Teen girls with disabilities get to writing: Learn about Girl Fuse
Alisa: Tell us about the inspiration for the new initiative Girl Fuse from Teen Voices to have articles written for and by girls living with disabilities
Katina: There was something captivating about the piece because I realized out of all the stories I’ve helped tell about teen girls, having a disability was one issue I completely overlooked. Maybe I thought I was doing them a favor by seeing them as more than their disability? Whatever it was I needed to rectify the situation and thought of this initiative, which was graciously funded by NBCUniversal Foundation, which was specifically geared to get these stories out there.Working with the amazing Dr. Danielle Sheypuk was obvious choice for us to create a project with the disability community, not only about them.
Alisa: What is the vision for Girl Fuse?
Dr. Sheypuk: Girl Fuse is about providing a platform for teen girls with physical disabilities from all over the world to unite and share their stories with each other and with everyone else. In the gaining momentum of the disability rights movement, it is important not to forget our teens with disabilities. It is difficult to be a teenager period, but throw a disability into the picture and it is that much harder. Giving our teen girls with a disability a voice will help in dissolving negative stereotypes, empowering a frequently looked over group, and adding a positive force to the disability rights movement.
Alisa: Dr. Sheypuk, how has your experience having been a teen girl with a disability inform the need for a space like this?
Dr. Sheypuk: As a teen with a disability, I felt very much alone. I did not know anyone else in a wheelchair and my “ableism” was at full-throttle. I made every attempt to “be like all the other kids,” downplaying and ignoring my disability as much as possible. Although I had many friends and a very active teenage life, I also felt left out of many important aspects of life that become relevant as you move through the teenage years, like dating and sexuality.
This is my hope for Girl Fuse. Teens can discuss these issues, gain an acceptance of their disability, increase their self-esteem and know that life can be amazing.
Alisa: What kind of topics would you like to see discussed and covered at Girl Fuse?
Katina & Dr. Sheypuk: We want to see it all discussed!
Dr. Sheypuk: Really no topic is off our radar as along as it pertains to an issue experienced by teen girls with physical disabilities, so reach out to us if you have an idea. We’d love stories on dating and sexuality, what it’s like having a personal care assistant/nurse go with you to school, body-image issues and physical health, socializing and friends, what to do after high school, and thoughts about motherhood.
Alisa: What do you believe is the importance of teen girls with disabilities being their own experts in their own lives?
Dr. Sheypuk: Obtaining a sense of agency as a teen is a normal aspect of human development. Every teen wants to feel a sense of control over their own bodies and their lives as well as a sense of freedom and independence. This is exactly the same for teen girls with disabilities and one of the main reasons that we launched this disability initiative. Directing the narrative of their own lives, as opposed to it being told by a family member or caregiver, is crucial to feeling empowered and confident.
Alisa: If our readers want to get more involved in this initiative how can they?
Katina: We are always looking for teen writers so please share information about writing for Teen Voices to the teens you know. Any female-identified 13-19 year old can join our writers database; they just need to email email@example.com to get the ball rolling. People can like us and follow us on social media (@teenvoices or on Facebook). We also have a weekly update people can sign up to receive. Read our stories and share them. And if you think what we are doing is important, then please donate to help us support more teen girls #BeHeard.
Alisa: What does Diversability mean to you?
Dr. Sheypuk: We want every teen girl with a disability to feel empowered, strong, and fabulous. To us, this is the essence of Diversability and we proudly stand behind this positive global movement for change.
To get involved email firstname.lastname@example.org and visit Girl Fuse.