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Episode 3: Words Are Powerful

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

GUEST: Jourdan Saunders, MS, CCC-SLP, Founder of The Resource Key

How powerful are the words we use? What effect do words have on how we interpret information? In this episode, host Sarah Kirwan and guest Jourdan Saunders, have a down-to-earth conversation about words, words, and more words. Listeners will walk away with a better understanding of how powerful words are, within the framework of disability, woke capitalism, relationships, plain language, getting comfortable in our conversations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and much more.

QUICK LINKS

As language, perceptions and social mores change at a seemingly faster and faster rate, it is becoming increasingly difficult for communicators to figure out how to refer to people with disabilities. This style guide, developed by the National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University, is intended to help. It covers almost 200 words and terms commonly used when referring to disability.

DOWNLOAD PDF »

OUR GUEST: Jourdan Saunders, MS, CCC-SLP

Jourdan-Saunders

Jourdan Saunders, MS, CCC-SLP is a Speech Language Pathologist, Disability Inclusion Consultant, Author, and Resource Generator. She develops solutions to ensure people with disabilities are included and are making meaningful connections with brands.

Jourdan is the founder of The Resource Key providing consulting services using innovative approaches, research based industry resources, and advising companies to ensure People with Disabilities are included, and making meaningful connections with brands. She is the owner of one of the largest SLP resources group with over 15,000 followers. Jourdan has written several articles for non-profit organizations, major magazines, and online resources. Her work has been featured in USA Gymnastics, American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), MarketWatch, Association of University Centers on Disability, and Kennedy Center.

Jourdan established one of the first resource websites for students interested in the field of Speech Language Pathology, Futureslps, which has received recognition worldwide. Recently, she created a program that infuses art and reading literacy skills entitled Design Read Create. Jourdan is the author of Our Reading Literacy Kitchen: Fresh Approaches to Target Reading Literacy Skills.

TRANSCRIPT

Sarah Kirwan:

Hi, and welcome to Incluse This! This I'm your host, Sarah Kirwan. And this is a movement for disability equity. Today, we're talking with Jourdan Saunders, and we're talking about how powerful words are. Jourdan Saunders is a speech language pathologist, a disability inclusion consultant, author, and resource generator. She is the founder of The Resource Key, a business providing consulting services that use innovative approaches, research-based industry resources, and advising companies to ensure people with disabilities are included. And also making meaningful connections with brands. She's the owner of one of the largest resources group with more than 15,000 followers.

Sarah Kirwan:

Jourdan has written several articles for nonprofit magazines, and organizations, and online resources. Her work has been featured in USA Gymnastics, American Speech–Language–Hearing Association, MarketWatch, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, and The Kennedy Center. Jourdan established one of the first resource websites for students interested in the field of speech language pathology, Future SLPs, which has received recognition worldwide. Recently, she created a program that infuses art and reading literacy skills entitled Design Read Create. Jourdan is the author of Our Reading Literacy Kitchen: Fresh Approaches to Target Reading Literacy Skills. And with that, let's dive in.

Sarah Kirwan:

Welcome to Incluse This! Jourdan. I am super thrilled to be here with you today talking about words, words, and more words.

Jourdan Saunders:

Thank you so much for having me, Sarah. I am honored to be here with you on this podcast. And words can be used in a positive way or a negative way.

 

Sarah Kirwan:

So you and I met virtually last September, and I remember exactly why I got ahold of you. Because I all of a sudden got pretty active on LinkedIn, and I wanted to see who was posting in the disability, equity, and inclusion space. And I just remember seeing all of your posts that were very well done, well messaged. I completely understood what it is that your company The Resource Key does in this space. And I just really wanted to reach out to you and learn from you, which I've already been doing. And I'm just really looking forward to learning more as you and I continue to partner, and have conversations, and learn and move forward together in this space, and just do our best to bring disability to the forefront of that greater diversity conversation.

Sarah Kirwan:

During the first virtual meet and greet we had over Zoom, I remember using the word able-bodied. And then you used the word non-disabled, which kicked off this incredible discussion about words, the intent behind them, the power they hold, and the effect they have on others. And that's really what led us to being here together today.

Jourdan Saunders:

Yes. For me, I have read a lot of information in how these words are used, really looking at the impact of these words. I use the word non-disabled because it is a neutral term. Anyone at any point can have a disability at any time. So I consider myself to be non-disabled. So I think it is important though, to read the history behind some of the words that we use.

Jourdan Saunders:

What happens when words change or things shift on an individual level sometimes, if we think words are negative and we should no longer use them, we want everyone to start using the new words immediately. But it's not that easy sometimes.

Jourdan Saunders:

For example, I was reading an article from the New York Times. And in the article, it specifically stated how historians have traced America's welfare system to England's 1601 Poor Law. And in that, the word able-bodied is included in this law. I was reading this, I think it was about two days ago. And I think that's interesting because 1601 let's say, what is that? 400 years ago. Over 400 years ago. So I think that's important to point out because able-bodied according to this New York Times article has been used for many years. And it's hard to stop using certain terms sometimes because maybe on an individual level, we want someone to stop using the terms because we feel that it may be offensive. But then you look at the system, the structure, the history behind these words. And it's not that simple sometimes when we look at it from the broader perspective. Also, able-bodied is still used in some government reports as well.

Jourdan Saunders:

So that's why I think it's important to listen to one another, understand how words are used in different contexts. Because even non-disabled has some controversy too. Because people with disabilities are a minority group. And may I add, one of the largest minority groups. So when we look at, I use the non-disabled. But if we look at I'm Black, and if someone were to say that they are non-Black, then it wouldn't make sense in those contexts because we usually don't say we are non-Black.

 

Jourdan Saunders:

So it's never as straightforward as we would like it to be, but that's why I think it ultimately comes down to continuing to have these conversations like we're having and keeping the dialogue open. So I want to make something very clear before we move on, because I'm sure it won't be the last time I say this throughout our talk. But we have to be willing to listen, communicate, be patient, and research on our own to delve into some of the words we use, why we use them, providing the context, what is the history behind them. And I think this sparks continued going dialogue, because just because we use these specific words today, does not mean we are going to use those same exact words one month later, two years later, or even next week.

Sarah Kirwan:

I think the important thing to remember in there is that it is also scary when we don't know the appropriate terms to use, when we don't know the right words to use. What you and I have talked about is that it is really important to just have the conversations, even if we are making those mistakes along the way. That's okay. Let's have the conversation because they are ever-evolving terms and words. So they're going to change. And that's fine. Then we'll evolve and change with them.

Sarah Kirwan:

I'm glad that you expanded a little bit upon the able-bodied piece, because we will touch on that a little bit later. But I just want to talk a little bit about the history of the disability community. And historically, people with disabilities have been erased from mainstream culture, right? So those of us who are living with disabilities find these smaller, more supportive groups within the disability community. Because this is a space where we can feel free and comfortable to talk about our experiences and our feelings.

Sarah Kirwan:

For me, I found that space when I started playing wheelchair basketball. I was an assistant hospital administrator and public information officer for Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. It was really the first space where I could go and people understood what fatigue was. We shared some similar symptoms, day-to-day symptoms, but also had very different experiences with our disabilities.

Sarah Kirwan:

So I definitely feel like it's a little awkward for me to talk freely and openly about what I experienced with my disabilities, because there's a lack of understanding because we're not educating well enough. People have a tendency to feel sad or sorry. Sometimes they're just completely uncomfortable or uninterested. For me, it's more that I'll just pepper it into a conversation because I'm so used to it. Right? So I'll just say, "Oh yeah, well I was diagnosed 10 years ago," and I move on with the story. But I forget that for them, they stop on that and think, "Oh my gosh, I really need to address that MS. She's sharing this with me, and I need to address that." But it's more for me just adding to the story, if that makes sense. Or adding context to the story I guess. But it usually turns into a conversation about when I was diagnosed, what kind of symptoms I have. And what their fathers, aunts, daughter, does for her MS which I should for sure do for mine.

Sarah Kirwan:

So if our intention is to make it possible for disabled people to find an increased level of comfort and acceptance in the wider non-disabled world, then we all have to get comfortable talking about disability, right? Including me. And that's obviously much easier said than done, because it makes people feel anxious to think about saying the wrong thing like we just touched upon. So again, I'll go back to when you and I first spoke, we both agreed that having the conversations and making the mistakes that we're bound to make is much more important than not having the conversations at all.

Sarah Kirwan:

There are a lot of articles written about choosing words for talking about disability. We also see articles about the language of disability and disability microaggressions which are also commonly I guess within the disability community known as ableist things that people say.

Sarah Kirwan:

Before we move on any further, I just feel like some of our listeners may not be familiar with the term ableist. So I just want to start there and figure out what all this means. Jourdan, would you untangle this mess of confusion?

Jourdan Saunders:

Yes.

Sarah Kirwan:

What this means. What's the difference between words I use, or the language I use, or what's a microaggression against people with disabilities?

Jourdan Saunders:

Dictionary definition of ableism is discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities. So it could also be systematic exclusion, oppression of people with disabilities. And this is often expressed and reinforced through the language that we use that could be demeaning, or looking down on others, thinking that someone is lesser than someone else.

Jourdan Saunders:

So an example of this would be, let's take the word confined. Ableist language could be, "She is confined to a wheelchair." Someone can say instead, "She is a wheelchair user." So that's giving you an example of ableist language. And sometimes the context that we may hear this word being used, and how that could be taken as something that could be demeaning, or something that makes someone feel lesser.

Jourdan Saunders:

Crazy is another word that we use a lot on a daily basis to describe a number of different things. But that's also ableist language. So instead of saying, "My family is crazy about football," maybe saying something like, "My family loves football." So those are some examples regarding ableist language.

Sarah Kirwan:

So it's very interesting when you talk about the wheelchair user. That's one thing that I've had to learn. The wheelchair is really the extension of the person and a representation of independence. Right? I do find it hard though when I read articles where some people are talking about disability words, and some people are talking about disability language. Now words are obviously just smaller pieces of the language that we use. How do you define those? Why are they different, and why are they both important?

Jourdan Saunders:

Yeah, that's a great question. So words are ultimately like you said, the smaller units of the language and a whole, as it's all related, I should say. So I think it's important though, to look at the words first to understand the meaning behind when we use these different words. And then when you're using it in your everyday language, I think it's important to look at the context surrounding how you're using these words. Because that ultimately can be factor of all right, I have this word. Now I'm going to use it in the course of the language and how I talk around my friends or in the community. And all of those things look different based on the context surrounding how we're using them or the way we're putting together, the syntax of how we're putting together, using these words in the context, just like the examples I gave. And how much of an impact the word can have when it's used in different settings, or the way it's used when we're discussing different things.

Jourdan Saunders:

So I want to touch on microaggression, because I know we talked about ableist language, ableism, all of those different pieces. So microaggression is something that it's subtle. It's unconscious maybe, or the person maybe unintentionally is expressing something. But it takes on many forms in different settings, but it can be prejudice or discrimination to whoever you're talking to. And you may not even realize you're doing that.

Jourdan Saunders:

So an example for me is I have naturally curly hair, and I remember going to an interview. And someone, I don't think they intentionally meant it, but it was a microaggression because someone said, "Are you planning to wear your hair like that if you start this job?" So that's an example of a microaggression. Maybe they weren't intentionally, I don't know if they were intentionally meaning it, but it was a microaggression. And it was discriminatory because it was talking about my hair. And maybe there's no other ways that I could wear my hair.

Jourdan Saunders:

So within the disability community, I think it goes back to using the word confined maybe or using the word crazy. Crazy is one that probably sticks out the most because it's something that we've probably all at some point used that word not intending to hurt someone, but it could be hurtful in a sense of if someone has any type of mental health, that's a term that a lot of times crazy is loosely used in everyday conversation. And maybe it's because we haven't taken time to think of a different word, or maybe there's not a word that came to mind at the time. But that could be taken as well as a microaggression.

Sarah Kirwan:

Yeah. I think that I use the word, would I just say, "That's so crazy." That is a very common thing that in the past I have said. And that's one thing I've really had to be cognizant of. I struggle with depression and anxiety. I feel like that's something that I need to be more cognizant of as well, because those are hurtful words.

Jourdan Saunders:

I've used crazy as well. I think just in the context of like I said every day. And it has made me, as I read more and delve, it makes you more conscious and it makes us more when we do the work, and take the time to read, and listen to others, I think it makes us more intentional when we're having these different conversations to choose a different word.

Sarah Kirwan:

Absolutely. And that kind of goes back to the first episode that I had with Molly Bloom. And we were talking just about the intention behind words and how we can choose to be more intentional with the words and the language that we use. Now would this be a microaggression if someone says to me, "Well, you don't look like you have a disability"?

 

Jourdan Saunders:

Yes. Yeah, that's one I've seen a lot too in terms of when I'm reading different things. There's a lot of articles about, that's a very one up there in terms of what's crazy as well.

Sarah Kirwan:

That is just almost a very marginalizing term or dismissive I guess in a way. It's a dismissive term. So something that's very real to you and part of your identity is just so flippantly dismissed. So yeah, those words do have real meeting and real power.

Sarah Kirwan:

And before we move on, we've talked a lot about ableism. And I want to talk a little bit about one more term, which is something that I've just learned about recently, which is anti-Black ableism. And I've done a lot of research with Colin Kaepernick's media group around disability justice and policing in prisons. There is one journalist, her name is Talila A. Lewis, and she writes a lot of the articles for his media group. And she says that anti-Black ableism is redundant and contradictory simultaneously, because ableism and anti-blackness are mutually inclusive and mutually dependent. So, you can't have one without the other. And you can't adjectivally modify one with the other. Because where one is, they both must be. Each oppression does modify how a person experiences the other oppression. So they do modify the other in the literal sense.

Sarah Kirwan:

Now I think this is really interesting, and it goes back to the conversation that we've had about intersectionality and intersection of disability race, disability gender, disability sexual orientation, etc. Do you have experience around the anti-Black ableism comments, maybe those microaggressions that you could share with us so that we could identify or help to see those more in our daily lives so that then we can be more intentional with our words?

Jourdan Saunders:

So I wouldn't be able to speak on this. And I say this because I think you were the first person that brought this word up. And I didn't know what specifically it meant in the context that it was used. So I did some research. I was reading some of the other writings that she's done. And one of the writings that she said it quoted, "I know that there is something more needed to make this very unique experience that Black people have with ableism more clear. Still, I believe anti-Black ableism does not succeed in achieving the necessary clarity, and that it may cause more harm to the effort being sought by those using the term." So it sounds like she was the first person to use this term. And I could be wrong. You can correct me if I'm wrong. Because I haven't seen much research, or much information, or enough conversations to be able to describe what it specifically means.

Jourdan Saunders:

I think her coming on or her having a conversation about what it specifically means, because even that is her words verbatim in the writing that I was reading from her. So I think we need more clarity, or I would need more clarity around this term before I would be able to actually use it and be able to provide you more information on how important this term is and what it means.

Jourdan Saunders:

Because for me, what this means just from a whole is that we need more people saving a seat at the table for Black disabled voices to share their experiences. And also to add on what you were saying, we need to be talking about intersectionality. And intersectionality as it relates to disability justice.

Jourdan Saunders:

One of the other things that I love that she brought up in another piece was she said, "We must find ways to name how ableism is uniquely felt and experienced by Black people. Or we are not doing justice to how the long-term, inescapable, and inextricable bond between racism and ableism places Black non-disabled, Black disabled, and Black people who are labeled disabled in mortal danger with no recourse." So I would love to read more and continue to follow this term, but it just seems that there's not enough information. And she was stating that the people that are using the term may not be using it in the way that she initially had I guess envisioned the term being used.

Sarah Kirwan:

I guess I didn't realize that that was a term that she had brought forth. I think it's really interesting, and I would love to hear more from her on it. And I actually invited her to be a guest on the podcast, but her schedule is too busy. So-

Jourdan Saunders:

That would have been awesome if at some point maybe I don't know, or if she comes out with more. I could be completely wrong, like I said, but I couldn't find much on the term outside of her posts on her website.

Sarah Kirwan:

Yeah. Well, that's all that I found. That's exactly what I found. So yeah, I'm going to have to do some more research on that. But I do think it is a very unique experience. When you look at the layers of intersectionality, how one experiences each of those oppressions in a different way, but all in relationship to one another.

Sarah Kirwan:

As you had stated earlier, and I kind of want to go back to this. The disability terminology that we use, like we're just talking about anti-Black ableism. That may be something that Talila A. Lewis has coined. Maybe people are using it appropriately or differently than how she had envisioned it or imagined it. We'll have to do some more research around that.

Sarah Kirwan:

But when we look at other more common terms like neurodiversity or neurodiverse, disabled people, or people with disabilities, able-bodied, or non-disabled, accessibility, usability, or inclusion, how do we effectively choose the words and language? And you touched on it a little bit previously, but how do we effectively choose with our intentions, the language and the words that we use so that we can actually drive inclusion and equity for people with disabilities?

Jourdan Saunders:

A lot of times when we have these different words that are created, and I think it kind of goes back to what we were talking about earlier. They're used at different points in times. And then when they are no longer representative of the words that we may use currently, it takes time for shift to occur. And a lot of times, that shift is not aligned with how quickly we want the words to not be used anymore. So it creates this disconnect because on one hand, we are saying these words should not be used, or to use this word instead. But on the other hand, these words are still used in definitions or important government documents.

 

Jourdan Saunders:

So for example, I used to use the word special needs. This was years ago. So it was right after I got out of grad school. I wrote an article. One of the articles was about Incorporating Children with Special Needs into Gymnastics. And that was the exact title. Now, if I were to have written that same article, I would entitle it Incorporating Children with Disabilities into Gymnastics. I'm aware of that because I've continued to keep up on different research words, listening to people telling me their viewpoints, and just doing my own research. But so according to the National Center on Disability and Journalism, special needs popularized in the U.S. in the early 20th century during a push for special needs education to serve people of all kinds of different disabilities. So now though if you read on the website, the word special in relation to those with disabilities is now widely considered offensive. So these are the things that, and why it's important to continuing to have these ongoing conversations. Accessibility looks different when you're out going to a restaurant, and you need access to, if you're a wheelchair user and you need a ramp to access to get inside of the building. But if you're online, it could be different in terms of digitally how you're accessing a website to shop.

Jourdan Saunders:

So I think we have to look at settings, because words take on different meanings when you're in different settings or locations. They take on different meanings depending on who you're talking to. Right? So if I'm writing a report, I may still need to use able-bodied, or special needs, or special education, or something along those lines depending on the requirements. But if I'm out in the community with a family or something like that, and they've already shared with me they don't like it when I say, "Your child with special needs." They want me to say disability, those are all of the things why it's important to have these ongoing conversations and why it's important to look at more than just the word. We have to look at all the different things that surround the words that we use.

Sarah Kirwan:

And the other thing is the Americans with Disabilities Act requires state and local governments, and businesses, and nonprofits who serve the public to provide an effective disability communications plan. Right? This basically means that whatever these entities communicate, whether it be written or spoken, has to be equally clear and understandable for people with and without disabilities.

Sarah Kirwan:

So as a former hospital administrator and public information officer as I said before, we called this plain language. We always said plain language works best. And recently, the nonprofit investigative news organizations, ProPublica, which I actually think you shared this article with me. They launched an experiment using ultra-accessible plain language in stories about disabilities. Can you help us to understand what plain language is, and how would we incorporate this type of language into our personal and professional communication styles?

Jourdan Saunders:

So essentially, plain language is keeping it simple. It's communication. Anyone can ideally be able to understand the first time they read or hear it. It's accessible. It reminds me of when I was working in the school systems, we would sit in IEP meetings or individualized educational plan meetings. And if we're talking to parents, there's specific terms and the speech language pathology world that a parent may be unfamiliar with because they're not in the speech language pathology field. So we needed to make the language or all the information and the words as simplistic as possible, so that they could understand the important information that we were sharing.

 

Jourdan Saunders:

We can look at different industries, and how in specific industries there's acronyms or words that you may use that may mean something completely different in a different industry. So when you're communicating to someone that may not be familiar with your industry or the words that you're used, you're going to have to use some other type of words to make it so that the person can understand what you are talking about the first time around. Because of not, it becomes confusing. And ultimately, you could lose the person that you're talking to.

Jourdan Saunders:

So plain language is ultimately about keeping it simple so that anyone that picks up a document or anyone that's listening to you can ideally understand what you're talking about.

Sarah Kirwan:

As you touched upon currently, there are different industries and organizations who use different terminology when referring to and writing about disability. You and I learned during this process of collaboration and partnering, that the Associated Press, the American Psychological Association, and the Modern Language Association don't publish best practices or standards for effective disability communications. The only style guide that you and I were able to find was The National Center on Disability and Journalism NCDJ at Arizona State University. With a lack of clear standards and everyone using different words, disability, inclusion, and equity practitioners find themselves in this constantly evolving space. How do we overcome these challenges? I think my initial question was, would it be better to standardize the terms across industries? Is that something that we should be pushing towards? Is it better to have a variety of terminology because it's really specific to each industry? What are your thoughts?

Jourdan Saunders:

I think standardizing is always beneficial or having different systems in place. But just like anything else, these things change. Ultimately, we have to continue to stay flexible to be able to shift. It's just like if you're getting professional development courses on an annual basis, you are having to stay abreast of what's going on maybe in your field or things of that nature. So it's definitely nice to have standards because that's a great starting point, but it's just as important to take the time to educate yourself and listen to people with disabilities, listen in the community. There's a lot of different tools I know that we've talked about, and you shared one of them. With social media and all of these different things, hashtags, and alternative tax or alt text. All of these things are important as well. So if we're talking about standardizing, some of these are great ways as well if we're looking at social media. And a lot of times, we have these different features. So alt text is on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. But if we don't know what alt text is used for, and if we don't know where to find it, and we've never even heard of it, there's where that education piece comes in terms of continuing to educate and share this information so that we can be more aware of how we can make tools more accessible and how we can be more inclusive.

Sarah Kirwan:

You and I talked a lot about accessibility on social media platforms. And one of the things that I thought was really interesting, and I'm going to touch back on this a little bit more, is the hashtag, the use of hashtags. So I didn't realize that when we do hashtag everything lower case, that when someone has an e-reader that may read that article to them, it will jumble up that message. Right? So if I say #eyelevelworks, it will come out to them hashtag [inaudible 00:35:01]. Whereas if we capitalize each individual word, so eye capital E, level capital L, works capital W. Then that e-reader can actually read that statement to them in a way that they can understand and process, which I think is really cool.

Sarah Kirwan:

So then we did some research to find out, would that change the algorithms, or the search, or could people not follow it? But it does not make a difference. But yet, we still find that when we initially go to type in that hashtag, it comes up and auto-populates automatically to lowercase letters. To me, that seems like something that we could easily make accessible if we just auto-populated those with caps.

Jourdan Saunders:

Before I answer that, I think you may have meant screen reader.

Sarah Kirwan:

And that's why we have these conversations, right? We said, let's have the conversation. I said e-reader, it should be screen reader. We need to have these conversations, and be okay and vulnerable to make mistakes.

Jourdan Saunders:

Exactly. Yes. So what you were saying about the hashtags, I am not sure how many times it takes before it's populated into the system. So that's why I would think it would need to be something manual that would have to be done behind the scenes. But I'm not sure of all of those things. Because probably not enough people are capitalizing, because I didn't even realize that myself until we started delving and having this conversation. So it has to be more people that are using it, or I imagine Twitter or LinkedIn and all of those other social media outlets have to go in behind the scenes and add that so it will start to populate that way.

Sarah Kirwan:

The other thing we talked about is website accessibility.

Jourdan Saunders:

For anyone listening that's not familiar with a screen reader, so the screen reader is an assistive technology. A type of technology that assists a person who is blind or visually impaired to use their computer. So that's what a screen reader is a form of assistive technology. So if you don't have certain things like alt text or alternative text, which is the description of pictures. So if you post an image on Instagram let's say, there is a feature in advanced settings, and you can Google how to add alt text. There's a feature in advanced settings where you can add alt text. And what you would do is you're going to type a description of the image that you're going to post. And it's conveying the main point of the image. What is the image showing? What's the overall main point of the image? So that's why it's important to have these different things in place, because we want everyone to be able to access the information that we're providing. And there's many other people as well that may use a screen reader for assistive technology. So we want to make sure no one's left out when we're posting pictures or any of the other things that we do online, especially with everything being online now. Everything. It's everything. It really is.

Sarah Kirwan:

It really is everything at this point, I feel like. And these are pretty, relatively simple things that we can do each day. Watch our hashtags, add alt text. I'm guilty of that. I need to go back into a lot of my posts and actually add alt text. Because I wasn't aware of the need for that accessibility tool either. So it's good for all of us to learn. Again, have these conversations and learn. And again, we're being flexible, right? We're learning new terminologies. We're learning how to refer to things, definitions of words, all of these.

Sarah Kirwan:

One of the things that you and I talked about is the importance of collaboration in this space. I think I want to kind of tie that into the building of trust, also in this space. Because when we first started talking about speech language pathology, you shared with me that it really is taught from a medical perspective that somewhat excludes the personal patient perspective and that experience. But we know that trust and collaboration, right, even between a patient and provider, is so extremely important?

Sarah Kirwan:

I was recently at a neurologist visit, and I needed to get fatigue medication filled, and I needed to go through my MRI results. It was a list of things. I'm very organized. I have a whole list. So I feel like when I come in the door, they're already kind of prickly paired because I've over-prepared, I've researched, I'm a self-advocate. When we receive different words in language and even body language from our providers, a trust is betrayed.

Sarah Kirwan:

For example, my fatigue medication is a controlled substance. It's used for ADHD consistently, Adderall. And it's used for fatigue for people with multiple sclerosis. It has been so difficult for me just to get this prescription filled given the nature of it. I felt very much like a drug seeker as I was asking my own provider to refill this prescription for me. Being put in that situation where you're constantly defending yourself and you feel defensive, and shameful, and guilty that you're asking for this, and you're not getting what you need. So we talk about that trust, right? And that trust for me that day was broken.

Sarah Kirwan:

When we look about the work we're doing, trust is the most important part of this work. And you bring this perspective to the work that you do with your company, The Resource Key. And you are actually bringing this perspective to the world of academia, because you have talked about how we effectively build trust in this space. Can you share with our listeners work that you do in that area? I think it's really important.

Jourdan Saunders:

Yeah. So the overall goal at The Resource Key is building inclusive and impactful brands through inclusive marketing and business coaching services. So that's the ultimate goal. And the priority is making sure that people with disabilities are included, and making connections with these brands. Okay? So we're looking at the inclusion part, and the accessibility piece.

Jourdan Saunders:

So through all of this work, we're building community, right? So I think that's one of that most important things just in general. In businesses, in any type of setting is the community that you are building through the work that you are doing. So it's relationship building.

Jourdan Saunders:

I have reached out and created a team of incredible community experts that I work with. And that piece is really important because it's taking the time to listen, to learn from a different perspective outside of my own. So The Resource Key community experts provide valuable resources about inclusion and accessibility in the community, from their first person experiences. They also provide their industry expertise to contribute important information about why disability inclusion is important across all industries. So they're all in different industries ranging from modeling, to life coach, to law. So I think it goes back to what we were saying in terms of the plain language. Because sometimes, what happens and why you're able to communicate maybe better with one person than the other person is surrounding the words that we use. So that's why it was important collaborating with them, because they already are familiar with the industry terms as well. So they're able to have those conversations within their industries using the language that is familiar, while embedding those pieces of how important it is with inclusion accessibility and including people with disabilities.

Jourdan Saunders:

So the work that we do is based on branding, marketing, and all of those different things. But the most important work that I think we do is we're building and creating these safe spaces to cross-collaborate with other businesses across industries. All of these different things that I think are taken for granted sometimes when we are building the financial part as important, because it's your livelihood and all of those things. But the relationship part I think is very important, because that is what's going to continue these important conversations. And it's also creating those spaces where you feel safe.

Jourdan Saunders:

They always say it takes years sometimes to build trust. But it can take one day or a few words to lose that trust. So I think it's important that we continue to create these safe spaces and we continue to build these relationships so that we're also building stronger brands and stronger businesses as well.

Sarah Kirwan:

I love that. I think it really ties into what you and I have talked about experience in this space, whether it be professional, or personal lived, or otherwise. We've also talked about the importance of active listening, empathy. And I think these are all very important as we build trust in this space and important as we cross-collaborate into different industries, because the words that we use are different in each industry. Aligning those all to equity and inclusion is what I really like about what you've said, because those terms are going to be different. People within the industry have that experience. And if we can align with that to ensure that inclusion equity piece, that's the most important. We build that relationship, and we just build a larger movement to bring disability to the forefront of the greater conversation that we're having around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Which often leaves disability completely out of the mix.

Sarah Kirwan:

So as we're wrapping this up today, we've talked a lot about words, right? We've talked a lot about what we say in the context that we say it. And we also know how long we say something has an impact, right? That messaging, that consistent messaging has an impact. Using those words consistently over decades has an impact on people and the oppression that they face. Living with a disability, being a person of color with a disability, those experiences are all different and multilayered. So it really helps when we understand how the words that we use may impact those around us.

Sarah Kirwan:

So as we wrap this up, what do you want our listeners to take away from our conversation today that they can take into the world and start making change, don't have to have a big platform or a company that's doing this work? What can we just do in our daily lives?

Jourdan Saunders:

Yes. So you just brought up a great point. I always say my definition that I always think of inclusion is inclusion in an action, and it's included in our daily habits, right? So I think one of the things to keep in mind is of course the most important thing, hiring people with disabilities, including them on your boards and in leadership roles. Be patient. Patience is just so important I think with any of this. You're going to get frustrated along the way, I'm sure. And also too, you may not get the response when you're trying to learn new words.

Jourdan Saunders:

Because what happens a lot of times is we're pumped up, we're ready to learn and listen to other voices. And we may ask someone the wrong thing, and they may say it in a way that is offensive to us or hurtful. But you have to understand too, the context behind that. People with disabilities have been fighting for years and years for quality equity, all of these different things. So just because you may not get the response or the excitement that you want when you're asking about words or you say the wrong thing, doesn't mean that it means to stop doing that important work and having these important conversations. Because there's a lot of emotions behind all of this, right? So we have to make sure that we continue to, even when we don't get the response that we may be looking for, I think it's important to keep going, right?

Jourdan Saunders:

Because we are all going through our own word journey. And along each person's journey, you're going to meet people that may be on the same page as you than others. So you may describe that moment as, "Oh wow. They just get it." But we have to be 100% clear that not every person we encounter is just going to get it and be able to be up to date on the current shifts, or the changes in words, or the language that's occurring at a rapid rate. So it is imperative that we're intentional and that we're listening.

Jourdan Saunders:

And being intentional about inclusion, right? So I think it's important to save a seat at the table for people that don't look like you, or have the same perspective as you. So that saving that seat, it's intentional, right? The person's not just pulling a seat up at the table, you're saving them because you want to engage. You want to have these conversations. So I think that's important. The small things that you can be doing. Say hi, wave to people that you usually may avoid because you're uncomfortable or you don't know what to say. Start by waving, acknowledging them, saying hi. And maybe you see the same person every day, and the person may you sign language to communicate. You could learn a sign for how to say hi, or how are you doing? Those are different, small, actionable items that can be incorporated in your daily life. It doesn't have to be big things to start out with, because the small things are just as important as the big things.

Jourdan Saunders:

I think it's also important to educate young people. Because they're watching, observing everything. And they are learning from us as well as they're doing work too in educating.

Jourdan Saunders:

I had a student years ago. And one of the things I'll never forget is I overheard my student talking to another student and they said, "I don't understand why just because I'm blind, people always get nervous using the word see and look in conversation when speaking to me. I think it is so funny because I hear it in their voice that they're nervous saying those words. I always have to reassure them that I am blind, but I still use those words too when referring to things in my environment." And I thought this was so powerful because it's like that education piece just from being educated too, just by being a bystander as well. You may overhear conversations like that just in your daily routine. So you can take those things in as well. Because a lot of times, we're not going to say certain things if we're in uncomfortable settings. But if you're talking to a friend, in that case the student was talking to a friend of theirs. You're going to say some of these things that are just as important as the sitting down part as well with people with disabilities.

Jourdan Saunders:

So we have the power to use our words to make a positive impact, to bring about positive change, and most importantly, to build up community. So if you remember nothing else that we've talked about, I think it's important to remember that we do not need to get stuck on which words to use that we freeze up and don't do anything. Because there's so much work to be done to continue to move these important conversations forward about diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and equity for all.

Sarah Kirwan:

I think that you said that so beautifully. When I first started playing wheelchair basketball and I first started working at Rancho, the hospital, I would find myself feeling very awkward saying to a friend of mine who's a wheelchair user, saying, "Hey, you want to run over to Starbucks," or, "You want to walk over to Starbucks and we'll grab something?" And you almost find yourself wanting to say it. And then you try to say or roll, you know what I mean? You're like, "Do you want to just go there?" So the comfortable thing and the great thing is when we build up this trust in this space and we can feel comfortable having these conversations where they can just laugh at me and be like, "Yeah Sarah, it's fine. Just say, 'Do you want to walk over there quick?' You don't have to think about it for 10 minutes before you say it."

Sarah Kirwan:

So that's something that we really need to take into consideration. Because people do pick up on your body language or your hesitancy to say something. I think I just hesitated as we were speaking on this podcast. It was about the screen readers.

Sarah Kirwan:

Anyway, the other thing, the other story I want to share really quickly, this was a big learning opportunity for me. I had a client in Colorado, intellectual and developmental disability service provider. And I was business development with them. And I had spent a lot of time with physical disabilities, not so much with IDD, intellectual developmental disabilities. So I hadn't been around this community as much. But I was really learning a lot, I was engaging, and I was really enjoying the people, and getting to know them, and all of that.

Sarah Kirwan:

So I think I'm really getting this, right? It's been a few months and I'm getting into this. And one day I stop at Target I think it was on the way home from meeting with their CEO, and I'm on the way home, stop at Target. And I go in. And I see a woman with an adult child with IDD. And he starts throwing a fit. And you could tell that his mother was extremely embarrassed. She didn't really know kind of how to handle it. I was also in the aisle at the same time. So what I did, how I handled it was that I actually went into a different aisle. And my thinking behind that was I think that she already feels uncomfortable. So I should go into the other aisle to give her some space with her son. I was thinking it was a very respectful action or behavior that I did.

Sarah Kirwan:

Flip side of that, as I was driving home later, I was thinking to myself I wonder if I made her feel more ostracized and more uncomfortable because I didn't acknowledge. I didn't say hello. I didn't say anything. So I started to think about how my lack of words and using my words to include somebody made an impact that day. And when I talked to the CEO the next day, I asked him, I said, "What should I do better in the next situation?" And he suggested, and some of the parents suggested that I could say, "Hey, you got this." Or, "It looks like a hard day, but you're doing great. We all go through days like this." As opposed to not acknowledging or having that conversation.

Sarah Kirwan:

So I think having some self-awareness is really important. I think we need to ask those questions and really be intentional with our words and our actions. Today, we were talking more about words. But yeah, I just love all that. You summed it up beautifully, what we were talking about today. And I just am so thankful that you've been such a support in this process. There have been times where I literally couldn't figure out the technology, or couldn't find the right guest for this, or I didn't feel the inherent intent behind the podcast was upheld. So I changed the launch date. There were a lot of change in evolution throughout this podcast. And I just feel like you have supported me. And I'm just really grateful. And I thank you for being here with me today and sharing all of your knowledge and your insights that you have, because it's incredible.

Sarah Kirwan:

I want to tell our listeners, if you'd like to learn more about what Jourdan is doing in this space, then please check out The Resource Key website, which you can find at http://www.theresourcekey.com. And Jourdan, is there anywhere else they should look for you or for The Resource Key.

Jourdan Saunders:

That would be the best starting point. If you're on LinkedIn, that's how Sarah and I met. I'm on there every day posting, and continuing to learn, and do the work myself to research and continue to inform myself. So yeah, theresourcekey.com is the best place to go. And I want to thank you Sarah so much for having me on and for our continued conversations that we have had, and just for being an incredible person that you are. And also doing the important work that you continue to do. I'm very appreciative of the work that you're doing. I'm appreciative to know you, and just continuing these conversations.

Sarah Kirwan:

That was incredible. And I really appreciate you saying that. And I think that it's kind of funny. I don't know if I told you this, but I kind of think to myself on LinkedIn, what would Jourdan do?

Jourdan Saunders:

Overthink everything.

Sarah Kirwan:

So I look back and I'm like, "How did Jourdan alt text this? How did Jourdan post this? What hashtags did Jourdan use?" So it's been just incredible.

Jourdan Saunders:

Yeah, it really has. I'm so glad we met.

Sarah Kirwan:

It's been just fun. Right? It's like for everyone out there listening, I'm trying to get my LinkedIn game up to Jourdan's level. I'm on it. Man, it's incredible. Yeah. We've had a great time. And it really has been LinkedIn. And now I feel like I just want to hug you. And I feel like I can't wait to meet you in person.

Jourdan Saunders:

Gosh, the amazing things that virtual video calls can have. It feels like I know you and we've hung out. I feel like that when we do meet in person, it's just going to pick up wherever we left off.

Sarah Kirwan:

Totally. And I can't wait. I really can't wait. I know that we will continue this conversation. And maybe you will come back with us and talk about words are powerful around disability justice. I would really love that. So I hope you consider that.

Jourdan Saunders:

Yeah. So I feel like words can have multiple parts.

Sarah Kirwan:

Yes, yes. And we have seen that firsthand. So I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Jourdan Saunders:

Thank you so much.

Sarah Kirwan:

And once again to our listeners, thank you for spending your time with us and joining the Incluse This! Conversation and movement. Incluse This! is brought to you by Eye Level Communications, LLC. Eye Level is a California-based woman and disability-owned small business committed to having critical conversations at eye level that are necessary to move disability to the forefront of the greater diversity conversation. If you'd like to learn more about the work we're doing, please visit the website at http://www.eyelevel.works. You can also email me directly with any podcast episode ideas or questions and comments at sarah@eyelevel.works. Remember to put your disability lens on when you look at the world, and tune in next week for another stimulating conversation on Incluse This!, the podcast that's really a movement. Take care and be well.

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