Disabilities are something which are still misunderstood by a lot of people. Encouragingly, however, there are people within the disabled community who are using their platforms to show how people can truly thrive with disabilities.
One of which is Kris Foster, co-founder of Open Book, who also has autism and Down Syndrome. We talk to him about his experiences, how he sees himself thriving, and what he thinks could make the disability community as a whole thrive.
In 2018, Kris had suspected pancreatic cancer. It was thankfully benign. However, It caused him a huge amount of distress, leading to a heart attack, and a mild stroke in 2019. He took some time away from work to recoevr. The ordeal left him feeling broken. A feeling which was not made any better by the discrimination he experienced when preparing to return to work. Leading to his redundancy In 2020.
Kris was devastated by this, so he started an Instagram Live in March of 2020. This ended up changing everything. This livestream gained the attention of graphic designer James Horwitz, who reached out to Kris. In April 2020, they developed Open Book, a platform to celebrate people with disabilities.
This, up and coming platform has been recognised by larger platforms including the BBC.
So, after facing bullying and discrimination, Kris Is now discovering how and where he fits in, and what it truly means to thrive with disability.
Goals, community and resilience
Kris feels that the way in which the platform is thriving has given him a sense of purpose and space to dream. He believes that thriving with disability is about opportunity. This is why Open Book champions individuals, inspires hope, and connects people.
Thriving through purpose
One thing that gives Kris a real sense of thriving is the opportunity to show his creativity. A creativity which is clear to see through his online platforms. Alongside open book, Kris also uses his online platforms to show his love of fashion, especially trainers. This can be seen clearly on his social media pages and is another area in which he feels that he can really thrive.
Kris also shared more about how he would like to see himself thriving long-term, and that he would love to work in the media industry. He doesn’t see any reason why he couldn’t be the first national TV presenter with Down Syndrome. We can’t see a reason why this wouldn’t be possible either.
Kris envisions people with disabilities thriving everywhere, achieved by increased recognition and representation. Kris believes things are changing but also feels there is a way left to go in getting it right.
Hopes for the future
Disabilities can be misrepresented and misunderstood within the government and in society, reducing the momentum which is needed to ensure sustained progress. Measures meant to help people with disabilities are often set up by people who are by no means experts. Leaving many people feeling unheard and left behind by the system. Kris really wants to see the disabled community and non-disabled allies speaking out against the injustices and outdated attitudes that are too common.
Kris continues to have high hopes for the ways in which the community can thrive in the future. He believes the disability community can stick together in advocating for their rights.
Kris has pointed out just how too few disabled people are visible in the majority of industries, especilaly media and the music industry. We join him with the aspiration of seeing more people with disabilities in the workplace.
At the Essential Education Group, we sincerely hope to see these changes for the better coming into effect.
As we continue to believe that everybody can #uniquelytakeyourplace
interview and Edits made by – Scarlett Pritchard.