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 accommodations. 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.