Scrolling through her feed puts her sunny smile and sense of humor on display. It’s also a genuine learning experience. Bear lives with spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that stiffens the muscles in her legs. As a result, she loses her balance fairly easily and can be left winded from a short walk. To travel long distances, attend events or shop, Bear relies on a mobility scooter.
“I’m thankfully able to be independent to some extent, but there are some adaptations I have to make. Walking with a hot bowl of soup is not the best option for me,” Bear laughs. “The pandemic made me realize how much I have to touch surfaces just to keep my balance because I am kind of a fall-risk. I was suddenly much more aware of my touch points than I was before, especially for quick errands, when I would sometimes lean on a shopping cart instead of using my mobility scooter.”
COVID-19 prompted many businesses to pivot and offer contactless pickup and delivery options, Walgreens included. Though accelerated by the recent pandemic, it’s an option that has been welcomed by people with disabilities after years of frustration. What would be considered a “quick errand” to many can be painful or frustrating for those who face challenges with walking.
“Curbside pickup has been life-changing, honestly,” says Bear. “It’s given me peace of mind that I can get access to things quickly without needing to wait. Walgreens notoriously has all the necessities, be it medicine or first aid. It’s been really helpful for me to just pull up, sit in my car and have somebody come out so that I lower my risk of possibly contracting the virus or falling.”
To expand on this offering, Walgreens recently announced same-day delivery of retail products in under two hours. This increase in access has been key in ensuring everyone, regardless of ability or health, is able to conveniently and quickly receive the products they need. Or, as in Bear’s case, the wayward bag of Reese’s that usually finds its way into her cart.
Maintaining an upbeat outlook on life, whether by sharing her favorite sweet treats or posting body positivity memes, has been key to Bear’s popularity on social media.
“I strive to make what society deems as an uncomfortable topic something more lighthearted and easier to digest for people who may not be educated when it comes to disabilities. I feel that a lot of the bullying comes down to a lack of awareness or not knowing someone with a disability.”
And even though she’s considered the influencer, interacting with her followers is something Bear finds to be mutually beneficial.
“Throughout my life, I was always the only person in my family or in my friend group that had a disability of any kind,” says Bear. “My friends and family always did a great job at welcoming me and supporting me, but there's something different about connecting with somebody who goes through the same experiences as you. I didn't really even know that existed until I started talking openly about it on social media.”
Bear regularly hosts Instagram Live sessions with her family members and other disability advocates to encourage those who live with people with disabilities to share about their experiences. She has watched as conversations unfold between mothers who have children with cerebral palsy. Through her platform, people can connect in real time and find confidence in themselves.
“If you ask someone with a disability, you always need to prove yourself and share your worth to overcome those initial stereotypes and judgments,” she says. “All we really want is to be heard and to be included. I never anticipated this role for me, but I am proud to be here. It’s my hope that I can help people put themselves in someone else's shoes.”