Nothing About Us Without Us is a conversation with #Fun4thedisabled’s Vanessa Harris, Chat Daddy, and Heidi B. They talk about people with a disability and how Vanessa Harris is telling their inspiring stories.
To watch with Closed-Captioning, click on the CC snippet beneath the video. If is underlined in RED, you will see the closed captioning!
[Transcript with visual descriptions: Video opens with a promotional graphic for a radio show Real Talk, Real People with Art “Chat Daddy” Sims on 1690 WVON. The graphic encourages the audience to tune in every week, Monday through Thursday from 6PM to 9PM CST. As the audio interview commences, a slideshow is shown featuring pictures of Vanessa, Art “Chat Daddy” Sims, and clips from Vanessa’s previous work and interviews.]
[Male Narrator] Live from the Xfinity studios at WVON. (We’re your original social media!) You’re listening to Art “Chat Daddy” Sims on The Talk of Chicago. 1690 WVON.
[Chat Daddy] For October is Disability Awareness Month. And you know disability rights are very near and dear to my heart and so tonight we have a wonderful guest, who’s here to talk to us about fun activities for those with disabilities! People must be engaged and entertained so here to tell us all about that is Vanessa A. Harris. She is a creator of disa– fun for–
[Vanessa] –Fun for the Disabled.
[Chat Daddy] Dot com.
[Chat Daddy] Yay! Big round of applause for the incredible Vanessa Harris! How are you?
[Vanessa] I’m fine, hi Chat Daddy.
[Chat Daddy] Good and have you met our wonderful co-host Heidi B?
[Heidi] Hi, welcome to the show!
[Vanessa] Thank you Heidi.
[Heidi] So happy to meet you.
[Chat Daddy] Ain’t she amazing?
[Vanessa] Yes she is.
[Chat Daddy] Okay, so Vanessa, tell us all about who you are, I found out you and I went to the same high school.
[Vanessa] Yeah, Luther South!
[Chat Daddy] Yes! Isn’t that amazing? You’re much younger than I, dear.
So I was there when it was a log cabin and uh I probably was the first negroid, no I’m just jokin’! But it was quite a while ago. But glad to have you here, so tell us all about yourself.
[Vanessa] Okay well, umm, I am a black female cancer survivor and wheelchair user.
[Chat Daddy] Wow, congratulations!
[Vanessa] Going strong, I’ve been a cancer survivor for 5 years.
[Heidi] That’s awesome.
[Chat Daddy] Yay! That’s beautiful. Fellow cancer survivor yes, beautiful. Alright!
[Vanessa] Yes. Not only did I go to Luther South, I went to Grinnell College and got my bachelors degree in chemistry, and my masters in environmental engineering from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana.
[Chat Daddy] Wow! Oh so you’re, you’re a lady doin’ it! You’re one of our BWISE sisters.
[Vanessa] Yes, I am! I am a member of BWISE!
[Chat Daddy] We love BWISE, they come here and hang out with us all the time. Black Women in Science and Engineering. Yes, very nice!
[Chat Daddy] Alright good, what else do we need to know about you?
[Vanessa] Well, um, before I retired I was an executive of an oil company and then I formed my own engineering consulting firm.
[Chat Daddy] Very nice.
[Heidi] So impressive.
[Chat Daddy] Wow, isn’t that impressive?
[Heidi] Wow, yes.
[Chat Daddy] Wow. And so Vanessa, you really are a true testament that no matter what the disability, you are able to succeed and do things in this world, and so what made you create the website?
[Vanessa] Well, um, I decided to do something as a second career, to leave a legacy as– while I’m alive. And so um, last year i was taking a documentary class and I did a video about an artist with an inclusive art exhibit. And that was my first video and when I talked to the artist she said she wanted her art exhibit to be, she contained it to be very inclusive to people with all kinds of disabilities so that her family could enjoy the exhibit. That really inspired me.
[Chat Daddy] And what a lot of people don’t realize is that you can have a visible, invisible, acquired disability.
[Chat Daddy] And so most people think that when they hear “disability” it’s something that people can see.
[Chat Daddy] But, but really it can be any form of a disability. And so this exhibit inspired you?
[Vanessa] Yes, it did.
[Chat Daddy] Really?
[Vanessa] It did, yeah.
[Chat Daddy] Okay, so is there a huge issue, uh, with people with disabilities having fun activities to do?
[Vanessa] There’s a lot of stigma associated with having a disability. Uhm, people tend to wanna set you aside, you know? And they don’t wanna have the things you need to have in order to operate in society. A lot of people feel isolated because they’re disabled. And what I wanna do in my website is to include everybody and have everyone know they are an integral part of society.
[Chat Daddy] Mhmm.
[Vanessa] Not in spite of their disability but because of who they are.
[Chat Daddy] Mhmm.
[Vanessa] At least 25% of the entire global population has some sort of disability.
[Heidi and Chat Daddy] Wow!
[Heidi] That’s a huge number.
[Chat Daddy] I didn’t know that.
[Heidi] That’s a huge number.
[Chat Daddy] Mhmm.
[Heidi] So is your– is your website mainly to let people know, these are the activities that are going on that are accessible for all?
[Vanessa] My website covers a lot of different areas. Umm, I’ve covered areas like professional wheelchair dancers.
[Chat Daddy] Oh wow, okay.
[Vanessa] I did a video about therapy horses. And that, the therapy horses are for just about anybody. I went onto that ranch, I was enthralled! I mean I really relaxed and when I came away from there I was really smiling. And it was really, it was a wonderful experience. And the therapy horses they, they visit locations all over the city of chicago. And those are miniature horses and donkeys. They are certified and their volunteers have to be certified to handle them and bring them into the public.
[Chat Daddy] Mhmm.
[Vanessa] Then I went to two other ranches that have full sized horses where people actually ride them or they groom them if they can’t ride them, or they ride in carriages. So I’m going to be doing a video about that I’m editing it right now.
[Chat Daddy] Very nice. And I recently saw a news story on one of the local stations here, where there’s actually a rock climbing wall for the disabled. And I was like thats so unique as well, I never thought about–
[Heidi] Right, I never thought about it.
[Chat Daddy] Right, and it was just the most beautiful story about, just, you know, people with disabilities and how they’re able to climb this wall and it gives them so much confidence. And, and just a self esteem booster, and all of that. So is it hard for you to find activities? Because you know there are some events that are not handicapped accessible.
[Chat Daddy] And I did not know that until I became a person with disability, like oh my God, there are just so many barriers out here. And it’s kind of hard being a man like myself, tell people look, I have to sit down or you know whatever, whatever cuz people won’t believe it.
[Vanessa] Mhmm. Yeah, there’s a lot of different activities you can get involved in. I try to include some of the events on my event calendar which is at fun4thediabled.com with a number 4, so people send me notes and they tell me what the events are and I put them on my calendar, umm, like in September there was a program at The Center on Halsted which was an inclusive dance– dance festival. They brought in people from Oak Park, Illinois, last year they had people from Cleavland, initially they had people from Korea and Israel that came in to this festival, they have, I’ve had activities at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab because they have a lot of sports activities.
[Chat Daddy] Mhmm.
[Vanessa] Uhm, we have all kinds of activities and people, as soon as they submit them I put them on the calendar. One thing that I feature on the calendar is The Abilities Expo which is an expo that is featured in eight cities in North America every year. I’m an Abilities Expo ambassador. And that’s an event that happens, it’s a free activity that comes to a convention center and uhm, there’s all kinds of workshops, things people can get involved in and find out about people, products, events, everything for if you’re disabled.
[Chat Daddy] Mhmm.
[Vanessa] And the people there are so nice.
[Heidi] What is the biggest misconception people think people with, with fully abled folks have of folks with disabilities, what is the biggest misconception?
[Vanessa] Umm, that’s a good question. I think that they think that they can’t contribute. And there’s something, they’re– they just think there’s something wrong with them and they just have to feel sorry for them and they just try to side step them.
[Chat Daddy and Heidi] Mhmm.
[Chat Daddy] And I think that’s really prevalent in our community more than anything and I hate to say that but a lot of times, you know, when people have a disability we kinda, push them to the side or put ‘em, you know, oh they’ll be fine. But really, it’s all about engaging and making sure people stay socially active and, and, and being accepting of people no matter what.
[Vanessa] Yeah, yeah.
[Heidi] I think part of it is that people don’t know or they feel like well I don’t know what to say or I don’t know what to do, I’m afraid I’m going to say the wrong thing so I’ll just avoid that person because I don’t want to be offensive I don’t wanna offend anybody so I’ll just avoid. So there’s a lot of avoidance that happens with people.
[Vanessa] Yeah that’s– it’s true with people with disabilities, people with different colors…people with different sexual orientations. So yeah I mean, it’s the same thing, it’s just, people don’t wanna, they don’t wanna contribute and understand.
[Chat Daddy] What would you like to see change more than anything when it comes to those with disabilities and how we’re treated?
[Vanessa] Well, it used to be that we had affirmative action and things, they tried to make things even out and what I’d like to see is make every place accessible to everybody. And there, um, people in the accessibility industry right now say “nothing about us without us”, which means that when there’s a design or something you get the input of everybody who’s gonna be using it before you actually design it and put it in place.
[Heidi] That’s huge.
[Heidi] Yeah and that’s an awareness, that’s an awareness issue that designers, architects, everybody, engineers, have to have.
[Heidi] Going into it. Because it’s actually, and it’s– it actually makes, not only is it morally the right thing to do, but from a business standpoint, it’s the smart thing to do things proactively before you even get into the engineering of it.
[Heidi] To make sure things are accessible rather than trying to backtrack and retrofit to make sure things are accessible.
[Vanessa] Okay. So umm, I want to tell you about some of the videos that I’ve done. I did one on Mark Wellman and since you brought up climbing walls.
[Chat Daddy] Yes.
[Vanessa] Mark Wellman, um, he is a mountain climber and he’s also a wheelchair user. He has to climb only with his arms because he’s paralyzed from the waist down.
[Chat Daddy] Wow!
[Vanessa] So um, he– he had an accident when he was 22 years old. He was caught in an avalanche.
[Heidi] Oh my goodness.
[Vanessa] And they had, and his partner, he was climbing with one other person, his partner had to leave him stranded for about 24 hours. They had to air lift him out of there. So when he got to the hospital, the first thing he said to his father was, “I want to get back on that mountain.”
[Chat Daddy] Wow! Even after all of that.
[Vanessa] That’s the kind of people I’m coming across now and I want to share that.
[Chat Daddy] Ok!
[Heidi] Very inspirational!
[Chat Daddy] Alright well we gon’ run the break when we come back we’re gonna hear more stories of how we can help the disabled to do better, to be better, October is disability awareness month. And you know I’m all on board, you know what I’m saying, I’m a member now, look I’m a member! It has been made, look, I am, and so I want to make sure that we all have a fair playing field, in the city and in our country. Alright, we’ll be back in just a moment.
[Male Narrator] He’s charming. He’s funny. He knows everybody. He is Art “Chat Daddy” Sims. And he’s only on WVON.
[Chat Daddy] …Absolutely. October is Disability Awareness Month and Vanessa is just here to run down some things people need to know to make sure we all live in a very inclusive world.
[Chat Daddy] Very good.
[Chat Daddy] So you were sharing stories of us of people overcoming obstacles.
[Vanessa] Yeah, so, one of the videos I did was about how to buy a car if you’re disabled.
[Chat Daddy] Oh!
[Vanessa] Okay. Um, car buying is a gut-wrenching experience.
[Heidi] I just bought a car and I hated every moment of it.
[Vanessa] Yeah, um, if you’re new at it,it’s really gut-wrenching, and if you’re disabled it’s even worse.
[Vanessa] Okay. I learned a lot when I bought my car. When I had to go to war with a few people in order to get the right car, with the right accessible equipment, at the right price.
[Chat Daddy] Cause I’m sure it’s, it’s highway robbery to get accessible equipment I’m sure.
[Vanessa] Yes! Yes.
[Chat Daddy] Yes!
[Vanessa] I knew I had to share what I learned, so the people didn’t go through what I went through.So I did a video about it, and it’s one of my most popular videos.
[Chat Daddy] Very good! Okay, very good!
[Chat Daddy] Alright, what else do we need to know?
[Vanessa] Um, let’s see. I did a video about Farida Bedwei who is, she has cerebral palsy. She lives in Ghana. She’s an entrepreneur and she’s known by MasterCard as one of the world leaders in banking.
[Chat Daddy] Really?
[Chat Daddy] As in THE MasterCard?
[Vanessa] Yes MasterCard!
[Chat Daddy] Wow! Ok!
[Vanessa] Yes. She also writes a comic called, “Karmzah.” Karmzah, the main character in the comic is a superhero who also has cerebral palsy and she flies with her crutches. I really enjoyed reading that! You can get it on Amazon. Yeah.
[Chat Daddy] Alright, very good.
[Vanessa] Yeah I think Farida is probably one of my superheroes, as a real life character. Yeah.
[Heidi] And it’s so important for our kids. I’m a mother of two boys and I’m thinking about how much they enjoy comic strips and it would just be great to expose them to superheroes that are different! Right? And so that they can be exposed to everybody. To know that everybody has superpowers.
[Heidi] Like that. That’s a great, great vehicle that she’s using. That she created!
[Vanessa] Yeah, it is, it is. One other story is, this is our latest post, we put this up on Monday. Um there’s a charity called Free Wheelchair Mission that was started by a man named Don Schoendorfer. Free Wheelchair Mission, um, builds comfortable wheelchairs out of lawn chairs with bicycle wheels.
[Chat Daddy] Oh!
[Vanessa] And things that are durable, things like that. And they give them to people in developing countries, for free! Because he went to one of the developing countries about 20 years ago, and he saw people who didn’t have wheelchairs and they were actually crawling down the street because they didn’t have any accessible equipment at all. So right now he is actually giving away 1 million free wheelchairs in developing countries!
[Chat Daddy] Wow!
[Heidi] That’s amazing.
[Chat Daddy] That’s impressive. That really– and he’s doing this out of his, out of the goodness of his heart.
[Vanessa] Yeah and now he has a lot of contributors and volunteers.
[Chat Daddy] Sure, sure, sure.
[Chat Daddy] Okay. Very good. We love that. We really, really do.
[Chat Daddy] Alright well Vanessa don’t go anywhere. When we come back at the top of the hour, we’re gonna wrap up with you, you’re looking for people to help you out.
[Chat Daddy] You’ll share a lot of different things. Heidi, anything you want to say real quick?
[Heidi] Well actually at the top of the hour when we come back, what continues to inspire you, just think on that and we’ll get the answer when we come back.
[Chat Daddy] Alright when we come back, don’t forget. Our very special guest is Vanessa A. Harris, she is the creator of fun4thedisabled.com, which is a really interactive website that helps those with disabilities, as you guys all know, October is Disability Awareness Month, and Vanessa is our first guest of the month to help us to kind of get through all of this.
[Chat Daddy] And so Vanessa you’ve done a great job, what else you need us to know before your segment is up, my dear?
[Vanessa] Well we’ve grown to over 5,000 followers worldwide in the last year.
[Chat Daddy] That’s right!
[Vanessa] And you want to sign up for my newsletter which comes out every week or every other week. All you have to do is come to our website, fun4thedisabled.com, and give us your name and your email address.
[Chat Daddy] Okay.
[Chat Daddy] That’s easy and simple and let’s spell it again, fun—
[Vanessa] (Spelling aloud) fun4thedisabled.com.
[Chat Daddy] Okay fun4thedisabled.com is the website. Go there, visit and sign up, and what else do you wanna do? You need people to help you too right?
[Vanessa] Yeah, let me tell you one other thing, our videos are closed captioned, all of them are closed captioned.
[Chat Daddy] Good.
[Vanessa] And we put the entire transcript on the website so that the vision impaired can read the transcript with their braille readers.
[Chat Daddy] Nice!
[Chat Daddy] Very nice. Alright.
[Chat Daddy] So that means this interview will eventually be on there?
[Vanessa] Yes, it will be!
[Chat Daddy] Yay!
[Vanessa] Yes it will be!
[Chat Daddy] Wonderful, wonderful! Let’s see how the captioner be able to, well no, everytime I talk they, they, ok *laughing* no they get everything I say, they do! I love them, I really do! I’ve learned so much, yes.
[Vanessa] We’re looking for volunteers, um, volunteers that I have right now from all over the world. We work remotely. So it’s not required that you work in Chicago. I deal with people on the internet or by phone. Um, they send me all of their video editing and all their writing by the internet. So if you like to write or if you like to shoot or edit video, please let me know. Contact me on the ‘contact us’ page at fun4thedisabled.com. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @fun4thedisabled.
[Chat Daddy] Okay, very good. Now Heidi you had a question for Vanessa before we went to National News.
[Heidi] Well my question is that, it takes a lot of work to run a website and to do social media and to be as active as you are in this cause. What continues to inspire you to do so?
[Vanessa] Well, it’s the people that I meet, the people that I work with. Every time I come across somebody else that has got something– people share their stories with me and I’m like, that’s another cool story that’s really inspiring me! I mean I think a lot of people, um, are almost superhuman in some of the things they achieve! And it’s, we’re even gonna be doing a series on people with mental illnesses because one of the guys I interviewed found that a lot of people with mental illnesses have superhuman skills that are being ignored by the medical community.
[Chat Daddy] Mhmm. Task genius.
[Chat Daddy] Yeah absolutely, task genius, yup.
[Heidi] But I think that the work you’re doing is super inspirational, it really is. So you know, people who are sitting at home and you want to contribute, the fact that you need volunteers. It’s also a great opportunity for college students that are looking to write, they’re looking to shoot, they’re looking to edit, and they want to be able to contribute and they actually want to get their resume reeled together and get their portfolio together. This is a great opportunity for them to do so while you’re still helping people because you’re helping these folks that um, that want to know what’s going on activity wise for the disabled.
[Vanessa] Yeah, and I include their work on the website so they can use that as part of their portfolio. Yeah
[Chat Daddy] Well I know one thing, that you announced you were gonna be on this show Vanessa, the world knew! I mean people, I looked on Twitter everywhere everybody was like wow! And you even had to put their various time zones to let people know–
[Chat Daddy] –what time this was airing, so we really do appreciate you, I mean you really have done a great job, and really you’re a hero.
[Vanessa] Thank you.
[Chat Daddy] You are. And closing what would you like to say to these people?
[Vanessa] I want to say check out my website, contact me with suggestions for content, volunteer, and be the best that you can be. And I want to thank Chat Daddy and Heidi for inviting me to be on the show. Thank you very much!
[Chat Daddy] We love you! We do! And look you gonna stick around for the dating time or-
[Vanessa] Yes I do! I’ve heard about this. [Laughter ensues.]
[Chat Daddy] You ain’t gotta go nowhere just stay here with us. Isn’t that amazing?
[Funky music plays as the video concludes. Transcribed and captioned by aslcaptions.com.]