The Observers

TikTok creators with disabilities educate, raise awareness in viral videos

Gem Hubbard is one of several TikTok users who have taken to the platform to share videos about living with a disability. Her videos deal with common questions and misconceptions about wheelchair users.
Gem Hubbard is one of several TikTok users who have taken to the platform to share videos about living with a disability. Her videos deal with common questions and misconceptions about wheelchair users. © Observers

"How does a blind girl cross the street?" "How does a wheelchair user get into the bath?" These are some of the questions that TikTok creators with disabilities have been answering. In snappy, 60-second videos, creators like Lucy Edwards and Gem Hubbard are educating the public about their daily lifestyles, while also contributing to disability awareness. They are part of a growing movement of people who have turned to TikTok to confront common misconceptions about living with a disability.

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Lucy Edwards lost her eyesight at age 17, due to a rare genetic condition. She has started a series on TikTok entitled "How does a blind girl?" which answers questions people may have about her daily life. Edwards explains how she navigates daily tasks such as doing her makeup, lighting candles, threading needles or making her bed. 

"I saw that there was a gap in the knowledge about blindness on the internet, and so I thought: 'Right, I can do some short, snappy videos,'" Edwards told the FRANCE 24 Observers. "I bet there are so many people out there who don't know how I live day to day."

One of Edwards' videos, where she explains how she fills a mug with boiling water, has amassed more than 18 million views. 

Gem Hubbard, a wheelchair user, saw a similar deficit in disability content online. 

"I think the hashtag on Instagram for 'wheelchair' probably had 11 posts on it," Hubbard said. "And now I think it has gone well over 100 thousand."

Both Edwards and Hubbard have carved out a place online to share their daily trials and triumphs, all the while quashing misconceptions about living with a disability.

However, TikTok used to suppress disabled users' content, keeping their videos from going viral on the "For You" page, with the aim of preventing cyberbullying. The social media platform has since repealed this policy, saying that it was "wrong."

Citing changes in the app's policy and culture, Edwards is optimistic about TikTok's future.

"Watch this space, because I know that TikTok is growing and changing every day," she said.