Social media has helped expose us all to the lived experiences of those around us, people and communities that might live different lives to our own.
While traditional media has typically failed to highlight marginalized voices globally, the accessibility of social media alongside a massive global audience, offers an opportunity for greater inclusivity and a greater insight into the experiences of all people than ever before.
Over the last year and during the pandemic, TikTok has risen to become one of the most beloved social media platforms, and it has brought with it content from people with diverse backgrounds and livelihoods. People with disabilities in particular have been using the platform to help show that while their differences can and must be acknowledged, they do not define them.
This visibility has been an essential message to help dispel a culture of ableism that the world has long been too comfortable with, and to bring awareness to the harmful stereotypes that are often associated with people with disabilities.
Despite there being over one billion people in the world living with a disability, those who are disabled are still overlooked and left behind in global development. People with disabilities are up to 10 times more likely to experience sexual abuse, have a high probability of experiencing police brutality, experience significant struggles finding and securing employment, and depending on the disability, may also have limited accessibility in a world that hasn’t been designed to consider them.
While creating a video on TikTok may not instantly change these facts, it can help non-disabled people become more aware and better informed about what it can be like living with a disability in a step towards equity for all.
Not only are these TikTokers educating their audiences and highlighting the privileges that people without disabilities often take for granted, they’re doing it with flair and are also absolutely slaying the TikTok game with hilarious storytelling, inspiring makeup looks, and killer dance moves.
There are so many incredible TikTok creators out there for you to discover, but here’s a selection of people creating content about their disabilities, makeup, fashion, dance, and more to check out to get your “For You” algorithm in gear.
1. Jay Johnson
Looking to add glamour to your everyday look? Check out Jay Johnson. As a makeup influencer, Johnson takes you through tutorials and “get ready with me” videos, where each look is different yet just as gorgeous as the last. Johnson has spoken openly about her polymyositis diagnosis, which is a muscular disease that limits her physical movement, and has said that her dream is to become a makeup influencer who serves as a reminder to those in the disability community that they too can follow their dreams.
@itsjaaayyy welcome to everyone that’s new here ! 🤍#pastachips#weekendtrip#disability#disabilityawareness#disabilitypride♬ original sound - a chronically ill icon
“My dream is to make this my job and to spread awareness about disabilities and just encourage other people with disabilities to follow their dreams,” Johnson said in a video while putting her makeup on. “I feel like I have the same potential as any able-bodied person and I just want to be given the same opportunity, that’s all.”
2. Erin Novakowski
Novakowski has amassed over 500,000 followers on TikTok by answering people’s questions about her disability, responding to ignorant comments on her posts, and most of all, sharing her unique brand of humour through her videos.
She jokes that she’s a microcelebrity all while walking us through her everyday struggles and successes as a person with a muscular disability.
@wheelierin this is my favourite tiktok i’ve ever made. i crack myself up #greenscreenvideo#wheelchair#athlete#disability#sports#fyp#ballislife♬ original sound - Ballislife
"I love getting a little spicy with my content and talking about embarrassing things like getting blackout drunk or getting ghosted by boys, because abled people always assume disabled people don't experience normal things like that," Novakowski told Allure.
3. The Rollettes
Los Angeles-based dance team The Rollettes are proving that being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t conquer the dance floor. They not only master TikTok dance challenges, but they also take the time to uplift their followers who also use wheelchairs, and make relatable videos taking their audience through their day-to-day lives.
@chelsiehill_ These throwbacks!!! @wilkingsisters @jociscott #fyp#foryou#foryoupage#wheelchair#dance#rollettesdance (DC: @rony_boyy ) #disabledtiktok♬ Esco Like Yhop ft. Shawn P - Èsco Upp🗣
4. Lucy Edwards
Lucy Edwards’ TikTok account will put you in a great mood — she’s colourful, cheerful, and has a lot of fun showing the world what it’s like living with blindness through her #HowDoesABlindGirl series.
@lucyedwardsblind How does a blind person play football? #blind#ballers#MyFootballAnthem#football#euro2020♬ original sound - British blind girl 👁🦮👩🦯
From showing us how she navigates household work, to breaking down the things that are and aren’t accessible to her, to taking on hilarious challenges with her friends, there’s a little something for everyone to engage with on her page.
She’s also a journalist who became BBC’s first blind broadcaster two years ago, and has her own YouTube channel.
5. Henrik Cox
Over a million people follow Henrik Cox to watch his videos based on using a bionic arm, where he explains how it works via sensors that connect to his arm, but also points out its flaws. In one video, for example, Cox shows his audience what happens when his arm runs out of battery while making food.
Cox also takes on challenges from followers to display what he can and can’t do with the arm, but most of all, he works to highlight that his life and the situations he faces are much the same as anyone else.
I found another microwave, so you know what I had to do♬ Like I Can - Sam Smith
6. Jiya Day
With her ever-changing hair colour, Jiya Day has great style and creates content to match. She also drops the occasional reminder that non-disabled people should acknowledge their privilege and the importance of ensuring people with disabilities are at the heart of conversations about change.
Her page is filled with comedy voiceover videos, honest responses to comments on her posts, and real world reflections of what it means to have a disability as a person of colour.
@bbjiya Food for thought #bodypositivity#cerebralpalsy#disability#fashion#ableism#accessibility♬ Turning Page - Sydney Rose
“When discussing body positivity we shouldn’t only just be referring to the size of a person,” Day says in a video. “But also the abilities that one's body is able or isn’t able to do, a.k.a. adding people with disabilities into the conversation.”
7. Chrissy Marshall
Filmmaker Chrissy Marshall has conquered remixing a TikTok challenge in a way that also helps educate their followers about the Deaf community — like demonstrating American Sign Language (ASL) and signing lyrics to songs. They have a sarcastic sense of humour and highlight the many general misconceptions other people have about being deaf.
@chrissycanthearyou Actually 😅🤫 #deaf#asl#deafawareness#signlanguage#disabilitytiktok#wholesome#learnontiktok♬ original sound - Chrissy🎬🤟
On their page you’ll find them talking about their personal experiences, joking about their everyday challenges, and highlighting the discrimination experienced by people with disabilities alongside makeup videos, fashion try-ons, and snippets of their adorable dog.
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