“My whole life has been spent desiring representation for disabled people, specifically people that look like me with feeding tubes, facial differences, and tracheostomy tubes. When I was growing up, my parents participated in a support group for families with kids who had craniofacial differences, so several times a year, I saw kids that looked like me.
After attending special education preschool, I really didn’t see anyone like me. I grew up in public school, participating in Girl Scouts, basketball, karate, and other various clubs and extracurricular activities, but never interacting with other disabled people. I knew of Special Olympics, but I didn’t ever fit their criteria, either logistically or self-imposed. Honestly, this didn’t bother me, I didn’t feel like I was lacking, not being with people who looked like me, or experienced surgeries at the rate I did.
In college, I met one of my lifelong best friends, Ashley, who has cerebral palsy, and I interacted with other disabled students, but still didn’t meet anyone exactly similar to myself. I was grateful to connect with other students who lived and moved around a world and society built for able-bodied people. We all had things we wished the world accommodated, or knew, about and for us. For myself, I wished I wasn’t stared at everywhere I went, and I wished my world was built to accommodate feeding tubes.
Several years ago I started a fitness Instagram because I didn’t know any other disabled women in the fitness industry. Starting that account quickly opened my eyes up to adaptive fitness and an entire world I didn’t know existed. I’ve been able to learn and experience and virtually meet so many incredible athletes and share my journey. In 2020, I had the experience of walking the runway in a fashion show and representing disabled women in fashion, something that is also lacking in our society. I certainly don’t represent all disabled athletes or disabled models, far from it, but even if one person got to see a glimpse of themselves in me, it’s all been worth it.
By no means have I conquered the fitness or fashion world, but my sights are set on a new venture. I am entering the world as a disabled entrepreneur. In 2020, my husband and I started a small business, Hannah’s Handcrafted, making high-quality elderberry products. We are a husband and wife duo based in Richmond, Virginia. We sell homemade elderberry products. Our syrup is Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services certified and made from scratch with the finest ingredients, many of them local to Virginia.
In a strange turn of events, I have reaped the benefits of mask-wearing while selling my products, essentially hiding the majority of my disability behind masks and looking like everyone else. My husband and I have big hopes and dreams of opening a brick-and-mortar store in 2022 in our town of Powhatan, Virginia. While researching and dreaming large dreams of our future coffee shop/local market co-op, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what it’s like to be a disabled business owner.
Personally, I don’t know any other disabled business owners. So badly I want everyone, especially the next generation, to know they can dream the largest of dreams and work hard to make them come true.
Disabled people can be doctors, models, astronauts, business owners, moguls, authors, and whatever else they can dream-if they want to! This is not an essay shaming anyone or obligating anyone to have larger-than-life dreams or pursue things they don’t want, but an offering of hope all our dreams are possible. The world may not be built for disabled people, but we are aiming to change that. Our coffee shop and co-op are going to be awesome, but the part I’m most excited about is a fenced-in totally accessible playground for disabled and able-bodied kids. These playgrounds exist, usually in large cities, but there is certainly not one in our town so we are here to build it.
We currently have a GoFundMe set up so if you want to help make the world a more accessible place, please help us. We believe this space will be a community hub of meeting new people, learning, and we hope to be representative of all abilities, genders, races, and religions.
I grew up not knowing disabled people, not feeling represented in the places I shopped, the shows I watched, and activities I did. Hopefully making the world, and my little town, more accessible will afford others the opportunities I never had. Thank you so much for your support, every bit helps make the world more inclusive and helps this disabled woman’s dreams come true and paves the way for others!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hannah Setzer. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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