Disabled Eliza The cost of being a disabled voice online
Eliza is such a strong voice in the disability community. They are a ball of positivity, educating their audience on what it is like to be disabled. Peta and Eliza chat about what it is like to share your life online and the challenges that come with that.
Representation is so important and Eliza is such a fantastic asset to both the LGBTQI and disabled communities.
You can find more of Eliza's content here:
Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to the @icantstandpodcast, the podcast answering your questions on what life is like when you have a disability. My name is Peta. I have cerebral palsy. And just like every week, I'm your host. This week I have a very exciting guest. Their name is Eliza, and they're known as Disabled Eliza on Instagram and Tik Tok, with over 50000 followers on Instagram and 60000 on Tik Tok. What is it like to be disabled and have this sort of reach that Eliza has? Disabled people have never had the opportunities as we do now. We can now rate so many people. A is a prime example of that. I've never seen such strong personal branding either. You don't often come across someone with rainbow hair, do you? So without any further ado, let's hand over to Eliza.
Eliza [00:01:14] Hi, I'm Eliza. I am a disabled person. My pronouns, they them and I make content all about disability awareness and LGBTQ plus positivity.
Peta [00:01:28] Do you consider yourself to be a disability advocate?
Eliza [00:01:33] Yeah, I guess so, I think that was quite a I guess loaded word, because I like to make it very clear that I'm like one disabled person with my opinion. I don't speak for all disabled people, and there's definitely people that have different opinions in my comment section, and that is a really diverse community. But a lot of my work is focussed around disability and educating people about what it's like to be disabled were able ISM is helping people, maybe online those biases that they have. The disabled influences content creators that came before me. I learnt so much from them. I wouldn't be calling myself disabled, probably if I hadn't had watched their content because before I kind of found Instagram and found, I guess, that part of the internet, I was quite ashamed of my conditions.
Peta [00:02:27] It's definitely helped me in sharing my content like, yes, I have several palsy, I have an obvious disability, I'm an electric wheelchair every day, but there's lots of things to my disability that I'm even learning still today through interactions, particularly with people online going, Oh, it's not just me. It's not just a funny little quirk of my personality. It's actually to do with my disability. Can you relate to that?
Eliza [00:02:52] Yeah, definitely. There are so many times where I think about things that I just think are just the way that I am or it's just my personality or is just my body. And then I'll kind of step back and be like, Oh, yeah, actually, no, that's a struggle. And it's because of my conditions. For me, I've had over the last kind of, I guess, three ish years I've been hit with a lot of diagnosis that feel really back-to-back and I don't personally share my diagnosis publicly that much. That's partly a just a safety thing because of the internet and how it's definitely not all safe, unfortunately. But I think when you are getting diagnosis is kind of, you know, really regularly. It's really hard because you just are like, Oh, here's another one like, fine, it's fine. Or just, you know, I'll keep going, and then another symptom will occur. And then I'm kind of like, you know, I just we'll find out what's going on with this. And sometimes I have symptoms that I just will think. I just don't have the energy to try and find out what it is and really try and like, get the medical attention. In the U.K., I'm really lucky to have the NHS and it is a great system. But with COVID at the moment, it's really under pressure and it makes it really difficult to be able to access healthcare. And it just does take so much energy, all the medical admin or the attending appointments for the tests that you don't know if they're going to give answers and and all of that. And I think it's really important to, I guess, be aware of your self and that it's OK to rest and take time for yourself. And then, you know, it's OK to acknowledge when something's hard. It doesn't have to just be all about, keep going. It's time, it's fine to take time for yourself.
Peta [00:04:42] Looking purely at the content you create, you're so active, you so efficient. How do you balance having a disability and being so fantastic at what you do?
Eliza [00:04:55] I'm very lucky I have quite a lot of support at home, so my partner at the moment basically works with me, so I have help at home to create content. I've become very good at bulk filming, so most of the time when I'm posting content, I haven't worked that day because I can probably only have about three or four work hours in a day, I would say. I think I'm very work driven and I really enjoy work, but I wasn't coping with full time work, and when I was in full time work, it was just really, really awful in every way. Where they used to have like hot water bottles placed in loads of different parts of my body and I just sit there wishing the time away and then I'd go home and I had to travel in every day and it was a good like 45 minute commute. And I'd get home and I just fall asleep and then I'd be back at work the next day. So it felt like all I did was work. Whereas now I think it really helps. I'm at home, I'm my own boss. I don't have anybody telling me what to do. And that really helps me to be able to carry on making content. I have a lot of help and yeah, I'm very lucky to be in that position to be able to do that because I know that's not accessible for everyone.
Peta [00:06:18] I have to commend you like you, and I know the internet isn't real life, so I say this with trepidation, but you seem awfully confident in who you are and your identity. Has that always been the case and what advice do you have for people, regardless of whether they have a disability or not? In gaining confidence for themselves?
Eliza [00:06:42] So I think that partly it's because my parents worked really, really hard on kind of ensuring that I was confident, but the reason that they did that is because I was behaving badly in school. Being bullied is never going to make you feel great. And I guess a lot of it is seeing the disabled community and seeing how many people are proud of who they are. And I guess finding that community after feeling so different for so long and feeling just really left out, I kind of found the community where I fitted in because the reason I was being bullied is because I was disabled. I was seen as different or I couldn't spell or I couldn't write or I didn't fit into social situations and all of those things. So I think finding the community is a big of a big part of my confidence growth. In 2019 actually became really unwell with OCD, really, really, really unwell and was just not really functioning. And I went through a lot of therapy during that time and that really helped me to unpack the idea that work is my worth and now I really don't see it as that. And I when I was in 2019, when I was working a full time job, I was really, really low confidence because I wasn't doing particularly well in the job and I felt that I wasn't good at what I was doing and I'd chosen their own career and all of these different things. And then I guess when I kind of started to unlearn that, which is a lot easier said than done, that really helped my confidence as well. And I think I am impacted a lot more by the negativity, by experience online than I think I perceive to my following because it does scare me. A lot of the negativity does scare me. And I think it's important to be aware of that, that even if somebody looks really confident online, it doesn't necessarily reflect how they feel all the time.
Peta [00:08:35] Well, as someone that's only started as a disability advocate for about a year, I can only imagine what you've gone through online and that does scare me quite a lot. Can you tell me from a personal perspective, how do you go about dealing with negative comments in the hype
Eliza [00:08:54] and that sort of thing? So mainly it's just putting in precautions and actually work a lot on this with my therapist in our sessions is kind of putting the precautions in before they take place is the first kind of step. So kind of have words that blocked that people can't come in, that don't come up, that you don't see them, not always scrolling in the kind of notifications area, not looking for hate comments about you. The second thing for me is, I guess not engaging. So just blocking and then I guess also in terms of you're never going to be able to stop or hate or forums, you know? I'm sure I've been posted on multiple different forums saying that I'm faking being disabled or whatever, but I think it's important to acknowledge that it's OK to feel upset and angry by somebody being horrible to you. And I had a really interesting conversation with somebody the other day where we were talking about the fact that people kind of say, like, Well, if you post on the internet, you should expect negative comments. I don't actually agree with that because I don't think anybody should expect to necessarily problematic things that deserve to be called out. You shouldn't expect to receive just horrible comments purely about you just by posting on the internet. It's a difficult world to navigate. I think it's social media is amazing, and I think it brings so much good, but it does also bring negative spaces that balance, isn't it?
Peta [00:10:26] I feel like you would know better than a lot of people just by the reach that you have. What do you think people don't understand about disability today? What's something that you wish people better understood about disability?
Eliza [00:10:41] Something really interesting happened to me the other day when I was I went, I was coming home from an appointment and my partner wanted a coffee and we just kind of found this coffee shop. And there was people sat outside. It was three separate groups of people and I had my wheelchair and that was a step, so I couldn't get in. Obviously, I am able to walk short distances, so if I really wanted to get in, I could have got out my chair and walked in. But my partner was just getting a takeaway coffee, so it was fine. And obviously not everybody can get out their wheelchair and walk in. Three separate groups of people were so horrified at the fact they can get into the shop and they were like, I can't believe they don't have around, you could easily go run that there's loads of room for I'm there, and I was really taken aback that these people were so shocked that there was no ramp there. And I was like, This happens all the time. Like, This is not weird. And I just, I guess I just hadn't quite realised how little people who maybe don't have mobility issues or don't know about the disabled community realise how much we are impacted by inaccessibility. And I was really shocked I was just like, do you not realise that this is pretty much everywhere you go that there is, you know, it's inaccessible and they were just like, Oh, I'd never even thought about it before because never seen a wheelchair user be unable to get into places. You know, we'd already seen wheelchairs. I went about and I was like, Well, partly because the world isn't accessible. There's just so much that non-disabled people and people that don't have mobility issues or whatever aren't aware of the community death don't realise because they're not taught about it. And when something doesn't impact you, you don't think about it. It's just like the list is just endless for me. I think that is important to, I guess, just be aware of how little society thinks about disabled people, and I guess I'm trying to show people that in small chunks how we can think about it.
Peta [00:12:50] So if I had a magic wand and you could create an accessible space for yourself, what would that look like?
Eliza [00:12:57] For me, obviously, Rams left would be great having kind of lower bars and stuff so I can like water myself a drink without being really small. Great. Yeah, I think just something that is in to kind of loud and isn't too bright as well. It kind of has. I really enjoy music and dancing and things, but nothing too kind of loud and overwhelming with lots of people around. Having food food is a big one for me. Food is really hard now. Finding like coeliac safe food is really, really hard. Accessible toilets as well. And I guess it would be great if spaces could be adapted to different people, can we have spaces that adapt? I'd love that. And I guess for me with the pandemic, it kind of really confirmed to me that we can make things accessible because we did it overnight for non-disabled people when they had to work from home, just like disabled people asking for years and years and years to access. So I wish that we just, I guess, hire disabled people, multiple disabled people to be involved in designing accessible spaces because I think that that would be, yeah, we need to set lots of different people talking about their access needs to be able to make places as accessible as possible because a lot of spaces, I feel are designed by non-disabled people. And then accessibility is thought about afterwards rather than right at the beginning, which is where it should be. Make places accessible, wait, make workplaces accessible. The world will be so much better, if we did that, it would just be so, just so great.
Peta [00:14:51] What do you love about having a disability?
Eliza [00:14:55] Community, I think, is my main thing. I get messages sometimes from people that are kind of like, Oh, I've used my wheelchair for the first time because of the content, and that's so exciting to me and meeting other people that have the same experiences as me and how diverse the community is as well. I really I really like that and how hard we are all fighting, whether or not you're kind of doing disability activism or not. Nina Taine talks a lot about how just existing as a disabled person is so powerful, and I kind of agree that existing on a person's day is literally an act of rebellion. We are going against what society has, I guess, stood for in many ways. It feels like there is a long way to go, but I do feel that we are living in an exciting time where the community is being heard more than they were in the past, and it's definitely not going to happen overnight. But I, yeah, I'm just, I guess, so proud of the community for the work that we all do in existing and the amount of friends I've made that just I would have never managed without, you know, being disabled. I care a lot less about what people think about me now, and I've been able to really like guests, look into my style and how I present myself and who I am as a person and and all of those things, I don't know if I would have done if I wasn't disabled. And I'm a much more understanding person. You know what? I would be using my wheelchair if I didn't know about the community. Probably not. I'd just be struggling every day just, you know, not really going out. That would be what I would be doing. Or I'd only go out when I felt really, really good, which is like, what, once a month. So I'm able to experience life and able to do things like we went to gardens the other day and I was going around a lake and it was really muddy and I was getting a at myself and I just loved it because I'm just you. I wouldn't be able to do this without my chair anymore. And now I can, and that's so exciting.
Peta [00:17:09] I just think it's amazing to think you've only been doing this for a couple of years. I mean, I can't imagine where you'll be in five years or 10 years. It's just so exciting because I think more and more people will understand what it means to be living with a disability. So the future is your oyster.
Eliza [00:17:27] I love seeing the work that I've done and people in the community have done really being reflected, and I've seen this really recently in the UK. We have read emergency codes that are in the accessible toilets and they basically have to like dangle to the ground because people need to be able to pull them if they fall. But we tie a lot of them up, which is really annoying. And it's just people are not thinking about how that's a real access issue. And I I need to talk about it in a real about it, and lots of other people did as well. And there's some cars that you can get that you basically put on these codes that tell people to not to not tie them up and to untie them and keep them loose. Before this kind of started on TikTok, I would never see these cards that I didn't know that they existed. And now pretty much every time I go to the toilet in public, I see one. And that's so exciting because that is a complete reflection of social media and the work that people have done on social media. It's just exciting to see that reflection is being seen in everyday life, and that is directly from the work that the community has done online. I just get so excited when I see it because I'm just like, that was never there six months ago, and that is because of the fact that these tactics have gone by. I think I've got like two million views, which is so exciting to reach that many people. Yeah. And and then actually see that reflected in everyday life. So that gives me a bit of hope that what we're doing as a community is kind of being listened to and getting through.
Peta [00:19:01] I guess it's a physical example of your work, of something that you do every day that you know, sometimes you forget that people are watching, but it's a physical example that people are listening, watching and your voice is very loud and very proud and it's a credit to you. Congratulations on everything you've achieved. It's been such a pleasure talking to you today. Thank you so much for your time, Eliza.
Eliza [00:19:25] Thanks for having me.
Peta [00:19:29] Thank you for listening to my conversation with Eliza. I'll put all their social media links in the description. If you have a question for a future episode of the podcast that you'd like me to answer, there are three ways you can get in contact me one via my Instagram. My handle is at Peta Hook. It's about hate. I h. Okay. You can send me an email The I Can't Stand Podcast at gmail.com, or you can contact me through my website icantstandpodcast.com. And then two next week, guys, thank you for listening. Bye.