to understand this idea

of special education and how can we create
inclusive education,

because it is so important that everybody
has this guaranteed right to be educated

and to have a wonderful education
that supports their needs.

And so I'm going to show a quick video

about the importance of inclusion
in our education systems.

This video features audio description,
international sign and captioning.

So I just love that video so much because
I think it's so important to acknowledge

inclusive education within
our own education systems.

So as I said, at the end

of the video, people with disabilities are
so important and productive

and an important part of our own
societies and our own institutions.

And it's so important
that we acknowledge that.

And that leads me into this next topic

of talking about employment and employment
opportunities for those with disabilities.

And so there are exceptionally high

unemployment rates for people
with disabilities.

They're more likely to work part time
on average, and they earn less than

individuals without disabilities at every
level of educational attainment.

And so many employers have such a negative
attitude towards people with disabilities.

Employees are skeptical
because of the fear of cost.

So wages, insurance,
they have the skepticism and negative

attitudes towards hiring
people with disabilities.

But it's so important to acknowledge
the fact that people with disabilities are

some of the most innovative
people that you ever meet.

And when you're starting businesses

and talking about operating your
businesses, they will offer such valuable

insight that you may have never even
been able to notice in the first place.

And it's so important for other people

and for people to see that people
with disabilities want to be productive

in our society and they want to have
job opportunities and they want to be

a part of society and they want
to integrate themselves into it.

And so I think it's so important

to acknowledge how employment and poverty
and education are so interconnected,

because if you're born into poverty
and you don't get the education that you

need, the employment piece
of it won't work out.

And so it's really hard to separate all
three of these without acknowledging

the fact that this is
all just one big circle.

And we have to stop the circle head
on and try to create a world where people

with visual impairments and people

with disabilities, no matter what it is,
can do anything they want and more.

And so I think it's really important
that we acknowledge the next steps

for Fort Worth and what we should be doing
as community members in Fort Worth to make

Fort Worth the city where people
with disabilities feel included

and and that they know
that there is accessibility.

And I think the first thing that we can do

is to look for ways to hire people with
disabilities within our own businesses.

And I know a lot of us are business owners

or we're thinking
of starting up companies.

And I think it's so important to be
innovative and acknowledge the fact

that people with disabilities want
and deserve to have fair and equal

employment and they deserve
the opportunity to have jobs.

And I think there comes a level where it
is so beneficial and even for

Feel the Color in 2021,
we plan to roll out a whole plan to hire

people with visual impairments
in our own communities.

And I think it's so important that we do

that in our own communities because
that just sets that starts a trend

and sets the path of what
should already be being done.

And I think, secondly,
we have to acknowledge the fact that we

have to fight for accessible

And so I have a funny
story about this one.

I have a friend who's visually impaired
right here in Fort Worth,

and he went back to the gym a couple
of weeks ago and he was like,

"I hadn't been to the gym
in a couple of months, obviously."

And so he says,
"I finally go back and after I finish

working out, you know, I need to go
change and get ready to leave."

So he tries to go into the men's washroom,

but instead he goes
into the women's washroom.

And it was because the lack

of accessibility and the and the fact
that business did not have

Braille signs on the outside
of their walls.

So he had no way to differentiate if

that was a men's washroom
or a girl's washroom.

So I think it's so important to fight
for these accessible accommodations.

And when you're on an elevator, think,

hey, is there Braille to tell
somebody what floor is each floor?

Is there is there signing when you're
watching a video fight for these

accessible accommodations and even as if
you're taking a walk with your kids

tonight, or are you just
taking a walk in general?

Look at your own neighborhood park.

Is there a swing set for a child
who has special needs?

And call your Parks and Rec department
to say, hey, I think we should really

start to insert a swing here or think
about the fact is there a ramp?

Is this easy, accessible
for somebody who has a disability?

And I think that's so important.

And lastly, we have to look at and change the way we
describe people with disabilities.

I think the first thing that you could

ever do is to acknowledge people
with disabilities as people first.

They are more than their disability

and they will always be
more than their disability.

So before they're disabled or before

they're visually impaired,
they are a person.

And I think when you see somebody who has
a disability, we're always inclined to be

like, oh, my goodness,
let me go help them.

Or if you see somebody who's visually
impaired, let me go pull them along.

And I think it's so important to

acknowledge when we
see somebody who has a disability

or a caregiver
of a person with a disability,

"How can I help you and what
can I do to help you?"

And don't just take this newfound
initiative to do it,

but ask with such a genuine concern,
what can I do to make life easier?

Is there anything that I
could possibly do?

And I think these are three great steps
and three great ways that we can make it

work, the better community
for those with disabilities.

And I think it's even important
on a global scale, on a nationwide scale.

But even just in our own day to day lives,

support the people who have disabilities
in our communities and our caregivers

and make them a meal or
go out and support them.

Even in Fort Worth, we have a B-ball
team, which is a blind baseball team.

Go support a game and just show people

who have disabilities in our community
that we are actively trying to make

Fort Worth more accessible and more
inclusive for everybody who lives in it.

And so that is the end of my talk.

And I hope that everybody who's watched it

feels motivated and inspired within their
own businesses and within their own lives

to try to create and effectively make
greater change so that Fort Worth and your

businesses can be more
inclusive and more accessible.

Because I think it's so
important to do that.

And I think it's so important that we

acknowledge the fact of poverty
and education and employment.

And we try to figure out, hey,

what can we do to stop this and what
can we do to end the cycle?

So thank you guys so much
and I'm so appreciative.

And again, another thank you to everybody 

at Impact Fort Worth

 for allowing
me to come speak.

And I'm so appreciative and I hope

everybody has a good time at the rest
of this conference and watching a bunch

of other wonderful change
makers in our communities.

Thank you so much.