Have you ever wondered what health and fitness opportunities there are for people who use wheelchairs? Or how people who experience injuries that change their abilities can still feel like themselves? You’re in luck! We had the pleasure of hosting Sarah Foley in one of our accessiBe Spotlight Sessions, and she shared the answers to these questions and more.
Sarah Foley is a speaker and life coach and is the creator of a seated fitness app, which is designed to help female wheelchair users increase their health and confidence. She is actively redefining what it means to live life as a woman in a wheelchair and loves empowering others to view their circumstances with what she’s coined a ‘Vertical Mindset.’
Here are some top takeaways from this interview:
1. “Confidence just simply means you trust in yourself. And, that’s what I wish people would really do more of, is how can I build trust within myself? And, we do that by taking action.”
Sarah speaks about regaining her power after experiencing a life-changing injury and explains that having confidence and trust in one’s self depends on making decisions to do things and then seeing those things through. This all starts with a commitment to believing in yourself, regardless of your abilities and aligning your goals for your life with what you’re actually doing in your day-to-day. Society can actively support people who have gone through life-changing events by providing access to places, activities, websites, and events to everyone, regardless of their ability.
2.“We can be full of life, we can be full of joy, we can have incredible lives. But again that goes back to us choosing to own that story.”
There is no framework for living with a disability, as Sarah clarifies. But, it’s important to remember that people with disabilities can own their future and encourage one another to be energetic and live life to the fullest. This is a relevant message for everyone! The more we own our stories - the good and the bad - the more we can make decisions that are meaningful and allow us to live lives that we are proud of.
3.“I think often the disability community is really wanting to change how society sees us. But, I think it starts in a very different place, I think it starts with how we see us.”
Sarah opens up about something here that isn’t often discussed, and that’s how important it is that we work on the perception we have of ourselves, rather than focus on the perception that others have of us. She encourages people with disabilities to focus their mindset shift inward and believes that the way we perceive ourselves impacts the way others perceive us. So you want others to believe if you - first, ask yourself - do I believe in me? This is an impactful statement that can empower people of all abilities.
4. “A perfectly inclusive world to me is truly being a space where people feel okay enough to and accepted enough and seen enough so that they can overcome whatever pain is disabling to them.”
Engagement with people who have had different experiences than our own is fundamental to building diverse and healthy communities. A healthy community is a strong support network and offers a safe space where everyone feels comfortable sharing their experiences. Sarah explains that an inclusive world would be a place where people aren’t shamed or shunned but are accepted and seen. That kind of global community would be truly inclusive.
5. “We also have a responsibility to ensure that equal experience is able to be had, if we have a business, if we have an experience, whatever it is, so that no matter what, everyone can gain access.”
Access isn’t just about doing the bare minimum. It’s about empathy. Facilitating accessibility strategies requires making fundamental decisions that enable people with all different abilities to have the same opportunities. We can do this by listening, being open to new ideas, and working together with disability community members to continue to improve accessibility.
Let it shine
Speaking to our Spotlight star Sarah Foley, we learned about self-acceptance and taking responsibility for our goals and actions, regardless of our abilities. We hope you enjoyed this impactful and enlightening session with Sarah. 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.