Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.

Season 2 - Episode 9: Prioritizing Disability In DEI Makes A Better World | Catarina Rivera

October 07, 2022 Bold Blind Beauty
Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.
Season 2 - Episode 9: Prioritizing Disability In DEI Makes A Better World | Catarina Rivera
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Episode title and number: Prioritizing Disability In DEI Makes A Better World | Catarina Rivera | Season 2 - #9

Brief summary of the show:
Welcome to Season 2 Episode  9 of Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.  In observation of National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, we here at Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. are thrilled to have DEI Expert, Catarina Rivera as our guest.

Catarina's Bio:
Catarina is a dynamic public speaker, DEI consultant, and content creator. She works with companies to improve disability awareness, inclusion, and accessibility. As a disabled Latine woman, she is passionate about sharing her own unique story to help build a more inclusive world

Bullet points of key topics & timestamps:
0:00 | Welcome
1:55 | Catarina's Hearing & Sight Loss Journey
6:11 | How Catarina Began Her DEI Work
12:29 | Dana's Beauty Byte
14:06 | Key Message On DEI
15:51 | Catarina Shares Exciting Experiences
19:17 | A Message About Privilege
22:33 | Supporting Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.
23:30 | What's Next?
26:36 | Connecting With Catarina 

Connecting With Catarina  

Finding Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.

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Music Credit: “New Inspiration” by BasspartoutX  https://audiojungle.net/item/new-inspiration/7204018

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Steph:

Welcome back to another edition of Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. podcast, the show that's clearing the air for more A.I.R. (Access, Inclusion, and Representation). I'm Stephanae McCoy, and with me on my co hosts,

Nasreen:

I'm Nasreen Bhutta

Sylvia:

and Sylvia Stinson-Perez

Steph:

In observation of National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, we here at Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. are thrilled to have Catarina Rivera as our guest. Catarina is a phenomenal DEI speaker, brilliant disability changemaker, and role model within the disability community. As a public speaker, it was through using her online platform Blindish Latina that Catarina has been able to reach millions of people around the world to expand her consultancy business. On a personal level, I met Catarina some time ago on social media and was able to watch her grow her audience by sharing her lived experience as a deafblind Latina and educating people on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. And earlier this year, I was able to meet her in person at a leadership conference, where she was a keynote speaker, Catarina, welcome to Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R., we are so grateful you could join us this month.

Catarina Rivera:

Thank you so much for having me. It's an honor anytime I get to do something with Bold Blind Beauty.

Steph:

Yes, we've worked previously before we featured you on Bold Blind Beauty. And it's such a joy always to talk with you and to receive new insights from you. So why don't we just jump right in with our first question. Can you share with us a bit about your sight loss journey?

Catarina Rivera:

Yes, so I have Usher Syndrome. Usher syndrome is the most common genetic cause of combined deafness and blindness. More than 400,000 people are estimated to have it worldwide. And so how did it happen in my life? When I was young, my parents noticed that I had some trouble hearing. And I was a toddler because that's when I first got hearing aids, but we didn't know why I had a hearing disability. As I was growing up I was in special education. Then I was mainstreamed and I had an IEP, I just did very well to being disabled. And I received services along the way such as speech therapy, but I did not get connected to the deaf community. Nor did I get exposed to ASL because that was really not what people were doing at the time. I hope they're doing that now for children, because I think it's so important. Now let's flash forward later in my life when I was I had graduated high school. So it was the summer before college, I was 17 years old. And that was the first time that I noticed issues with my vision. It was very striking to me because it happened when I was away at summer camp in the woods. And there was not natural light outside at night or you know, not natural light, but like there was no light at all. So when I noticed that everyone else could run around at night and I couldn't, I couldn't see at all, it was very striking to me. That's when I got diagnosed with Usher Syndrome. And the vision that is part of Usher Syndrome is actually a condition that people can have on their own retinitis pigmentosa. The type of Usher Syndrome that I have, my hearing is not supposed to decline. But I have noticed that I have less hearing than I did when I was first diagnosed. So in terms of my journey with Usher Syndrome, when I first got diagnosed, I was very upset. It was very hard. So I call that phase denial. Then I was able to move into acceptance after a long time. Then into self advocacy, and then finally into public advocacy, which is what I'm doing now sharing my story publicly. But it's been quite a journey. And I'm really proud of myself for just continuing to find community find resources and go out. Because I know that I could never have imagined where I am now. For example using a white cane seven years ago was the first time that I started using it. But prior to that I had been introduced to a cane by a trainer and she wanted me to practice with it in my neighborhood, but I had no idea she was bringing one. And I was so upset. I did not want to be seen with a white cane in my neighborhood. So I was just embarrassed, I didn't, I wasn't comfortable. And then to have that experience, and then several years later, welcome the cane, seek out training and see how much it's benefited my life. Now being publicly disabled and using it all the time it's been such a big change and I'm really proud. Catarina, I think you can be super proud. I love how you talk about moving from denial to acceptance to self advocacy to public advocacy. That is just really awesome. And so as Steph mentioned, this is National Disability Employment Awareness Month in the US. And this year's theme is "Disability part of the equity equation." So, so appropriate.

Sylvia:

You've become internationally known for your work in disability, equity, and inclusion. And what a great role model and public advocate you are for all of us. Share with us what made you interested in this? And how you really developed your reputation. Steph mentioned how she's watched you grow your audience. But how did you do that?

Catarina Rivera:

Well, I love first of all, the theme for this year's National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so amazing. And that's one of my key messages that disability needs to be a part of DEI. So I'll talk a little bit now, yes, about my journey. What made me interested. What made me interested in DEI work is really my own desire to make an impact on the world with my work. When I was growing up, in high school, I started to realize my privilege, even within Latina (I'm Cuban, and Puerto Rican). I was part of a nonprofit organization, I had a job there, and I was serving on their youth advisory board, along with program participants. They were a youth development organization. And these were Latino youth from DC from Virginia, and I was from Maryland. But their lives were very different than mine. They were talking about violence in their community, family issues, you know, working class, families, and just jobs. English dominant, my mom was able to navigate systems for me and really advocate for me in terms of my disability. So I know that I had a much more accessible education because of that. Once I kind of realized my privilege, I moved, I was moved to do something with it. It has guided me in my whole career path. And from that point on, I've always sought out to do impactful work that makes a difference in the world. And I've been changing along the way, what I'm interested in or what that means to me. So I've been involved in all kinds of different things. I started in education as a teacher. Then I moved into nutrition and public health work, working in the nonprofit sector for many years. And then, in my personal journey, when I reached a point, when I was very confident in my disability, I knew it took me years to get to that point, my life was better because I was engaging in self advocacy. And that just wasn't enough for me, I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, other disabled people. And that's when I started to actively want to do something in disability. But even along the way, when I did public health work and my degree, I was learning about all the isms in society and the systemic inequity. So it really carries over into this DEI work. I knew that I didn't see a lot of voices like mine in disability conversation, this disabled Latina woman. I wanted to represent my story and create awareness among non disabled people. So in terms of how did I go from that desire to actually having a thriving business? It happens in stages. The first stage was just getting started. I created an Instagram account called Blindish latina, where I told stories. Then, at the beginning of 2021, I began the journey to actually create a business out of Blindish Latina. I had to summon a lot of belief in myself and my voice and visualize every day. I had an affirmation that I would say, and one line goes, "I will be free of full time work and focused on entrepreneurship." I said that every day. So in order to become well known in this field, I invested in a speaker reel, which is a video that communicates who I am what I talk about, and it's professionally done. I shared five posts a week on Instagram for a very long time. And I became active on LinkedIn, really growing my presence there and adding value. A lot of my posts were really about telling a story, or communicating tips that could help people so that they would feel like I was helping them in some way, and come back for for more. So the other thing that I was doing was being very authentic with my community and forming real relationships, those connections with others online. And you know, also connecting with others in the field, have really helped me get to where I am today. Also, consistency has been super helpful. And really through social media, I was able to gain recognition with both clients and individuals.

Sylvia:

Catarina, you make that sound so easy. And I know just from talking to you how much work that is. And literally just want to say because I think people might go, oh, well, she just made that happen overnight, that you literally probably worked more than full time hours to and continue to make that a reality. And I appreciate the authenticity that you talked about and that you bring because that is so valuable hearing reality and authentically how challenging it is, but how possible it is. So thank you so much.

Dana Hinnant:

Whether at work or going on interview, here's some beauty tips for you. Clean it all up, get those fresh haircuts, groom those beards, clean up those nails, you are worth the investment. Up-dos and ponytails are trending for the fall season. They also look very professional in a workplace environment. Use smoothing products, such as pomades and gels to get that sleek look and you'll look finished. Lessons Learned. If you want to learn how to do a professional makeup for work, it's nothing like going to your local beauty counter or store to get the application lesson. This is really good when you are visually impaired and blind because you can feel the strokes of what they're doing. And they can also explain exactly how to do it. If you're doing it on your own, your makeup that is, keep it simple. I always recommend maybe a tinted moisturizer or a primer to smooth out those imperfections. A little lipstick or tinted lip balm and an eyebrow gel to finish it all off. And there you go. And that's your Bold Blind Beauty Byte.

Nasreen:

Hi, Catarina, I completely agree with you takes a lot of hard work, tenacity and what you said consistency to get to, you know, a level of comfort. And I agree with you when you're talking about where you accept your disability and embrace it. And it seems like you know like everybody, baby steps, small steps, are required to do that. And I think you've kind of hit that you know, nail on the head from the get go and that's really great. And I feel like your own story is full of diversity, equity, inclusion all the way through. I think it's it's amazing and it's inspiring. If there's one key message about diversity, equity and inclusion that you would hope to leave with listeners, what would that be Catarina?

Catarina Rivera:

The key message that I want everyone to understand, and to really communicate more widely with everyone is that disability needs to be prioritized within DEI work. And accessibility helps everyone. It's not charity, it's not doing something to help a certain group of people. It's to make better products, to make a better workplace, to make a better community, and a better world for everyone who's in it.

Nasreen:

Yeah, that's, I think, a lot of where all the essence and efforts have to be when it comes to reaching out to companies and making creating that awareness and advocacy. So that we can have a great presence in the world as a community under the umbrella of DEI Totally agree there.

Steph:

Catarina, I just want to comment on a one of your comments about making a difference in the lives of others. Along with your authenticity and the evolution of you and your business I think that those are so powerful. And you know, watching that growth and how you've evolved, and understanding that for you, disability needs to be prioritized, not just for you, but for all of us, it needs to be prioritized. And accessibility is absolutely essential. I think those are such key messages, and you are so consistent in putting forward those messages in nearly all of the content that I've seen that you share on all of your social media platforms and in your speeches. And I absolutely love that because I think it's going to help to change our thinking about disability and the capabilities of people living with disabilities. So to change the topic a little bit, I understand that you've had some very exciting experiences recently, would you be able to share some of those with us?

Catarina Rivera:

Of course. So one of the things that I'm most excited about is talking about travel, including accessible travel, inclusive travel. There's really such a need for the travel industry to become more inclusive and welcoming to disabled travelers, because there are just terrible stories that people share, often of travel experiences. And I know that some disabled people do not travel, because they've had negative experiences or are fearful of one. So what I've been able to do recently is just getting more involved in that conversation. Earlier this year, I spoke at the TravelCon Conference, which was in Memphis, Tennessee, right before the Leadership Conference where we met in person Steph. So I have been putting out videos about my experience, and highlighting the fact that So I had just that was my first time talking about accessible travel to as part of my official disabled people travel too. We want to have great experiences, that some of the things that need to speeches, and trainings. As a result of that I was able to connect a few months later with a cruise company in Greece, and I was already planning to be in Greece. So we partnered up for a content partnership where I was able to go on the cruise around the Greek islands. And that was something be done are not complicated. It's really a lot about awareness. So I've been able to get more involved in the travel space. And I am looking forward to deepening my impact in this industry. that I did not have to pay for. But then in exchange, I was producing content. And I can say like more fun things, but like yeah, the cruise was really fun. It was great to be there.

Steph:

Oh, that sounds so wonderful. And I listened to you on the LinkedIn Live with Clarissa. One of the things that really stuck out to me and you mentioned it here as well and I just loved it, was the fact that you readily admit that you recognize your privilege. It really meant a lot to me to hear that because I've struggled with ableism because I know all of us are ableist number one, that's number one, all of us are. But being a person of color, you're born into a world that doesn't readily understand or accept you, you know, you're seen as different. I've only very recently just started talking about some of these things because there is intersectionality in regards to my race and my disability. But it really helps to hear when people say that they accept their privilege, because to me, that means you have a great deal of self awareness. But it's also recognizing that there are other people who don't have those same privileges. And I just wanted to thank you for that.

Catarina Rivera:

I appreciate you communicating that to me and sharing, like what that means for you. Really, thank you. It's, it's important to talk about privilege, you know, it exists. And when we deny its existence, we are operating under a false reality, we're not actually then we're going to do our best to, I guess, help everyone or uplift everyone, because not it's not equal out there. So. And also, I really dislike when someone presents the narrative, kind of like, "oh, I worked really hard and I was successful." Maybe didn't start from the same place that others did. So, I definitely acknowledge always.

Steph:

It does tie into DEI. All of us have these preconceived notions we all do. I think the problem is, when we don't admit our privilege, and even as a black woman, I've been privileged. I was privileged to grow up in an area where I grew up, to go to the school that I went to, I was extremely privileged, not everyone has those opportunities. And, you know, I can admit that I know that. But I think that's really important to like, as Catarina said, to have these discussions because then it opens the door and maybe hopefully opens the eyes of people who previously just did not recognize or do not recognize where they're at, maybe in comparison with other people. I just, I just wanted to thank Catarina, so much for saying that because and I've noticed a couple other people have been having those sort of conversations and I always try to acknowledge it when it happens, because I think that's another important part of it is just making that acknowledgement and thanking people. At boldblindbeauty.com, we sell a message of empowerment, acceptance and hope. Our mission is to improve humanity by changing the way we perceive one another. When you shop, our online store, you support our mission, and projects such as this podcast. Since this month is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we're celebrating the achievements of those on the blindness spectrum by promoting our Bold Leaders Illuminating New Directions product line. Many of us are proud to be BLIND (Bold Leaders Illuminating New Directions). And we are dedicated to tackling the high unemployment rate for those unemployed professionals living with a disability. For full product details, please visit boldblind beauty.com.

Sylvia:

So, Catarina, what's next for you? I mean, you've had a whirlwind in a couple years. So what's next?

Catarina Rivera:

Well, definitely what's next for me is continuing to get more involved in accessible travel, inclusive travel. That's a very big goal for me. I've already achieved my goal of delivering a TEDx talk that was a huge one for me. So next is going to be a book. I'm very excited about developing the this book that I know the world really needs, about how to get disability inclusion right in the workplace. One thing I'm very excited about that's happening in April 2023 Is that I have partnered with an accessible travel company in Portugal to launch an accessible trip to Portugal. That is running from April 14 to the 20th of 2023. We have space for 10 people is going to be first come first serve and I'm really excited we already have a lot of people signed up for the waitlist. This is just going to be an amazing travel experience. I will be there. We're going to do so many fun things in Lisban including adaptive surfing. We're going to go on a day trip to [inaudible] which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, just so many lovely things. And I'm really excited to be testing that out, you know, actually leading a travel experience with my collaborator. So that's something I'm super excited about.

Sylvia:

Awesome, awesome. So when and where are the TEDx talk? Is it on on TED Now?

Catarina Rivera:

It is up on YouTube and ted.com. And the title, the title of the talk is "Creating Inclusive Workplaces For All."

Sylvia:

Everybody's gotta check that out "Creating Inclusive Workplaces For All" Catarina Rivera on YouTube and ted.com. Very cool. I can't wait to read the book either.

Nasreen:

I love some of the work you're doing Catarina, it's just amazing, especially the travel stuff. Because I know that that is something that a lot of people in our community do find challenging. And it can be really overwhelming to plan a trip and to work all of its facets out. I'm one of those people that I'm just learning that in the last couple of years, I've been really experiencing travel. And I've I've enjoyed it so much. So I would love to see some of your travel tips and see what you come up with. So that that can also help the community you know, at large. It's something that you know, many people sometimes shy away from travel because "Oh, it's so daunting can't do it. How will we, where will we get help from? How do we ask for help?" So I think your tips and tricks or how, however this travel book comes together will be really exciting. And I know, we definitely want to definitely pick it up and have a read and see what are the things I can pick up on to make my channel easy and safe. So Catarina, how can people follow or connect with you?

Catarina Rivera:

So to learn more about me and my work, the best places to visit my website, at catarinarivera.com or catarinarivera.com. Another great place, which I already mentioned, is watching my TEDx talk. It's only 11 minutes long so it's not that long. In terms of social media, my most active platforms are Blindish Latina on Instagram, and LinkedIn where you can just find me via my name. I also have a newsletter with lots of resources that can be you can sign up for my newsletter on my website, or on my Instagram links tree. So I look forward to connecting with everyone.

Nasreen:

Thank you, Catarina.

Sylvia:

Thank you, Catarina. You're awesome.

Steph:

Catarina. Thank you again so much for stopping by to chat with us about your work and sharing your story.

Catarina Rivera:

Thank you all. It's just such a pleasure.

Nasreen:

Thank you for listening to the Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. podcast with your hosts Stephanae McCoy, Nasreen Bhutta, and Sylvia Stinson-Perez. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcast platform. And do watch out for our next monthly episode.

Welcome
Catarina's Hearing & Sight Loss Journey
How Catarina Began Her DEI Work
Dana's Beauty Byte
Key Message On DEI
Catarina Shares Exciting Experiences
A Message About Privilege
Supporting Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.
What's Next?
Connecting With Catarina