Have you ever heard the term interabled? We got to chat with influencers Cole and Charisma in a Spotlight Session and got some first-hand insights on what it’s like to be a power couple with different abilities.
Cole is an energetic and magnetic guy who radiates a passion for life. When he was 16, he dove into shallow water, injuring his spinal cord and paralyzing his body from his C5 vertebrae and below. After adjusting to life as a person with a mobility disability, he met the beautiful and fun-loving Charisma. On their YouTube channel, Roll with Cole & Charisma, the two share their experiences with their followers, from wild adventures to hanging out at home, viewers get to know how the couple interacts with the world, approach the challenges of accessibility, and most of all, enjoy life together.
Here are some top takeaways from this session:
1. Being positive is attractive
“What I liked most about Cole was his personality overallת so he was very positive and just made any situation fun and he was just always so positive about everything. He may struggle doing a certain activity but he always found a way to be positive about it and I really loved that about him. I still do.”
Everyone faces challenges in their lives - regardless of their abilities. What’s refreshing about Charisma’s perspective on Cole’s optimism is that she was initially attracted to him because of his positive attitude, not despite his disability, but just because it’s attractive to be positive in life.
2. Interabled couples are not as rare as you might think
“A year into our relationship after starting the YouTube channel and I saw the word ‘interabled’ and it meant one person in the relationship had a disability while the other person did not and so whenever we posted videos I started using that term because it was a way to describe us besides being interracial - we're also interabled - and it was a way for people who are in a similar relationship, to find us and to see that there are couples like us everywhere. I think in every relationship each partner has a different ability than their other partner.”
Media is supposed to reflect society, right? Although that’s what we’d like to think, in reality, media is often slow to catch up with representation. Racial minorities were vastly underrepresented in film and TV until the last 10 years when major shifts took place in the culture. Studies show that now black actors make up about 12.9% of leading roles on cable TV in the US, which roughly matches the total 13.4% of the American population that is black. When it comes to people with disabilities, and even more so, couples that are interabled, representation still has a long way to go. Cole and Charisma are hoping that they can use their platform to affect change and make media more inclusive of all abilities.
3. All relationships take work
“I would say the biggest assumption that we see is that the relationship is so hard on Charisma… In reality, the most challenging part of our relationship I wouldn't necessarily say is the disability. It's the other things that come with a relationship like - learning how to communicate with each other.”
If you’ve ever been in a relationship, or know people in relationships, you know that no relationship is easy. We loved the reminder from Cole and Charisma that being interabled does not make their relationship a challenge, rather just being two different people makes their relationship a challenge. Cole’s disability is often assumed to be their biggest point of tension, but in fact, it’s not. All relationships take work and all relationships have a unique set of challenges.
4. More inclusive social media content is needed
“I think we're starting to see a lot more accessibility online. A lot more corporations, companies, and content creators are taking it more seriously and it makes it difference. we have so many comments and emails and messages from people who are just so appreciative that we put image descriptions on our Instagram photos and video descriptions on our videos on Instagram and Tick Tock. Even on YouTube we always have captions and we always make sure that they're right and they're not the automated crappy captions.”
You could feature influencers with disabilities in your marketing campaigns, but if those campaigns aren’t accessible, then you’re not truly practicing inclusion. Captions, screen-reader capabilities, and other accessibility features are so important for an inclusive social media strategy and it’s something that is improving, but still needs to be addressed by more businesses and content creators.
5. Disability representation has a long way to go
“There's a long long way for us to go and I think it starts with media with TV shows. These writers need to start writing roles for disabled people and finding disabled actors because they're out there - one of them being Cole - so there are people who want to act and who are disabled who want to be represented and it starts with Hollywood. They need to realize you can cast disabled people for whatever role, it doesn't have to be all about their disability. We're starting to see more disabled roles being written but they're still just about the disability.”
Representation in media doesn’t stop at having a TV episode in which there’s a kid with a disability and the main character learns to be his friend. True representation is when people with disabilities are cast for various roles and the plotline doesn’t even mention their disabilities. We have a long way to go because it’s still very noticeable to have characters with disabilities in media, and that is not reflective of society in which we see people with disabilities all the time.
Shine that light
Our session with Cole and Charisma helped to bust myths and assumptions around being an interabled couple. We are so grateful for their online presence and the impact they are making on accessibility and inclusion. If you’d like to watch more Spotlight Sessions, you can find them all here.
If you are a disability advocate or have a nonprofit organization and want to share your story with the world, reach out to accessiBe’s Nonprofit Partnership Program so we can get to know you better.