It always gives me a great sense of pleasure and excitement to uncover bloggers and social networking enthusiasts with a passion to change the world of visual impairment that resembles my own.
Today we are joined by one example of these self same amazing individuals, Steph McCoy, founded her blog in December 2013 named ‘Bold Blind Beauty.’ A blog that aimed to make fashion and lifestyle more accessible to blind and partially sighted people.
Steph resides in the US and today she talks about her experiences as a disability campaigner and why she founded her blog.
Here is here story..
Why did you decide to create ‘Bold Blind Beauty?’
I got the idea from being asked to do a makeup presentation for the ladies at the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind’s 2012 Annual State Convention. There was such an interest in how to do things like use eye shadow, skin care regimens, trending colors, etc. After much careful consideration I thought a blog targeted to the blind/vision impaired women might help us to have a voice in the mainstream cosmetics, fashion industry.
How have you found the reception towards your blog?
Very positive and I was surprised to find so many younger sighted women following the blog. I’ve also been receiving emails from women who are blind and low vision and the general sentiment is “it’s about time.”
What are you hoping to achieve with your blog?
I’m hopeful that by gaining large following from the blind/vision impaired community that we will be heard. Right now there aren’t many resources available for those of us who have vision impairments. It’s as if society thinks since we can’t see or can’t see very well that we don’t care about our image and nothing could be further from the truth.
What are your opinions on the current relationship between accessibility and fashion?
The fashion industry does not acknowledge those with disabilities. Or maybe I should say the majority of the fashion industry feels this way. I recently did a post on fashion designer Carrie Hammer who featured “role models instead of runway models at New York’s Fashion week this past February. The first ever wheelchair model, Danielle Sheypuk, a successful psychologist, said People with disabilities are consumers of fashion.’ Unfortunately in my opinion, and it may sound harsh, but I think the reason why people with disabilities aren’t considered in the fashion industry is largely due to prejudices and we may not fit the mold of what the industry considers “beautiful.
How have you found the general opinion towards visually impaired people and their pursuit of fashion? Are there any stereotypes that you have come across?
Stereotypes abound everywhere and what’s worse for people with low vision, because there is such a range of vision loss, it’s not understood. I’ve had people say to me “you don’t look blind” and while I know they meant no harm in saying it part of me can’t help but think that they think it’s an act.
The unemployment rate for blind and vision impaired people in the U.S. is around 70 percent a very high percentage that is unacceptable. One of the frustrating observations some of my congenitally blind friends say is they hate it when people feel sorry for them or treat them any differently than anyone else. Sure, are there things that we do differently? Absolutely but unless we have multiple disabilities that may impact us mentally or physically if given the opportunity we can excel at most anything we put our minds to.
When it comes to vision impairment as it relates to the pursuit of fashion I can only speak from my personal experience when I’m out with a group of friends and how onlookers will gawk at me with my white cane. One of my very good friends said to take it as a compliment and he used the word ‘incongruous’ because they can’t connect a well-dressed blind woman walking with a white cane.
Do you use any assistive technology to aid you when styling an outfit or selecting clothing?
Not at this time. I just have to make sure the lighting is good because I can still see colors however I struggle with variances in different shades and hues. I was thinking of getting a color identifier gadget but I’m told that they are not always reliable and really since I keep my closet very well organised by type of clothing and color it helps to keep me in order.
I never really liked the mall shopping experience and now that I can’t see well it’s very frustrating so I mostly do online shopping. Or I’ll look for an item online then have someone help me find it at the store which cuts down my stress level.
Are there any fashion magazines or publications that you enjoy reading? Are there any that you find particularly helpful from the perspective of someone with sight loss?
Right now I only view magazines and the like online as I haven’t been able to look at hard copy in about 5 years. I do like Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Allure, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Glamour and a host of beauty/fashion blogs. The one thing that I find irritating (and this is not just for fashion magazines), are the sites that have arrows to navigate to the next slide. I use ZoomText and since I use my magnification and also the option for the screen reader many of the sites just aren’t very user friendly.
What are your this seasons must haves?
It would probably be easier to ask what aren’t my must-haves? But seriously I made a promise to myself not to buy any clothes this season because I have a lot of things I haven’t worn due to my weight gain. Since I’m on a lifestyle plan now, I’ve only added shoes, and accessories. Coral and turquois are the colors that I actually started incorporating last year. I did score this lovely coral and sapphire statement necklace and have accumulated a few pairs of d’Orsay flats along with a few kitten heels, I can’t wait to wear. The only other must haves are a few handbags that struck my fancy and of course I need a couple of lightweight scarves and sunglasses.
What fashion pieces do you enjoy wearing the most and why?
I love my pencil skirts, and kitten heels mainly because I feel so darn good in them. I used to wear stilettos every day and everywhere but with the vision loss and that fact that I’m a tad bit older now it makes better sense for me to wear more appropriate footwear that will prevent falls. My next favorite pieces are a tie between my maxi sundresses mainly for their comfort and fashion jewelry.
Where do you hope to see fashion and visual impairment in the next 5 years?
I would love to see the vision impaired community more adequately represented in the fashion and beauty industry. I think this will go a long way in increasing awareness and perhaps eradicating the negative stereotypes that prevail.
It would be phenomenal if in the next 5 years those of us who are blind or vision impaired could become models, designers, buyers, or fashion media personnel. I believe this can happen as we are making small inroads with Conner Boss who competed in the Miss Florida Beauty Pageant 2 years ago, then there’s Christine Ha the first blind contestant and winner of Master Chef and John Bramblitt a well-known blind painter.
If we can compete in beauty pageants, win a national cooking competition and make beautiful art we can certainly make an impact in the world of fashion. Given the right tools, education and the opportunity we can exceed expectations.
Any other comments?
I never considered, until it happened to me, that the major challenge associated with vision loss is the loss of information. Living in a sighted world we are bombarded with thousands of images on a daily basis. When one loses their vision content becomes more important than images.
If I ruled the world I would mandate that in our marketing efforts we have better descriptions so that the vision impaired community can be a part of and not just outsiders standing on the side lines. I would make the media incorporate people with disabilities in more of their advertising.
And you can find out more about Steph’s inspiring blog via the links below
Linkedin: Click here