Lucy Edwards: My disability, my career and me
A disability shouldn’t be a barrier to anyone’s career.
However when you don’t often see people who have had similar experiences to you doing your dream job, it can make you feel as though it will be difficult for you to get there.
Lucy Edwards has a thriving career in the media, as well as a huge following on YouTube and TikTok. She is also blind. We’ve asked her to give us a run down of what it’s like living with her disability, and how she hasn’t let it get in the way of her career – quite the opposite, in fact!
I'm Lucy Edwards, I am 24 and I'm a presenter, journalist and online digital creator. I make content about my life and my disability.
At age 17 I lost all of my eyesight after being diagnosed with a rare genetic condition named Incontinentia Pigmenti. Throughout secondary school I had assistance from sighted guides and notetakers in class as well as enlarged text textbooks and materials. Sight loss has always been a part of my life and until recently I didn't know how little even those closest to me knew about my blindness.
For instance, only around 10 percent of those who are registered blind can see absolutely nothing at all. We access online materials using screen reader software and the bells on a guide dog's collar are not Christmas bells, they are there so we can hear where they are at all times.
I didn't learn about people with disabilities until I had a disability. Why?
During lockdown in March I started to ask myself what I could do to spread awareness of blindness. I don't want little blind Lucy's looking at social media anymore and feeling left out. I wanted to show the world what I could do and not dwell on what I can't, so I started to upload on TikTok.
Learn on TikTok
TikTok exploded in popularity this year and people started to understand what the day in the life of a blind person was like. At first it made me sad that just because I lost my eyesight through no fault of my own, I would get questions about if I could eat or drink or even go to the toilet. It made me more determined to show how capable I can be. I began to see the comments as curiosities. At the end of the day it is not anyone's fault that they don't know about blindness if they were never taught. I have now become the blind TikTok teacher using the hash tag LearnOnTikTok.
My most frequently asked questions include:
How do you make a cup of tea?
I own a One Cup kettle and I use a liquid level indicator which is a device that you place on the rim of a teacup and it has metal prongs that sit on the inside of the mug. When the water reaches the prongs the indicator beeps to let me know my mug is full.
How do I reply to comments online?
I use VoiceOver on my iPhone. VoiceOver is a screen reader that reads aloud everything on my phone. I use gestures to swipe around. Every iPhone comes with the ability to turn VoiceOver on. It is in the accessibility settings. If you have an Android phone, the equivalent feature is called TalkBack.
How do I find things in my house?
I am so organised. Everything has a set place in my house. I have learnt certain items by touch and I label things with a braille labeller or PenFriend (an audio device sold by the RNIB).
How do you read?
Either audio books or, if I’m not listening, I’m reading with my fingers. I read a tactile language called Braille. Every cell (they are used to represent letters, numbers or words) is made up of six dots. Depending on the character or contraction, different dots are raised.
A career in the media
I encourage anyone who wants a career in the media to just give it a go and start uploading on social media. This is what I started to do back in 2014 on YouTube. I knew from that moment that it was my destiny to share my story. I then became so interested in other people in the industry I decided to apply for a digital news program at the BBC.
It is totally possible to have a really successful career in the media with a disability. Last December, I became the first ever blind BBC Radio 1 presenter and I was over the moon. I never thought that there would ever be so much acceptance towards me and my disability in my lifetime. However, we still do have a long way to go. I would love to see more regular representation on our radio and on TV. I would love to see disabled talent not only producing and presenting programs about disability, but about a range of topics. This is when I believe true inclusion will happen.
The more voices there are the better. Discrimination of disabled people is still alive everywhere and my dream is to one day be seen as equal. Yes we have challenges but with the right reasonable adjustments, we are exceptional problem solvers and dynamic members of staff. If you are reading this and you have a disability, you are valid, you are talented, and you should never stop dreaming.