We all have a preconceived notion about what it might be like to be blind, but how much do we really know about the day-to-day existence of actual blind people? Most likely, the answer is “not much.”
Molly Burke wants to change that answer. The social media influencer lost her vision when she was 14 years old due to a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, a rare eye disease that affects the retina.
Diagnosed at age 4, Molly’s doctors first told her she’d lose her eyesight in her 30s or 40s. She spent her childhood preparing to be completely blind someday, and each year her vision receded more and more until all she could see was light and shadow.
After experiencing bullying from classmates due to her disability, Molly was tempted to give up on the burgeoning public speaking career she’d started, but then she decided she’d rather work to educate society than overlook ignorance. By the time she was 18, Molly was a professional motivational speaker. At 20, she’d already burned out of the non-stop speaking circuit and was searching for another way to make an impact on the world around her.
“I thought back to the 14-year-old who was really the reason I’m doing all of this, and I wanted to be the role model that I didn’t have when I needed it,” Molly explained. “Where did 14-year-old Molly turn to when she had no friends anymore and she needed someone? I turned to YouTube.”
Molly wanted to represent the millions of people who live with a disability, but she soon realized she was rare in media. According to GLAAD, only 2.8% of people on broadcast programming in the United States have a disability.
“That’s ridiculous given there’s over a billion disabled people in the world,” she said. “There should be a disabled person in every single piece of media because guess what? There are disabled people (everywhere), whether you know they’re disabled or not.”
Today, the Los Angeles-based influencer is 28 and boasts a solid following on her YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram channels. She makes videos that help non-disabled people better understand what it’s like to live life without vision, explaining in detail how she puts on makeup, gets her hair done, and navigates the world with just a cane and her guide dog, Gallop. She also educates people on the best way to help the disabled if they need it, and how to avoid doing things that annoy them while trying to help.
Molly believes she was meant to be a spokesperson for the majority of disabled people who don’t wish to live a public life.
“I really believe I was born to do this,” she said. “I was given this life circumstances, and I was given a specific set of skills and talents that I have been able to marry them and do something with it.”
Many of Molly’s videos debunk myths and ideas people have about being blind. The biggest takeaway: People with disabilities are each unique, thinking people who want to be treated the same as anyone else.
“We are more capable than people give us credit for,” she said. “Of all of your senses, sight is what you rely on the most, so I understand the idea of not having that would be really difficult. But for us, we’re trained. We adapt. This is our normal.”
Molly is all about including others, adapting, and defeating ignorance! Her social media channels are not only informative, but fun and completely free of judgement. She’s a true warrior for anyone with disabilities in our world.
Watch the video below to learn five things Molly wishes sighted people knew about blindness, and don’t forget to share.
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