Ninjasitcking thru the Woods with Professional Skier and Activist Vasu Sojitra

Episode 40 December 27, 2020 00:52:43
Ninjasitcking thru the Woods with Professional Skier and Activist Vasu Sojitra
Freewheelin with Carden
Ninjasitcking thru the Woods with Professional Skier and Activist Vasu Sojitra
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Show Notes

Ninjasitcking Thru the Woods with Professional Skier and Activist Vasu Sojitra (he/him) hosted by Carden Wyckoff

Transcript https://rb.gy/jup5vh

Who is Vasu Sojitra (he/him/his)?

In this episode Vasu and Carden talk about:

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https://www.vasusojitra.com/

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:04 Hey, and welcome to freewill carton podcast. I'm your host carton, Wyckoff wheelchair warrior, and disability advocate. On this podcast. We share stories of awesome people with disabilities, breaking down barriers for people with disabilities, and just bring awareness to the world that people with disabilities live and thrive in today. I have OSU, so G tra with me who was only nine months old when he was diagnosed with septicemia resulting in the amputation of one of his legs. Since then, Vasu has not looked back with the help of his parents. Brother and friends, Basu was built up the confidence needed to face new challenges with grace, courage, strength, humor, and unwavering termination. Bosu witnessed extreme poverty growing up in India and has been living most of his life. But the dis ability, he looks at these experiences as a blessing, and they've allowed him to truly hone in on his ability to empathize with others. Speaker 1 00:01:05 He continues to strengthen his vigor and through his work and advocacy. For those who face mental and physical limitations lawsuit will continue to inspire others to be a positive influence in their own communities, by pushing personal limits, putting others first and encouraging people to believe in themselves and in their own unique abilities with the motto of Ninja sticking through the woods to bring intersectionality to the outdoors. Basu continues to challenge the biases that go with being a person of color with the disability, through his work, within the solidarity network and first adaptive athlete for the North face, as well as his previous work as the adaptive sports program director for Eagle mountain Boseman and co-founder for earth tone outside Vasu helps promote diversity inclusion and equity with local NGOs and organizations. Download the app. I access life and use referral code. Pardon my name C a R D E N one signing up. It allows users to rate and review places on accessibility in the built environment to break down those barriers of transparency rate, review, subscribe, and follow this podcast and share it with a friend if you enjoy it. All right, let's get started. Hey, thanks for joining the podcast. How you doing today? Speaker 0 00:02:33 I'm good. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to share some of my, uh, life experience with you Speaker 1 00:02:41 Definitely. And I heard you come and talk at our company for a outdoor adventure, five Hawk talk, and I learned so much about your outdoor back country skiing and also just about disability, justice and ableism, and then all about the different adaptive skiing. So let's kick it off with just talking about yourself, introducing and talk about your disability and what you do professionally. Speaker 0 00:03:13 Sure thing. So, yeah, my name is <inaudible> my pronouns. Are he him? His and I am on the lands and I'm a visitor of the ancestral unceded lands of the Crow, the Northern Cheyenne sailors. Coutnies just shiny bannock, Blackfeet nation, and many others that call Bozeman Montana home. My motto is Ninja sticking through the woods to bring intersectionality to the outdoors. And I can dive a little bit deeper into what both of those mean both Ninja sticking in intersectionality, but that's kind of my been my focus with the work I do within the pro athlete realm, as well as my advocacy and activism realm, to make sure that I am, um, elevating and celebrating all underrepresented, historically excluded voices and moving forward in a growing and community manner. Speaker 1 00:04:07 That's awesome. And I really like how, w let's let's just dissect what in the instruction, how you introduced yourself. So you first off saying your pronouns, which I think is really key because <inaudible> it. And same thing with carton. It's hard to know what the gender is for that name. And so I often get called Mr. Carton all the time. And so I think pronouns really helped myself. I don't know about you. And then you also verbally described yourself visually, even though we're not on video, you still gave that image description. Can you go into the importance of why we should start normalizing and including visual descriptions of what we look like? Speaker 0 00:04:55 Um, wait, did I actually do it? If it just scripted? I totally cab, Speaker 1 00:04:59 Oh, sorry. I think I just like, remember from our talk at Salesforce. Speaker 0 00:05:05 Yeah. I mean, I totally get it and you can kind of chop it up. Like we can do that. Yeah. So I am, I always wear a flat brim hat and usually black is my favorite color right now. I am casually lounging on my couch in my living room, uh, wearing a sweatshirt and some glasses. And I have Scruff, a scruffy beard and short ish, no, no, maybe like medium length black hair and yeah, just kind of lounging, hanging out. Speaker 1 00:05:40 And I'm just hanging out in my studio apartment. It's very well lit and I, I took a shower earlier, so my hair's kind of wet and, uh, wearing a very colorful sweater, which normally I wear like black and white all the time, but this is a pink, red, it's striped pink, red, and orange and black sweater. It's very color blocked in bold. And I'm a white female in my, uh, later twenties. So, Speaker 0 00:06:08 Um, yes. And I'm a, I'm a Brown man in my later twenties as well at that part. Yes. Speaker 1 00:06:14 Well, thank you so much for that visual description of yourself. Can you go into why giving visual descriptions is so important? Speaker 0 00:06:25 Yeah. So as you did it, as I just did it, it's I feel like it's a great way for folks. I know this is a podcast, but you know, for folks in a day-to-day life, if there's a presentation or, um, I don't know, even something as simple as an Instagram post to just be able to visually describe the imagery or the landscape for folks that have potential visual impairments or blindness. So just to help paint that picture a little bit more great than imagination for folks, just so that they are part of that landscape instead of feeling excluded. That's kind of, the idea is just more, more inclusive practices by just doing that simple little visual description as the way I see it. Speaker 1 00:07:16 Yeah. And I think it also really helps anyone that let's say their internet is going bad and they're dialing in. And so they can't see physically, even if they are cited, they can't see what's on the screen. And so that also just helps people who maybe are in the car and driving and trying to listen and multitask, but can't give full attention, but they can hear what's going on and get that description. So that's something that I learned through my workplace of making sure to do that in every really in every meaning is just starting out in an introduction, uh, with normally you would do it with people that you don't know is what we've kind of normalized, especially when you're doing group presentations. If you're just in a one-on-one with someone that you normally know and interact with, I don't usually give that visual description. So yeah, that's just something for our listeners because we actually haven't ever talked about visual descriptions before. So I want to give that one. Speaker 0 00:08:17 Yeah, that's a good breakdown of it. And then also like with podcasts, like everyone, you know, it's not a visual mode of communication, so it's kind of, for everyone, it's like a universal design to be able to just, you know, visually represent us to talking to the folks that are listening no matter if they have a visual impairment or not. So that's kinda, that's kinda cool that it's not just for folks that have those specific disabilities, but for everyone. Speaker 1 00:08:49 Yeah. So just cause you can't see us right here and then now we can at least get that visual description of it. So I think that's so cool how we started doing that more and more, at least I've seen it more you've done. And then the next thing that you gave in your introduction was the indigenous, the land of the native people that you currently reside on and are paying respects to. Speaker 0 00:09:14 Yeah. So the breakdown, this is how I intro myself always is my name, my full name, and then my pronouns and then the ancestral lands that I am on. And then just a little about what I do. So, you know, as you asked before for the pronouns, um, it showcases my gender and also just showcases that that gender can come with certain privileges. So he, him usually focuses on male assigned at birth for the most part. I mean, of course, you know, there are also trans men that do identify as he, him or other parts of the gender spectrum that identify as he him. But I just want to, you know, relay that, that does come with a certain amount of privilege in our society, primarily because it's a very patriarchal society based on a lot of different sexist systems that are out there. And then as for the ancestral lands that I'm a visitor on most all of the U S actually, what am I talking about? Speaker 0 00:10:21 All of the U S is on stolen land. It was ripped away from a lot of indigenous people and native people in this country. And through, through a lot of, lot of violence through genocide, through displacement and through a lot of different types of civil unrest. So I do, you know, in our modern day have the privilege of being able to visit these lands without any kind of repercussion. So that's another privilege to be able to be a part of these lands without any of that. So just trying to elevate again, original stewards, the, you know, the ancestors of this land that called this land home for time and Memorial called the land and water home for time and Memorial. So just a, another way to try to elevate, again, those historically excluded communities, try to keep them in the forefront open, you know, set the stage as the conversation goes on because I'm very intentional, tried to be very intentional when it comes to any of this work is to elevate again, those historically excluded communities, including indigenous people, including folks within the full gender spectrum and sexuality, spectrum, LGBTQ communities, disability communities, you name it. Speaker 0 00:11:44 So, you know, those intros are what help me and hopefully help the listeners set that stage for the conversation. Speaker 1 00:11:54 And thank you. Thank you so much for paying respects and tribute to the native land and the region. I looked up where I was at I'm in the Muscogee Muskogee, Muskogee, yeah. Muskogee slash Creek region. And you can easily Google what your native land is and type in your address. And it will let you know, Speaker 0 00:12:17 You know, those, those native lands or just, or knowing, or doing a land acknowledgement is just one part of the pie. There's a lot to do when it comes to elevating indigenous folks. And yeah, that's kind of, yeah, that's just like the first step, you know, so, Speaker 1 00:12:34 Well, thank you. Thank you. And all right, so kind of transitioning into the focus on disability representation and justice, talk about kind of growing up and how you got into becoming a disability rights advocate and it just, it just for representing marginalized communities. Speaker 0 00:12:59 Yeah. So I, I grew up in the U S I'm first-generation American. My parents immigrated here from India from good drop India, which is the Western side of the country. And around the young age of nine months old, my right leg was amputated because of septicemia a blood infection. And I was hospitalized for several months and right after I got out of the hospital, um, we moved back to India. So grew up in India from the age of around two to seven. So kinda kinda saw a lot of disparity there. And especially within class saw a lot of other disabled folks, uh, folks with disabilities not being treated like humans, definitely treat being treated subhuman even as like, you know, a very young kid. Of course, like the development years are kind of very key to building, um, a more structure for years to come. Speaker 0 00:13:58 So kind of noticed a lot of the poverty, lot of the inequities that are happening while also, you know, being somewhat middle-class Indian. We like, I was actually experiencing a lot of those, like, you know, social bullying, exclusion, all that kind of stuff that comes also with a disability, just, you know, not fitting in and not looking like everyone else and you know, all that kind of stuff. And kids just not knowing how to take part in that kind of a relationship. So that was definitely tricky living in India. And then, you know, I did have a prosthetic leg while I was living there. So as I was growing, I needed to, you know, fix and adjust my prosthetic leg. I was fairly active as well as a little kid, just running around outside, trying to connect with a lot of the kids around in our neighborhood or in our little community. Speaker 0 00:14:51 So with all other break the leg or outgrow the legs. So we would constantly be shipping it back and forth from India to the U S and then, uh, parents finally decided to move back to the U S when we were, when I was seven, I also have an older brother at the time. He was nine, so he's two years older than me, but yeah, we all moved back to the States just to have that access to medical equipment in my case, the prosthetic leg. So that was, um, that was key in my, in providing some sort of opportunity. And then, you know, like around the age of 10, I completely stopped using the leg. I had little traumatic experience in class where my leg just completely buckled my prosthetic leg bake, like completely buckled under me. And I landed in the, in the corner of a desk and started bleeding everywhere. Speaker 0 00:15:39 And, uh, I was just like, I'm done with using this thing. So I just got pretty much threw it out and only use crutches from then on that made me crutches. I'm much more, much more mobile on. So yeah, I continued with that and I'm still using crutches. I'm 29 now. So I've been using crutches my entire life, fully 24 seven using crutches since I was 10. And that's when I started really getting into like soccer and skateboarding and skiing. Uh didn't I still wanted to try to fit in, um, as a young kid, Brown kid, one leg in a very white community in Connecticut, and that wasn't really working. So, um, started kind of just following my brother around and we got into skiing. I started building a little ski community, uh, got on the, you know, high school ski team and started, you know, connecting with more folks, making my own friends, going skiing up in Vermont, uh, with a few friends, really getting into the ski world in college, really focusing on that as well, went up to the university of Vermont primarily because I wanted to be around skiing and snow. Speaker 0 00:16:54 I kind of was, I'm kind of obsessed with the sport as I've realized and, uh, dove into later in my college career, dove into adaptive sports. So connected with Vermont adaptive, uh, fell in love with adaptive sports in that sense to be like more of an instructor volunteer coordinator. So I started helping in the, behind the scenes for running a lot of these, the ski program, and then, you know, moved out to Montana and dove headfirst into another organization around adaptive sports called Eagle Mount Bozeman. And yeah, it just kind of fell in love with it started talking with the families, the caregivers, understanding the struggles that they're going through. They've been going through understanding that they're constantly swimming upstream when it comes to any kind of resource. So just learning deeper diving deeper into that disability culture and community and learning like even my own intricacies of what I had to go through slightly nuanced, but, you know, still had to go through as a little kid and a teenager and a young adult to then, you know, start understanding like, Oh, this is not just, you know, my narrative is not the only thing around disability. Speaker 0 00:18:09 Like there are hundreds, millions of different versions of what disability actually looks like and what we really want to feel human, you know, and not feel that sub human I'm not feeling dehumanized. So, you know, dove into disability justice a little bit more there dove into racial justice as well as I moved to Montana, given it's 90% white. So, uh, tried to, you know, work around that as well. So kind of dove into that a little bit more learned about intersectionality, which is kind of the intersections of all these different systems, race, ableism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, all these things that come into play when it comes to people's identities and how they are able to navigate society. And yeah. Started using my athlete career and voice to try to amplify that as much as possible. So that's kinda, that's kinda how it all came to fruition in the short synopsis. Hopefully that was short. Speaker 1 00:19:09 Thank you so much. It's really interesting to hear just your journey that you started out in India and just noticing around you that you were quote different and you weren't quote normal. And I know in your TEDx talk, you say it so perfectly. And the first question that you ask is, you know, if you were to look at me for the first time, what was your first reaction? Was it, do you feel sorry for me and trying to like individuals have this idea of what normal is and trying to place that normal onto you as if you're not fitting into my definition of normal. And it sounds like just from your experiences, really trying to shape that and diving into disability, justice, racial justice in Bozeman, especially when you're under marginalized there and kind of what is going through your mind when people are looking at you and clearly you look different than the normal able bodied or non-disabled body. And how do you tell people that, you know, I am just one identity of disability and that this isn't the only one. Speaker 0 00:20:34 Um, that's a great question. So I don't know if you know, Stella young, she was, she passed away within the decade, I believe, but she was a disability justice advocate as well. And she had an Ted talk called I'm not your inspiration. Thank you very much. And, um, uh, long story short, like she ended the, her Ted talk with this amazing quote that says disability doesn't make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does. And that's kind of the concept that I've always had whenever interacting with people is like, it's, most of it comes from miseducation or just no education around disability or race or any of these really, really tricky topics that a lot of people tend to skirt around and don't want to feel uncomfortable during. So that's kind of where I've always fallen. I'm like, look, these, the folks that are saying these things and doing these things are just completely unaware of a massive population, just because I personally think because of the lack of representation that we have in society, like if we did quote unquote normalized disability, because disability is part of the ecosystem is part of humanity. Speaker 0 00:21:55 People would understand one how to communicate with folks with disabilities pretty much the same that they would communicate with their friends instead of pitying them, they would treat them like humans treat us like humans. So it's like, you know, just that lack of education, lack of representation, lack of leadership that we have, or we have access to is a huge part in providing that educational aspect to a lot of folks that might not know how to treat us and, you know, create this concept of normal behind, you know, or yeah. Create this concept of normal for themselves where normal is pretty much a perspective. It really doesn't matter who you are. Everyone is normal. So, you know, it's just how we treat each other. My number one rule is just not to cause harm to people and otherwise just be who you want to be for the most part, you know, and try to try to help interdependently in our ecosystem, but also be autonomous to who you are. Speaker 0 00:22:57 So that's kinda, um, that's kind of where I'm at and my concept of normal and like what goes through my brain when someone, you know, kind of tries to skirt around it or is uncomfortable about talking about it or whatever. It's just, you know, that lack of understanding is where, what I lean on and I don't, I tend to not get mad anymore. Um, I used to, you know, very recent recently in my life, but, um, kind of shift and reframe that perspective to be like, Hey, like I've had connections to all of these communities because of the identity that I am. A lot of people, one actually do technically still have access to those communities, but don't prioritize reaching out to them or connecting with them in a human level. So how can I try to bridge the gap between that too, now that I can navigate between the two for the most part? Um, so yeah, that's kinda, that's kind of where I'm at. Speaker 1 00:24:04 Thank you. And I don't know if you've read the book disability visibility and it's done my Alice Wong and it's a collection of stories of notable disability, justice and rights, and just disabled people. I just started reading it. And, uh, in the first excerpt, it talks about this idea of the, kind of that feeling, sorry for yourself and that imagery of the disabled kid on the beach that can't go around and play with the quote normal kids or the non-disabled kids and that feeling of isolation and feeling like you're different and kind of wishing that you could go out and do all the normal things that a normal able-bodied child could do. And I love their response that she gave was that she was the happiest little kid sitting there on the beach, just building her drizzle castles. And I kind of want to talk a little bit more about how you internalize when Pete, cause I know you said you don't really get angry anymore, but how did you internalize that idea of, um, you are happy with being, having one leg and skiing adaptively, but you don't have two legs. Right. You know, it's just that difference of how do you normalize that you are happy in skiing the way that you ski or doing the things that you do having one leg. Speaker 0 00:25:44 Yeah. Um, I don't know, for me it was, it's not about these activities per se, like, you know, yeah. I keep saying that I'm a skier and a runner and whatever, but like it's, for me, it's that feeling that I get from these sports and activities, you know, it's the feeling that I, I get from skiing, um, a steep line or skiing with my friends that feel a sense of community or a sense of thrill that what we call flow state to be, be able to feel that slight sense of freedom and kind of like a autobody, inner body experience where like you're fully focused a hundred percent in, there's nothing else on your mind, you know, it's like things like, Oh, when's the next bill I gotta pay or whatever, you know, like none of that stuff is on your mind. You are in the moment and yeah, that's kinda, that's kinda the feeling that I'm always attracted to when I'm doing any of these activities. Speaker 0 00:26:41 And I noticed that with a lot of the students and skiers that we and athletes that we skied with at Vermont adaptive and Eagle Mount, like, you know, day in and day out. And, you know, I, I can only assume that you run into able the systems as well. Um, that, you know, I've always run into people, questioning me or looking me up and down and like judging me and having, you know, like already pre like presumptive or having assumptions made about me. So it's like, you know, that sense of freedom has taken away that sense of like ownership over my own body is taken away to a certain extent. So, uh, within these sports, I feel that more embodiment that ownership over my own body. And I, I noticed that with the students as well, that I was, um, skiing with is like, they had the same feeling of like, you know, day in and day out. Speaker 0 00:27:40 They throw these tantrums, they throw these different ways of communicating with their teachers, their peers, or caregivers, their parents. But when they're on the Hill, they are like in it, they're in this moment, they're enjoying their time on the Hill. They're human they're, you know, being themselves there, they have that sense of freedom, which is amazing. So that, that slight slight sense that's like feeling is what has attracted me and made me realize like, look like disability is again, part of our ecosystem. It's part of who humans are. We are incredibly, we are an incredibly resilient community as a disability community. And we have been around through, you know, societal eugenics, you know, institutionalization, all these horrible things that have happened within our communities, this full spectrum of disability. And we're still here. We're still kicking. We're still, we still have a growing community, a growing voice to be able to fight for our rights and the rights of so many others. Speaker 0 00:28:50 And, you know, that's, that's where I'm at when it comes to it is like we are so powerful as a collective and reading. I haven't read that book yet. It's on my reading list, but you know, reading other disability, justice advocates talk like this as well is like incredibly humbling and incredibly empowering and motivating for me to, to continue to do this work. Even if it is exhausting, it's just, you know, it motivates me to keep moving forward that, to build that table, maybe even carve it, carve out the seat that we always needed for folks with disabilities, for folks of color, for indigenous folks, for queer folks, you know, just to be at the table, provide that representation, provide that education for folks to be able to normalize everyone day in and day out instead of judging them and feel, making them feel excluded Speaker 1 00:29:40 Disability, community and voices and advocacy is certainly growing. Uh, I think I've seen it more in the last year, especially with the rise in social and human right injustices, especially with COVID happening, um, with the rise of racial injustices, there's an intersectionality piece of disability in everyone, whether it's firsthand or secondhand. And I remember seeing, you know, all the black lives matters movements and hashtags, and then it, I started seeing an inflow of disabled black lives matter and disabled trans lives matter. And all these other hashtags that add onto the intersectionality piece and that we are such a colorful world, all different shapes and sizes and abilities. And it's the image that I keep going back to is in your presentation that I listened to a few weeks ago, was that very colorful wheel of privilege and where you're at with disability being white or colored, or your gender, your expression. Can you speak more about the privilege aspect of disability and race and how that impacts you? Speaker 0 00:31:03 Yeah, definitely. So, yeah, there's definitely been a giant uprising and revolution within a lot of these spaces, which is awesome. It's sad to see that 50% of the black lives that are being affected by police brutality have disabilities of some sort, whether that's neurodivergence or other kinds of cognitive disabilities or mental health illnesses as well. So that's that, that breaks my heart and just understanding like how and like how we can prioritize that in our movements. You know, I'm, I'm always under the impression that when we elevate the most marginalized, those most effected by these systems, we elevate everyone in the system, not just those folks, you know, if we uplift everyone, that's at the bottom, we're going to uplift those at the top as well. We're all part of that system. We're all part of it. So that's kind of where I'm at, but based on my personal identity, I do identify as a person of color. Speaker 0 00:32:09 I identify with specifically ethnically identify in the Asian-American Pacific Islander category, quote unquote category, and I'm technically South Asian American. So Indian American, and yes, we definitely get affected by racism. I definitely get affected by racism, but not at the same exorbitant level as, um, my black peers and my black relatives or my indigenous peers and relatives, especially in the U S given the history of the U S based around slavery, genocide, land loss, all of that stuff. So, you know, I definitely still compared on that spectrum of privilege within one skin color, as well as race and ethnicity, um, lie more on the edge of privileged than not, or then marginalized I'd say, because I am fairly lighter skinned, I am Indian American and, you know, don't get as affected by some of those racial, um, systems as again, my black and indigenous peers do. Speaker 0 00:33:24 So there is a privilege in that. And, you know, based on that, I'm always, always, always trying to elevate and celebrate those that do fall in those margins, through the work I do, because I do have that privilege. It's never, I personally think, you know, privilege is not a bad thing to have as long as you're able to leverage and mobilize it, if you're continually hoarding it and fairly egotistical and narcissistic about it, and only trying to empower yourself or those that look like you, then like, yeah, then it's a bad thing. But when you're trying to elevate everyone, share that privilege, share that power that comes with that privilege. Then, you know, that's, that's when we start really leveraging it, mobilizing it, using it as a tool to uplift our communities, same goes with my disability. I personally believe that I fall under the, the spectrum of lower needs, lower support needs within the disability spectrum. Speaker 0 00:34:31 And, uh, which pretty much means that I don't, I can live fairly independently within an, a system without too many needs for resources. So I don't really need a ramp. I don't really need other people helping me with finances or education or healthcare. I can ma I can navigate all of that stuff on my own for the most part. And I know that, you know, on the other end of that spectrum, there are folks that need to have higher support needs and have a much difficult time being financially stable, being able to access certain resources, either physically or, you know, educationally or the healthcare system and anything like that. So trying to uplift those people as much as possible through the work I do and the power that I hold with, the privileges that I have. So that's, that's kinda where I'm at. Speaker 1 00:35:26 Hm. Thanks for sharing that and talking about your needs, being lower on the spectrum, like how you, I think you phrased it as a spectrum there's high and there's low and living independently and not need it not needing at least right now, or maybe never the services to be supported. Um, I think for me, I'm kind of in the more middle ground, you know, I use a wheelchair. So obviously the built environment has to be designed in a way that supports my needs. And, but as far as personally, like I, I live independently, I eat out a lot. So other people make my food family makes food every once in a while, how much I'm very thankful for. But other than that, like I feed myself, feed myself, you know, all those daily activities. Um, it's, it's interesting in the film camp. Oh, a disability revolution. If you haven't watched it, it's absolutely incredible on Netflix, but describes that disability hierarchy. And how, w what was it, the, um, the polios or where are they at the top? It's been a minute since I watched it. Speaker 0 00:36:43 Um, I actually, haven't watched either it's on my list to watch, which is, uh, yeah, I'm excited to watch it. I know it's been out for awhile. I just keep getting sidetracked. I love that there's more representation of folks with disabilities in media and marketing. And, um, I mean, again, as I was saying before, that's, what's going to normalize us all. You know, we are all normal beings. We just have to start acting like it and communicating and behaving with each other to be normal beings and treating each other like humans. Speaker 1 00:37:20 Right. I think to some extent, though, I sometimes do feel a normal or not normal or ordinary, and trying to fit into the mold of quote, whatever normal is. But at the same time, I really like having that bold mindset of breaking those barriers and breaking down the walls. But there always are people that, that try to bring you back and conform to society. And one thing that I can think of vividly, cause I get this often, I don't know if he got this, but people like to pray for me to cast away my muscular dystrophy and to gas away, uh, all bad things, pain or whatever I have. And I don't, I it's hard for me to settle with that, whether or not I like it, or I don't like it. Uh, have you had that experience and how do you feel Speaker 0 00:38:20 Had the experience with people praying for me? Speaker 1 00:38:23 Yeah. Praying for you to bring back a leg or to cast away your pain or whatever, bad things that are happening to you. Speaker 0 00:38:32 Oh yeah. I mean, I live in Montana, which is fairly Christian, so, um, yeah, not, I don't run into it on a daily basis, but maybe like monthly or bi-weekly or something, definitely get some random strangers on the street. Let's say like, say something like that. I just got to roll my eyes and I'm like, really, okay, I'm not a star, I'm not a starfish. Like I'm not going to grow my life back. Or, you know, like, no matter how much I want to be when I was younger, like, I am very much capable and independent and I love my life with a disability. It's opened so many doors and, you know, help connected me with so many amazing individuals like yourself to be like, to be able to share our narratives. So, no, I mean, yeah, I do get that. And I get that quote that, um, Stella young said at the end of her Ted talk has definitely got me. Speaker 0 00:39:28 And it's just like definitely, um, part of my psyche now, anytime someone brings any kind of thing like this, I'm like, you just don't know do is more like where my brain goes and like, all right, cool. Like, you know, I like to share resources with people about disability, about race, about all these topics that I talk about and if they're open to reading them or, um, you know, taking it in and actively listening great. But if they're not, then I really can't help in that sense. I'm like, okay, well, you know, try to expand your narrative to a different population. You don't want to listen to it then I can't really help you listen. You're the only one that has that option and hour in control of yourself. So yeah, that's kind of, that's again, Speaker 1 00:40:20 I know she talks about, you know, not being your inspiration and I get that a lot. People coined me as you're so inspirational and I kind of struggle with that as well and internalizing that because I don't think I want to be anyone's inspiration because that would mean that you're placing disability on a pedestal as if it's a bad thing and that you've owned and that I've overcome it as if I have to overcome it in order to thrive. And so I kind of wrestled with that. I would much rather people listen to the narrative that I speak and all this, all these guests that I bring on this podcast and help to shift that mindset from disability. Isn't something to overcome, you know, especially if you were born with a disability or required it very early on in life, that's all, you know, versus if you were to have a disability and acquire that later on in life, generally those stories tend to be more triumphant and then learning to adapt to that new found life. And yeah, I kind of just want to hear what you think about that. Speaker 2 00:41:46 Yeah. Inspiration is such a loaded term. It's evolved so much over time and I am, you know, I'm on one, one end. I'm like, okay, this person, okay. Might not know much about disability culture and their use of inspiration and their intentions are fully good and they're not trying to harm anyone, but on the other end, because they're unaware of the word evolution, like it's kind of harmful to people with disabilities. I personally think, you know, the use of inspiration is objectifying. As you said, putting us on a pedestal of trying to assimilate to enable a system. It's like, Oh cool. They overcame their disability and now can navigate such enabling system. Now that's bullshit to me, sorry for the language, but that's, uh, that's not what I'm going for. I'm not trying to assimilate to unable to system. What I'm trying to do is dismantle enable a system and I need your help doing that. Speaker 2 00:42:50 Because then, then when I see someone actually active, activating their privilege, their able privilege and, you know, putting their words to action to dismantle such an A-plus system, then yes, I can be inspirational to you. Like that's where I'm at. I'm like, okay, am I actually inspirational to you just to get you off your ass to go run up a mountain? Like I just did, or am I grateful to you to help me break down this able a system that I'm continually fighting against? Um, you know, like if, if I am inspirational, then you know, be with me in solidarity to work, to create more universally designed spaces for folks with disabilities, make more inclusive spaces for folks with disabilities. Like I am like, I want you to be in this fight with me. Um, instead of, you know, I'm not an inspiration, I don't want people without disabilities to feel good about themselves. That's not my point with my story. You know, that's, that's completely the opposite. Like what I want is people without disabilities to be in this movement with us to fight with us, to make sure we don't have to say black, black, disabled lives matter. You know, we all do matter. And when black disabled lives actually matter, that's when we will start uplifting and stop thinking of disabled folks as inspirational and then, you know, stop objectifying them in that sense. Speaker 1 00:44:22 Um, yeah, Speaker 2 00:44:24 I could go on and on about that word, I've talked to a lot of other athletes about it and they're most of them, especially, I guess like the, you know, gen X-ers millennials and maybe the even younger don't really like it, it's just a problematic word in the industry, in the community. Speaker 1 00:44:49 Yeah. I think what you're describing also of gathering people to dismantle enable a society that is a example of the social justice model for how people view disability. So there's different models of disability, which I'm sure you, you know, there's the medical model, which says that, you know, all, all diseases should be cured and they view that through that lens. And then there's the, um, uh, blanking on the other one. Oh, the tragedy model, which is, or, sorry, it's the charity model. And it views people as a charity case. And that feels sorry for them. But what you're really talking about is that social justice model of seeing barriers, forming allies, and working to remove those barriers, to elevate, empower people with disabilities. And really when you're doing that, like, cause what you go back to what you said earlier was when you help to elevate the most marginalized groups or individuals, you then are benefiting everyone. Speaker 2 00:46:02 Yeah. And that's, that's the whole concept behind universal design is like, okay, yes. Universal design does help people disabilities. Yes. But it also helps everyone in the system. So like the metaphor that I like to use, and there's a great photo about it is, is there's a school building is a ton of children's didn't, you know, being, um, standing outside and the janitor is shoveling the snow. And Speaker 1 00:46:31 I use this all the time. Speaker 2 00:46:32 Right. So it's the janitor shoveling the snow on the stairs and there's a kid in a wheelchair. He's like, Hey, can you just shovel? Can you, can you shovel the, um, Bram and the genders like, Oh, I'll get to the ramp when, uh, I finished the stairs and the kid responds like, well, if you shovel the ramp, then all of us can get in. Not just so folks without disabilities. So, you know, that's the, that's the metaphorical concept behind universal design is like, it's not just meant for people with disabilities. It's not for everyone. And when we uplift everyone, it will create a more resilient community. We'll start, including everyone, make everyone feel normal, not feel like they need to be preyed upon or whatever called inspirational or all these strange things that happened to us. So that's, that's where I'm at. Speaker 1 00:47:27 And kind of one final question that I have about you as a professional skier. And obviously you have one leg, do you classify yourself as do you just say, I've asked you and I'm a skier. Do you say I'm an adaptive skier? And he say, I'm a Paralympic skier. Like what is the Robert term? And what, what should we, how should we be changing our mind to remove the word adaptive or special or whatever, and just say, you know, I've asked you and I ski, you know, why does it have to be, I'm an adaptive skier? Do you like that word? Speaker 2 00:48:06 Yeah. Yeah. This is always a heated topic. So I think it really depends on who I'm talking to, but for the most part I intro or I create an intro of like, Hey, my name is bossy. I'm a professional skier. Um, obviously if someone is looking at me visually, there'll be like, Oh, and you have a disability. Like I don't have to personally say that I have a very, very visual disability, whether they're like, Oh cool. You're a professional skier. You're also an adaptive skier then. Right. Is probably I'm assuming is probably what's going on in their brain. And of course, like most of them jumped to like, Oh, are you in the Paralympics? What do you compete at? And I'm like, nah, I just mostly do media and marketing. So yeah. That's, that's, you know, that's the idea of representation is like, the representation can just be visual. Speaker 2 00:48:52 Like it can just be like, Oh, cool. Last do he's a skier. Oh, look, he has a disability that still qualifies him as a skier. You know? Like, and that's the same thing as like, Oh, by suit, he has a disability, but it also qualifies me as a human too. So it's like, okay, we gotta put people first. Um, we got to put, you know, like, yeah, we just, that's where I'm at. It's like always trying to put people first. A lot of people are suffering when we don't and yeah. Even something as small as that kind of phrasing helps in that sense. Speaker 1 00:49:29 Mm well, Vasu the skier, the professional skier. Thank you so much for your time. And sweet. We talked about a wide range of topics and the journey of where you were realizing that you were like, I don't want this prosthetic leg it's causing me a lot of problems. Not only did it create some trauma early on what you were describing, but you wanted to create a life for yourself that was breaking down the evilest system and gathering allies and then empowering others by showcasing that you can do this. And I mean, I'm not saying that this is quote inspirational, but it does go back to realizing that you're dealt with a set of cards and then learning how to create the life that is for you. And can you speak to just where people can find, you maybe drop some names of other disability, justice, Instagram accounts that you follow, that you enjoy seeing their content as well. Speaker 0 00:50:45 Yeah, definitely. So, yeah. Thank you so much for having me on here. Yeah. So if you want to follow along, I try to share a lot of resources on my own personal Instagram. I've realized that social media, yes. It's also on a spectrum of creating a lot of harm, but it's also on the other hand causing a lot of good as well of sharing of that like resource exchange. So I, I try to use it in that sense of, you know, sharing resources, like expanding the narrative of what disability might be to people, what humanity might people, what race might be to people. So yeah, on my social media it's bus to underscore. So G tra and then a lot of the folks that I try to embody in my work are a ton of other disability, justice advocates. So Mia Mingus is a big one that I really like to follow Chella, man. Speaker 0 00:51:40 He is a, uh, trans deaf advocate. And then, uh, let's see who else, queer nature. Um, they are trans indigenous man. Uh, neurodivergent amazing, amazing human, um, autistic, Julia, she, or they, sorry, create different resources on their website. They have an amazing one around ablest language and ways to avoid uses of like words like insane or crazy or psychotic all these things that we try to use in day-to-day language. So yeah, those are, those are some really cool folks that I've been connected to and listening to and engaging with and just trying to expand my narrative on what it means to have a disability. Speaker 1 00:52:36 Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And train those Instagram accounts accounts, because I'm definitely going to follow them because I just love learning more. Speaker 0 00:52:44 Awesome. Well, yeah. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it. Speaker 1 00:52:50 Thank you friends for listening. Please rate and follow this podcast or text card at (470) 588-1215 with comments and suggestions tune in next week for another disability topic.

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