Becky Kekula is a TEDx international motivational speaker and advocate for inclusion. She also serves as a Disability Equality Index Director at Disability:IN: the leading nonprofit resource for business disability inclusion worldwide.
Becky is a person with dwarfism and thus identifies as having a physical disability. She has an amazing story of how she got her first job behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, trying to change what we see in the media because that affects how people like her are treated in society. She is passionate about educating people about the importance of inclusion and kindness. She has spoken at over 300 venues, schools, nonprofit organisations, corporations, about the importance of being more inclusive of people like her, so those that come after her won’t have as hard of a time fitting into society.
“I decided to move to another job in television casting at a television studio because I thought I could make an impact on how people with disabilities are represented on television. Unfortunately, the industry is still very slow when it comes to being inclusive of disability and they tend to hire people who don’t have the lived experience of disability to play disability. And then those people get big awards like Emmys and Oscars because it’s a big thing that they’re playing disability and they should be applauded for it, rather than seeking out the actual people who have the disability and lived experience that can authentically portray those types of roles.”
“I was working for two people. One person did not want me to be there. One person did and it was really hard that whole year. I was working there trying to make an impact, trying to share my experience and my passion for making TV more inclusive.”
“ I had to make a really tough decision. Do I want to continue working in an industry that keeps letting me down? Or do I want to go and move home to my family, who loves me unconditionally, and will support me?”
“ I thought that people didn’t want to hear from me, because I didn’t reach a certain level of success in my career. But they wanted to hear about what it was like to be in my shoes, trying to transition to the workforce from college. It didn’t matter what level of my career I was in, my sister asked me if I could be a speaker at her school. She’s a middle school teacher. So I continued to practice sharing my story. And then finally, after about seven months of sharing my story for free, someone asked me, what’s your rate? And then I continued to seek out opportunities paid and unpaid because I really feel that every experience is important. And it really helped build me up knowing that people enjoyed hearing my story. And my success didn’t depend on how I was treated in Los Angeles and the roles that I had there.”
“From scratch, they were able to put in some requests for accommodations. So going from the middle floor of the house to the basement, they were able to put a railing that was lower than the regular railing on the staircase, so I would have something to hold on to while I was going up and down from the basement. And then in the bathroom. They made sure that the light switch was lower enough so I could turn it on and off instead of having knob handles on doors in the house. It was important to have handle handles so that I could get an easier grasp of them.
My parents had a crazy idea of Putting in an intercom system. So in my room, the intercom for me was lower. But a storm blew it out a few years later, so we didn’t get much use out of it. And then, for a lot of other things, we would just have stools in the house if I needed to reach something. But in my younger years, they would just be there to assist. I think a lot of people like me feel empowered to want to try something on their own. So it’s really important to ask someone if they need assistance, rather than just trying to do it for them in any type of setting. And they’ll let you know if they need assistance with something.”
“In my early career, I really didn’t ask for anything, because I was just so afraid of not getting the job or not being able to stay at a job because it would be too much to ask for things. But when I got to the job in New York City, they did ask me right away. I think also the trend of ergonomic assessors coming to workplaces has become a more common thing. So when I was getting my desk set up, they asked me what I needed. And I did ask for a step stool for my desk. And then we got a step stool for the bathroom that I was going to be accessing. And they did have a few kitchens on the floor where we worked. But they got a stool that I could use in the kitchen that I was closest to. But then a few months later, the Head of Administration had a dream or just woke up in the middle of the night and thought, what if Becky wanted to use the other kitchens on the floor? What if she had a meeting on the other side of the building? Shouldn’t we still have a stepstool there too? So they went and got those additional stepstools, I think it’s nice to have people think above and beyond and I didn’t think of it on my own. I just thought I’ll take whatever accommodations they’re willing to give me. Or if I’m going to use the kitchen, I’ll just use the one that has the step stool. But I love when people go above and beyond and just make it available.“
“Fast forward to several years later, I was invited to do another TED Talk, where I talked about this fear people have of disability gets in the way of how they treat people with disabilities. They’re so fearful that their lives are going to turn into chaos, that one may perceive if they don’t have the lived experience of disability up until this point in time. And then that fear gets projected on people with disabilities. So they feel bad for us, which then doesn’t allow us to have a chance to participate in the environments that they spend time in. Because they’re blocking us out. They’re missing out on talent, and the meaning of connection, connecting to people who may not look like you. But there’s a lot that we all have inside that we could have in common.”
“I currently work for an organisation that supports businesses with disability inclusion, really tying back to when I struggled to get my first job out of college, we find candidates with disabilities who have college degrees or are in grad school, are currently in college, and match them with corporations who are ready, willing and able to hire, they just want to find the talent. So they know going into it, that this talent pool has disability all around it, and they’re willing to give them a chance. And I specifically run an index that companies take, it’s a self-assessment, and it measures how they’re doing across their enterprise, when it comes to disability inclusion, really making sure disability is part of their diversity effort. Because often, people may say, diversity is ethnicity or gender, and they may not think of the other areas of diversity. But we want to intentionally include disability in every conversation so that nobody’s left behind.”
“The end goal of everything- everyone deserves to belong. And we don’t want the unemployment rate to be so drastically different between those with disabilities and those without, because employment allows for people to feel that sense of independence and feel empowered to make a difference and gives them a purpose”.
“People forget that over 70% of disabilities are not apparent, meaning you can’t see them. And mental health is definitely a part of that equation, even though it’s often talked about separately, mental health is a disability.”
“For me as a person with dwarfism, I’m one of 30,000 people in the US who have dwarfism, but there are 400 types of dwarfism. So we all come in different shapes and sizes, just like everyone in the world and when we go out in public especially in major cities, where there are a lot of people, we have a chance of coming across a lot of strangers with all different socio-economic backgrounds and experiences, we are reminded that we’re different when we go out in public every day. And it can be daunting, and it can tear away at your insides because you’re not being accepted into everyday life. And there’s a huge connection between the little people community and mental health.”
“And I will say even during my reboot story I was really struggling because you start doubting yourself when others are doubting you. And you don’t know what that means for your future. And then with any area of diversity, I think it’s just the idea that people are reminded that they’re different. And those who remind you that you’re different have something going on inside. Otherwise, they wouldn’t remind you that you’re different. So it’s a spiral effect. But if you let someone’s opinions or comments get to you, it will tear you down.”
“I would say try your best to not let other people’s assumptions of what you are not capable of getting in the way of what you think you’re capable of, and what value you have to bring to the world. Because we all were brought here for a reason, and have the potential to do great things, even if others try to tear us down in the process.”
“I truly believe anything’s possible. And people may laugh, sometimes they are sure. But I’m willing to challenge anyone, anytime someone tells me that it isn’t.”
The little people of America website https://www.lpaonline.org/
The National Centre for disability journalism https://ncdj.org/style-guide/
Becky Curran Kekula was born with achondroplasia, the most common type of short-limbed dwarfism. She stands 4 feet tall. Both her parents and older sister are “average” height. Her parents always taught her about keeping a positive outlook, no matter how harsh the outside world may be. She grew up participating in sports such as sailing, skiing, soccer, and swimming amongst her “average height peers. When people ask if she likes being a little person, she always has the same answer. “ I never want to change but I want the way the outside world reacts to my difference to change”
Becky is a TEDx international motivational speaker and advocates for inclusion. She also serves as a disability Equality Index director at disability:IN: the leading nonprofit resource for business disability inclusion worldwide. As a motivational speaker and Equality, diversity, and inclusion specialist, she advocates for inclusion everywhere. Becky strives to teach acceptance whilst educating and motivating all people to establish goals and work hard to accomplish them.
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ABOUT THE HOST
Emma Last is a qualified Mental Health and Wellbeing Trainer and Coach. She has co-written both the First Aid Industry body’s accredited First Aid for Mental Health and Wellbeing training for Adults in the workplace and those working with children.
Emma also has over 20-years, experience in leading teams and developing strategies for change. She worked in senior leadership for a large corporate until early 2018, when she came to a turning point in her career due to being on the brink of burnout and wanted to gain more of a balance in her life. She then rebooted her life and founded her company Progressive Minds.
Emma also works with workplaces and schools on their Mental Health and Wellbeing strategies and provides training and coaching to support employees through challenging and changing times. Emma also works with individuals to help them to perform at their best by working on their mental fitness, which incorporates stress/burnout prevention and resilience and agility development through her Human Reboot Movement Coaching Programme. Her clients say they have become more mentally fit, happier and gain the results they want in their lives.
Her Human Reboot podcast achieved number 22 in the Mental Health category in Mental Health Awareness week. She is a #1 best selling author on Amazon
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