Thanks for an awesome Wednesday people of the NP BAL world! Way to work hard and support each other through the WAVES firedrills. We are super happy you’re all here and working out with us as much as you can!
Today we share a perspective from a longtime November Project attendee, Gail Betz, who is a force of positivity consistently showing up, working hard, welcoming newbies and generally being a rockstar supporter of our movement! I’m quite sure most of you will recognize her face from the workouts but perhaps you haven’t had the chance to dive deeper and learn her story. We are really happy that Gail Betz is here (X4 years!!) and wanting to share her experience at November Project. Please take a moment to read her story and THANK YOU, Gail, for sharing!
I’m visually impaired. Long story made blog-length, my central vision is degenerating- so things like faces, signs, obstacles on the ground, are difficult for me to see clearly. If you’re curious, I have Stargardt’s disease, and it hasn’t changed on me for a while now. So if I have ever neglected to say hello, I’m sorry! While I can’t make any excuses for forgetting names, forgetting faces isn’t my fault, I swear!
What this all means is that, legally, medically and socially, I identify as disabled. I’m protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and get accommodations at work. I go to medical specialists for long days of testing. And I navigate a world daily that was not designed for me.
Many people at November Project may not have known. I know. That’s a conscious choice I make because disability does not define me, and I appreciate having spaces where people don’t know. Also, stigma is very real, and sometimes I just don’t feel like navigating that. I’m privileged in that I can choose when and how to share my disability (this is known as an ‘invisible disability’). When I want to, I can appear totally able-bodied.
What I really want to say is that disability is complicated, and that nuance means that it doesn’t conform to the media’s portrayal of ‘disabled’ or ‘not’. There’s a grey area. There are NP locations that are more accessible to me than others, there are some exercises I feel safe doing and others that make me a little nervous (ahem, burpees- that ground comes real quick when you don’t have great depth perception!). But it’s not all or nothing- it’s not CAN do stairs or CAN’T do stairs. It’s ‘in some amounts of daylight stairs are fine or a little less fine’. Sometimes someone who “looks normal” might modify something or ask for help and you can’t immediately figure out why- I love that NP is a space where I feel like people will listen to me and not judge why I’m asking something; it’s just that I am asking something.
To that end, I think that NP does the inclusion thing really well- all the workouts are scalable, modifiable, and the group of people couldn’t be more welcoming. Inclusion means that marginalized people are incorporated fully into a space, and NP leadership and everyone else I think is very conscious of different abilities and needs. The workouts are built for people of different ages and different levels of fitness, so people who have disabilities fit pretty well into that scenario too. It’s not a one-size-fits-all workout, for sure, and as much as everyone preaches that it can be hard to understand unless you’ve experienced it.
So I do think we could work on our diversity (in all aspects, but remember this is a post on disability!) and recruit people who aren’t necessarily able-bodied and feel like this might not be a great space for them. It is! See above, but in my opinion NP is absolutely 100% what you make it, and that is different for everyone.
So I’m here to say that, four years in, November Project IS place for people with disabilities. If you consider yourself in any way not able-bodied, please know that you’re not alone at NP and we want you here. Do the exercises that you want to, modify what doesn’t work, and ask for help when you want it.
PS- I’m always happy to talk about my vision (or lack thereof) if you have questions (who doesn’t like to talk about themselves?)! I’m also more than happy to talk about disability justice in person or online if you’re curious there, too!
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