The Landscape

Jenny Smith Rolls On

November 01, 2020 Naveh Eldar / Jenny Smith Season 1 Episode 19
The Landscape
Jenny Smith Rolls On
Chapters
The Landscape
Jenny Smith Rolls On
Nov 01, 2020 Season 1 Episode 19
Naveh Eldar / Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is an amazing advocate and blogger who speaks about finding her passion in the workplace, ableism, the importance of communication, being the former Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky, and more. Her insights and passion shouldn't be missed and you MUST subscribe to her blog at: Jenny Smith Rolls On

Make sure to subscribe to the podcast on the any podcasting platform, and follow The Landscape Podcast on social media. Become part of the movement! 

Show Notes Transcript

Jenny Smith is an amazing advocate and blogger who speaks about finding her passion in the workplace, ableism, the importance of communication, being the former Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky, and more. Her insights and passion shouldn't be missed and you MUST subscribe to her blog at: Jenny Smith Rolls On

Make sure to subscribe to the podcast on the any podcasting platform, and follow The Landscape Podcast on social media. Become part of the movement! 

Naveh Eldar  0:17  
Welcome to the landscape, a podcast to shed light on the people, programs and businesses that are changing the landscape for individuals with any type of disability. I'm your host and avail dar it's been a rough couple of weeks for me in my day job. And it's was a period where I was looking for more accurately hoping for more community advocates to be heard. So this unexpected series of three episodes is right on time. For me personally, I was connected with three amazing advocates from different states, and each one I met in a completely different way. One is a favorite voice that I found on Instagram. One reached out to me directly, and one was introduced to me from the amazing Gary pate, who, if you remember, works with the Paralympic rugby team. I knew that all three of them were passionate leaders in advocacy. But what I didn't find out until later is that all three had won the MS wheelchair competition in their respective states. Now, once I looked a little bit into this competition and movement it made sense, taken directly from their website is this statement. Unlike traditional beauty pageants, Ms wheelchair America is not a contest to select the most attractive individual. It is instead a competition based on advocacy, achievement, communication, and presentation to select the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman for individuals with disabilities. So doesn't it make sense how I was led to this amazing group of women. They have three very unique voices. And they also have different disabilities that led to their using a wheelchair. In today's episode, I speak to Jenny Smith, who has a fantastic blog called Jenny Smith rolls on. And she is also a former ms wheelchair for Kentucky. You can pause this podcast right now. And go to Jenny Smith rolls on comm and click the subscribe button on the top right you will not regret it. Her blog is fantastic has really good content and information for anybody. Now, today, Jenny speaks about finding her way ableism the importance of communication, and her calling to advocate for others. She starts the conversation by speaking about her current employment.

Jenny Smith  3:05  
I currently work at an international nonprofit organization, and I support our workers as they live in other countries. So they're learning a different language, a new culture, and it can be really stressful. So I reach out to them and just make sure that they're doing okay mentally, spiritually, physically, because there's a lot of pressure and stress on them. Full Circle, I got interested in people who are working cross culturally, after I've worked in developing countries, distributing wheelchairs, and just seeing the conditions that people live in with disabilities, who have absolutely no access to mobility, AIDS, wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches nothing. And so that kind of got me enjoying cross cultural work. But as a quadriplegic that was going to be very difficult to do on my own.

Naveh Eldar  3:58  
And so how does that work? Like? Do you check in on them? Or do they call in if they're having issues?

Jenny Smith  4:04  
it where it's a two way street? So I've been with the organization since 2009. So it's taken a really long time to establish those relationships where people can feel comfortable enough to say, Hey, can we talk I'm really struggling today. And but it's been very rewarding as well to see when people are really doing well and thriving. And we always kind of say, you know, we want to see you thriving, not just surviving. And I think that's true of any of us in life. We want to thrive not just survive.

Naveh Eldar  4:34  
And so what got you into that position, like what education Do you have or what experience led you there?

Jenny Smith  4:41  
I was going into my fourth year of college and I had no clue what I was going to major in and I went in and asked what will get me out the fastest and they said psychology and about died because that was the one thing I did not ever want to take another class and again so I cranked out classes and psychology got My degree. During that process, I volunteered at the crisis and Information Center, which is a suicide hotline here in Louisville. And I found out about the master's program through that process. So, once again, against my will, but I knew the next right step. I found myself in the master's program for counseling psychology.

Naveh Eldar  5:23  
So when you when I'm just curious, when you went into school, what did you think you were gonna be?

Jenny Smith  5:27  
I had absolutely no clue. I think because I was injured at 16, I really hadn't decided I want to be this when I grow up. And so part of that there was a freedom because there wasn't any last dream of, Oh, I wanted to be a doctor. And that's not going to happen now. And remember, I was injured 31 years ago. So I don't think that's necessarily the case today, if you want to be a doctor, I think there's enough with the ADA that you could probably push through and still do that. But I didn't have I want to be this when I grow up. And so it made it really difficult because I loved all of my classes, except psychology. And so it was just a process of taking what I enjoyed and trying to figure it out, and then just cranking through.

Naveh Eldar  6:16  
Okay, and then so you graduate and then. So what was the first I don't know, dream job that you had, after you graduated, the first big one where you're like, Oh, this is gonna be fun.

Jenny Smith  6:27  
Well, it's really interesting. Volunteering plays a big part in my life simply because well, volunteering and part time jobs. I think with each part time job and each volunteer position, I found out a little bit more about what I enjoyed doing. And I really like to tell people that if you don't know what you want to do, volunteer and get part time jobs. It's not a lifetime commitment. And if you don't like it, it's okay, I worked at a call center for my very first job, talking to people who are grumpy about their appliances that are broken is not my thing. But working with at risk children. That just was it clicked for me. I'm like, Ooh, I like this. I don't know what it is I like about this. But there's something I really love. What I've been able to tie together is I was encouraging I was getting to teach, and I was walking alongside someone in a journey. And that's really what I'm doing now, it might look different. And before my injury, I was a coach, gymnastics coach. And that's what clicked as well. And so I think we can find different things, it's just going to look very different. Doing member care, which is what I do. And being a gymnastics coach, they don't look anything alike, but they take the same skills.

Naveh Eldar  7:50  
And so so let's go back to when you were 16 and had your injury. So now you're you're working full time. You are have a master's degree, all of these things. Was there a time especially I imagined being a teenager and going through that, that you felt that you would accomplish none of that.

Jenny Smith  8:12  
I don't think there was ever a time that I thought I wouldn't accomplish it. I always thought I would complete high school. I actually I completed high school a year early, because I wanted out and went on to college. So that was never a doubt. But I think the bigger picture of what would I do with my life was still just very much in question. You know, I was doubting that.

Naveh Eldar  8:37  
And so you were a very active a gymnast, a coach. And so how did your accident impact you if you can tell us that story a little bit.

Jenny Smith  8:46  
So I had been a gymnast since I was about three. And I was tumbling outside. I was actually a cheerleading practice when I was injured. But I don't like to be called that cheerleader. So I always emphasized the gymnast. And outside tumbling while everyone was on a break, I would just continue to do something but the grass was wet that morning, and my feet slipped out from underneath me. I didn't have enough height or rotation to make it all the way around. So I ended up landing on my stomach and the grass. I was conscious the whole time. But the thing I was most worried about, I knew immediately what had happened. My friends ran up and said, Jenny, are you okay? And I said, I've broken my deck. Don't give me I don't know where I learned that as a 16 year olds. I don't know if I learned it at the gym or in science class. But it was a really good thing

Naveh Eldar  9:40  
I knew just to lay there at that time. I mean, just I don't know, I feel like teenagers feel like they're invincible. Like Did you think all the doctors are just gonna fix me? Or did you feel like, you know, it's more significant than that?

Jenny Smith  9:53  
I think for me, and I think this is true of most people who are injured. They're going to be the one to overcome. Come the odds at the time. Once again, this was 1989. The doctor told me that he came in and said, You've sustained a spinal cord injury, you're never going to walk again. And being a thinker, not a feeler. My response to him was, I know I told you that, right. So there wasn't a connection between brain and heart at that time. And so I was all up in my head. So I don't know if invincible is the word. But I was also enough of a thinker to know, this probably reality is probably going to be going to walk again. But what does that mean? What does paralysis mean? Most people think that a spinal cord injury means that you can't walk. And that's true in most cases. But it also involves bladder and bowel dysfunction. It involves lack of sensation, pressure sores, urinary tract infections, it involves so much more than not walking,

Naveh Eldar  11:03  
you probably had to be taken care of quite a bit, in what phase that you become more independent.

Jenny Smith  11:10  
I was completely dependent. So I went to rehab for two and a half months, I was in the hospital for about two weeks, and then went to rehab for two and a half months, where I was supposed to learn how to eat and get dressed and transfer. And because of my level of injury, you have a C six, seven spinal cord injury. I wasn't at the point when I got discharged, where I could do any well, so I learned how to put my makeup on. So that story,

Naveh Eldar  11:39  
okay.

Jenny Smith  11:40  
And I was able to brush my teeth, wash my face, some of the, quote simple things. And I'm going to say that as a seasick seven, that's not simple to someone with a higher level spinal cord injury. So everything is perspective. Sure. But I went home, I was discharged. I couldn't even get into the bathroom at home. So I was completely dependent on my mom. And my grandma happened to be in town at the time. So we had her help. My mom, of course, had to go back to work because she carried the health insurance. My dad was back at work. So my grandma stepped in and was a huge help in personal care.

Naveh Eldar  12:23  
And then so do you still have any assistance now? Or do you live completely independently,

Jenny Smith  12:28  
I have helped three mornings a week with a shower. And outside of that, well, I have someone help around the house, you know, just clean up clean the floors do the deep cleaning. But for the most part, I'm on my own. I live in a condo by myself. And it's beautiful. But it didn't. It wasn't overnight.

Naveh Eldar  12:52  
Yeah, that's what I want to know about. So I know because you have a blog, and I've read several of them. And so I know you travel, I would like to hear about your job where you had to travel, which has to be super difficult, you know, you have to worry about accessibility and all those sorts of things,

Jenny Smith  13:09  
what accessibility exists.

Naveh Eldar  13:11  
We can talk about that. So at what age or what something happened that gave you the confidence or the skill set to be able to say, I don't need help anymore, except for a couple times a week. I can travel on my own. I know in past interviews, I know people said that that was that particularly was a big step for them was was just traveling on a plane. So so if you can tell us a little about your experience.

Jenny Smith  13:39  
I think there's several steps that were involved. I mentioned putting on mascara. I had a woman come in and visit me she was in her mid 20s. She had been injured about five years prior. And she was just showing me how she was able to write to same level injuries me how she was able to drive, how she worked, how she was finishing up her nursing degree. And I'm hearing all this but I was a girly girl. I still am a girly girl. And she pulled out a tube of mascara. And she showed me how she put on mascara. And that tube of mascara gave me hope. So that was the first glimmer that okay, I can do this. I can do something. I'm a 16 year old girl I can put on my mascara. We're good.

Naveh Eldar  14:27  
Okay,

Jenny Smith  14:28  
so that was just a little step. But once I was in college, about three years after my injury, I started driving. Okay, another huge leap of independence.

Naveh Eldar  14:39  
Yeah, for anybody.

Jenny Smith  14:40  
I'm still dependent at home, getting in and out of bed, getting dressed, getting with all of my personal care, but I was independent once I was up in my chair and out of the house. And that was massive. So that was another leap and I'll kind of move forward to a 1998 a friend And who I'd met at on campus who was a wheelchair user encouraged me to enter the Miss wheelchair Kentucky pageants. And that was like, Oh, no, I am not new. Just no. Well, I did. And I went to the national pageants. No. And it was there that for the first time, I got to be around 26 other women with disabilities, and that we changed my life. I met Leslie, who is a quad. She got dressed on her own, she had just gotten married, she was in charge of all of her personal care. And I'm like, why did I not know this was possible. And so just meeting different people along the way, has, I think that's why peer mentors are so important in my story. And I love being peer mentor, a peer mentor to others.

Naveh Eldar  15:58  
So let's talk about that. Because I, I have a lot of background on the mental health side of things. And I know there, there's peer support on mental health. And then of course, there's a lot of addiction also in on the mental side. So there's a lot of peer support around that as well. So what is a peer support for you?

Jenny Smith  16:19  
peer mentor. So what that looks like when I go in, and I'm asked to go into speak to someone with a new spinal cord injury, I'll just call me up and say, hey, we've got someone new. And so I'll ask for a little bit of information. And sometimes it's pretty specific. So it's a girl who wants to put on their makeup, like, okay, okay, I know how to come prepared, you know, makeup bag and toe, I'll always have a pin with me to show them how I'm able to write. Because that just seems overwhelming at the beginning as well. You don't have your hands, how are you going to write, and just being able to talk with someone and I, since I've been there, I know that that person may not say a word the whole time, but I know that they're listening. And they may not hear everything I'm saying. But even if one thing can reach to the debt through to them to give them a little bit of hope. It's worth it. And that may not happen, like in my case for nine or 10 years. Wow, that's okay.

Naveh Eldar  17:21  
So how many people do you mentor?

Jenny Smith  17:24  
You know, it just kind of happens. Sometimes I'll get calls from the rehab facilities. Sometimes I've run into people in a parking lot at a restaurant, and we clicked and hey, you know, it's one of those peer mentor relationships that have turned into a friendship. What's so great about peer mentoring is you don't have to explain yourself. Gotcha. If I okay, here's one of my favorite stories. Because a physical therapist and occupational therapist, my parents could have said you need to do this, or you can do this. Well, they're able bodied. I'm gonna look at them and go, Yeah, right. Mm hmm. Someone who uses a chair. If they say, I can do this, you need to try it. You can try it. Why don't you try it? I don't have an argument. I'm like, you can do that. Okay. And I ended up even though I was very athletic. As a teenager, I was also very much a perfectionist. So it took me nine years to get involved in wheelchair sports. But when I did, and when I started playing in tournaments with wheelchair tennis, I got to know people I got to learn from others. And so once again, that was one of those big turning points for me just like the pageant was where I got to be around others and at one of the tournaments, I had a friend who was there to help me with personal care. I went up to the room late at night. We were supposed to meet there at 1030 and I'm looking at my watch, she's not coming its way after 1030 I had had a pressure sore about two years prior and I knew I needed to get off my butt. And I texted her no answer calls, she wouldn't pick up family. I was just got my stuff, I threw it into bed. I got my sliding board. And even though I had transferred on my own before, I always had someone around because it was too much of a risk. And so I ended up picking us, you know being able to do an independent transfer. I got my legs up on the bed. You know, sense of relief. And slowly I managed to get my pants down, pulled each foot up, was able to slide my my shoes and my socks off. And I just started bawling. Right then is when my friend walked in the door and She said, Jenny, what's wrong? Yeah, I did. You know, just sobbing. It's like, why didn't I know I can do this? Right? But then my friend said, Mike wouldn't let me come up. He said, You do it if I wasn't here to help. Oh, man, I was so mad at Mike at that point. But he is a cheer user. He got it. Yeah, he knew I was able to do it. And so it really just taught me. If someone really believes that I can do something, it's worth a shot.

Naveh Eldar  20:35  
Right? And I don't know, Mike, but I imagine that he was very much like, yeah, you can be mad at me. But you did it.

Jenny Smith  20:42  
Yeah, exactly.

Naveh Eldar  20:44  
Yeah. So I want to back up to something you said. You said that. When you're at home, you know, you felt dependent. But once you got in your chair, you felt independent. And so I've seen this a lot lately, where individuals who use wheelchairs are a little bit frustrated with people who feel that they are confined to a wheelchair. So can you talk about what the wheelchair means to you as far as your independence

Jenny Smith  21:13  
from for me, a wheelchair is freedom. I am not confined to a to a wheelchair, a wheelchair gives me freedom. And I've seen that firsthand in developing countries where people truly are confined. People are confined to a floor in the corner of a house. That is their life. That's not what a wheelchair is, for me. a wheelchair is sports, a wheelchair is work. a wheelchair is driving a wheelchair encompasses so much its life.

Naveh Eldar  21:47  
And so what did you do? What work did you do when you were traveling abroad around around wheelchairs?

Jenny Smith  21:52  
I worked for an organization and we would collect use wheelchairs here in the US, refurbish them, and then send them overseas. And so we would meet them, we would ship them, have some sometimes professionals, occupational therapists, physical therapists come along with us, and fit every single wheelchair for the recipient. And there's nothing like being able to sit in a chair side by side with someone who's getting their very first wheelchair and getting a child or an adult how to push a wheelchair, just their face lights up. And it's like, oh, my gosh, this is what freedom can be like. Now, I'm going to say, is there accessibility in the country? Probably not. Right? Is there the medical care that they need? Probably not. But just like, we were in the US, I'll say in the 1940s. Mm hmm. And people coming back from World War Two people coming back from Vietnam. They got the supplies, they fought for what they needed. And so I think what we were doing was a first step. So we were giving them the tools that they needed to be able to fight for more access.

Naveh Eldar  23:12  
Yeah, that's it's just it falls in line with you. You know, you just have that personality that wants to help people and wants to make an impact. That's it. That's great. And before I move on to another question, why do you have a blog? Because I feel like that's a part of it, too, right? Like you're trying to reach reach people?

Jenny Smith  23:30  
Yeah. So what I was noticing, I was first asked by a friend to, if I'd be interested in writing for a company, and just some articles, I thought it was volunteer. And I'm like, Sure. Well, and it was all spinal cord injury related. And I fell in love with it. I was like, I have something to offer. And seeing people's responses of Oh, I didn't know that. Or I'd never thought of it that way, both in the disabled community and the able bodied communities. So it's, it's a means of education. And I think that's really important to me, as I always like to emphasize the day that you have a spinal cord injury, you became an educator, whether or not you wanted to, you are responsible for educating doctors, family, people that don't know you. And yes, it may get frustrating, but you are an educator. And so, thankfully, that's something that I do enjoy doing. And I think the blog that I have Jenny Smith rolls on is just a means to continue that.

Naveh Eldar  24:43  
I'm gonna add a link to that on this on the description of this episode. So if people want to find it, just look in the description. So you talked about educating. Did you do that when you were 16 as well, I imagine that it's that's such a curious age, right, but it's also an age You can be reserved and kind of insecure about things. So So did you talk to your friends? Did your friends talk to you about how they felt? How did all of that work?

Jenny Smith  25:11  
I was very reserved, I was not a communicator. I didn't know how to communicate. So everything got stuffed. And thankfully, I'll say, that didn't turn into depression. Because the majority of the time, if you're a stuffer, that's going to come out looking like depression. I never experienced depression. And maybe we can just say that, you know, I was just in La La Land, pretending that nothing was going on. But that was my way of coping. And so there were things like if my mom was helping me with the bowel program, I would disassociate to some extent, I'm like, I this isn't happening, I just don't even want to know that this is happening, what she's having to help me with, because it was so mortifying. Mm hmm. But we were a family that communicated. And so it just, it's been a process. So definitely, as a 16 year olds, even for 10 years, I think it was really, the more comfortable I became with myself and my spinal cord injury, the more willing, I've been able to talk about it, I can talk to men or women about bladder and bowel programs, you know, sexuality, all of that stuff, because I'm more comfortable with myself now. But I think that was the first key I was, once again, a perfectionist didn't want to look like I didn't have it all under control. Mm hmm. And I didn't have anything under control.

Naveh Eldar  26:43  
We were speaking before we started recording about, you know, everybody experiences their own reality. Right? So, and we all have our own emotions, and we can never take other people's emotions away from them. So were you aware of how your injury impacted your friends and family? Cuz like, I'm a father. And I would imagine that it would be, you know, traumatizing for me as a parent to see that happen. So is that something that your friends have talked to you about your family has talked to you about?

Jenny Smith  27:19  
At the time, I wasn't aware. So I remember my mom helping me at night, one evening, and she just broke down in tears and ran out of the room. Okay, and I was just left there going. This is because of me. And it? You know, it was like, it wasn't that I felt guilty. But I knew that this situation. What she was feeling was because of me. And that is correct. Um, thankfully, I didn't take that on too heavy. But I didn't still understands that she was dealing with depression. I mean, it impacted her. Right? for probably several years, I don't even know where my brother when he was two years younger. I'm like, What happened to my brother, use this. So when I got to talk with him a couple years ago, because I really wanted to be I was in the process of writing a manuscript, which is with an agent right now for a memoir, okay. And it was just a really good opportunity to reach out and ask specific questions that I'd been hesitant to ask about. And I was like, how did this hurt you, Matthew, you know, how did it affect you? He's like, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. No one was paying attention to me. And I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I've been carrying this weight on my shoulders that I ruined my brother's life. And he's like, Oh, it's, I got away with some serious crap. Right? Okay, well, we can check that one off the list. But, um, as far as friendships go, so I had a really good close group of friends. And they did not leave me. I want to say that first and foremost, because I know a lot of people experienced that. It was also I was going into my junior year, they were going into their senior year, which ended up I graduated early. So we all graduated at the same time. But everyone off went off to college. But I stayed at home, still dependent on mom and dad, and grandma. And there was one night at a high school basketball game where all my friends were cheering. And I called out to my best friend. I'm like, hey, Barb, why don't you throw some backpacks and layouts for me? And she turned around and looked at me and just shook her head and walked away. Because I was living vicariously through her. I wanted her to do something that I couldn't do. I'm like, why wouldn't she do that? I didn't under stand it. Mm hmm. So when I got to talk with her several years ago and asked her experience, she was scared to death. She felt she had done what she was able to do. And she wasn't going to push it anymore. Right. And she was also really struggling with the guilt. So survivor's guilt, I guess you could call it. Um, why Jenny? Not me. Right. And so I think you can't do this at the time of an injury because there's too much trauma going on. But once you get a couple years between you and the injury, I think people really need to take a good look at how their injury impacted others, if others have walked away. Maybe there's a reason maybe it's just because they are a crappy friend, or were never a friend to begin with. Right. But there might be other things involved. Barbara, and I never lost touch. But our lives definitely went in different directions. But that's also happens to able bodied friends when you graduate from high school. Sure. So I don't want to blame my injury on that.

Naveh Eldar  31:12  
Yeah, communication. You know, if people listen to this, and they take anything, I mean, communication is so key. Because when I'm thinking of your experience with your mother, where she cried and ran out of the room, and how that must have made you feel right. And if she had had a conversation, I think anytime you explain something, even if it's not what the person wants to hear, it helps. It is like, are you running out just because it's a really hard day? Or are you running out because you're, you're afraid I'm not going to have the life that I want to have? Or you know, it could be so many different things. And you're left to just guess, which is usually the worst case

Jenny Smith  31:49  
that you write. And that was one really important point that my mom's best friends. I because I got to talk with them as well. Like, what did you see in my mom? What was she experiencing? And one of them said, you know, Jenny, she was experiencing loss of dreams for you. Right? Is she ever going to see you walk down the aisle? Was she ever going to see you play piano again. And so there, she was experiencing her own losses, right on top of the stress, and all the difficulty of not only working full time, but helping me and I just can't even imagine. I do think I want to add this in. I do think parents sometimes struggle more than the kids. And I can't imagine what it would be like as a parents. Yeah.

Naveh Eldar  32:44  
And right, I can totally see that. Because, um, you know, we just want we want what's best for the kids, no matter what happens. A lot of times the kids are like, you know, I'll deal with it. I'm okay, I'm fine. And we're like, Are you Are you sure? Is this gonna impact you? Log? So yeah, parents are the were the worst we are worriers. So I also know that you are very involved with sports. You mentioned a few when you were talking about the wheelchair, you're like, it allows me to play tennis. It allows me to play basketball, I think you said so now. Let's clarify that one, not basketball. I know you play rugby. So what what are the sports that you're involved with? And why what why do you get involved with sports? What are the different benefits of

Jenny Smith  33:28  
it? I first gotten involved with tennis. on a whim, I was getting my haircuts. The person that was cutting my hair said, Hey, Judy Petit, saw an article about you in the newspaper. She wants to coach wheelchair tennis, would you be interested? Okay, give her my number. And up to that point, that was nine years after my injury, I was dead set against ever playing sports, because remember, I'm a perfectionist, and I'm not going to do something if I'm not going to be good at it. And let me say, I still suck at tennis. But when I first made that connection from the racket to the ball, and just heard that pop, and felt the reverberations down my arm, it was like, Ooh, okay, there's something here. And it was ugly, it's still ugly. I'm, like I said, I'm not a great tennis player. But it gave me an outlet for the athlete and me again. And that was such a core piece of my identity, that it just gave me an outlet. It was a way to express myself. Once again, I didn't have an outlet to express myself. So sports was a great outlet for anger, frustration, after a long day at work, just to be able to go out there and hit some balls. And once I started playing in some tournaments, it was a social activity. So sports is not just about the Physical sign of it. It's the social, it's emotional. It's learning. And not just about sports, but just learning about your injury in life.

Naveh Eldar  35:10  
Part of my work is helping people to be integrated into the community, which includes employment. But I want to talk about the community piece because you know, with sport, I see it as being essential. So what is the importance of community? And what are the challenges of being part of the community if you're wheelchair user?

Jenny Smith  35:34  
The challenges of being involved with the community at large, it's primarily access. So yes, it's been 30 years since the ADA was passed. But where do people typically congregate? They typically go to one another's houses, okay. I have one family member's house I can get into. And that's my parents. And when they talked about someone asked them about when they were going to downsize, I had a panic attack. I was just like, why am I having this reaction? And I really had to come home and think about it and go, Oh, that's the one place we get together for family activities. Yeah. And so with friendships, and especially early on in my injury, I was driving from a power chair. And so if we were going to a friend's house, I'd have to lug along my manual chair, get lifted into my manual chair, get carried up steps. And that's okay. When you're, you know, 19 2030 it's not okay. anymore. And, um, yeah, so I would say access is the primary barrier.

Naveh Eldar  36:48  
Wow. Okay. I

Jenny Smith  36:49  
would also say, I'm going to add in fear, I think people don't know what to say. So they have a tendency not to say anything at all. So well, should I invite this person over? Well, I don't know. So I'm not gonna ask, right? Well, if you don't ask, you're not going to know. So I can always say, Well, you know, what getting together to your house isn't ideal. But hey, let's meet at a coffee shop, or let's go out for dinner. And that's a good way of learning for me what will work for myself,

Naveh Eldar  37:23  
I want to really shift gears hard right now, and go into this concept of of ableism. Which I read a blog post by by you and I agreed with it, which is a term that seems to be becoming more popular, like I didn't know this term long ago. But an example of it that made me think about it now is, well, first of all, ableism is like, you know, discriminating against people that have a disability or condescending to people having preconceived notions. One of the cases was we just had the US Open, you were talking about tennis. And that's what made me think of it. And they were thinking that at first, they weren't going to invite the wheelchair users because of COVID. And there was a huge outcry of saying what like, you're going to invite the people without a disability, like, what is that about? Right? Like is COVID attacks everybody? So what's Ronnie saying? So can you talk a little bit about, you know, this concept, and if you've had any experience with it,

Jenny Smith  38:28  
I would really, I it's a newer concept to me. And I have to be honest with that, I would have said, I've never experienced ableism if you would have asked me about a year ago, and then I had an experience at a doctor's office where I was calling in, I was having to change offices. And they asked, Well, do you have any limitations, or, you know, something that I would need help with? As I was checking in, I'm like, Well, I have difficulty writing sometimes. And I knew that wasn't going to translate to them over the phone because they couldn't see me. So I explained, I'm a quadriplegic, okay, so you don't work. And so it was an automatic assumption that a quadriplegic would not work. And so that's more of where, and it's not direct. Not a direct ism, I guess, I would say, not a direct discrimination, but it's those stereotypes that people hold, right. And I didn't even have a word for it. And I just made a real quick Instagram posts, like, hey, this just happened. This was crazy. And someone posted ableism and I'm like, Oh, that's what just happens. And I had to do some research on it to really understand the concept because, to me, I don't want to, I don't want to scream ableism because I just see others who do have it so much worse, you know, that's such a minor thing in the scheme. of things, but but it is there. And so if someone what I ended up doing, I brought it up with a doctor, when I had the appointment, like, Is there anything else? I'm like? Well, let me just explain to you what happened when I was making this appointment just so that you can educate your staff. Why these questions do need to be asked, not assumed, but asked, you know whether what accommodations need to be made as far as Will someone need help up onto an exam table if an exam is going to take place. And so she was very receptive. And if I wasn't willing to do that, she never would have had the opportunity to hear it. And she never would have had the opportunity to pass it on to her staff, which she did. She called me back a couple days later and said, hey, I've talked to my office manager, they're going to have an in service about this. So I think people can be willing to learn, people are willing to learn, but we can't be come across as angry or bitter. Because, once again, it comes back to education, I want to educate.

Naveh Eldar  41:08  
And I love that you did that. Because almost all if we think about it, almost all preconceived notions are just ignorance, right? It's they don't know.

Jenny Smith  41:17  
That's all it is. So that happens all it is. But that's what it is. Yeah,

Naveh Eldar  41:21  
yeah. And so to have that conversation, the call it out and to be like, I'm sure she didn't mean to offend you. Not at all right. But that brings us to another point anyway, but I'm glad you did it also, because we also have a culture of complaining about things, you know, on social media, and not addressing it. And there's nothing wrong with venting, we all need to vent, but we also need to work to fix it. So you know, exactly. That. And that's a great way to end the main interview. So if you've heard my podcast, which I know you have, you know, I end with personal questions. So, first one is you've been you worked, traveling a lot. And then you I assume you travel a lot for pleasure as well. What is a one of the favorites?

Jenny Smith  42:09  
pleasure?

Naveh Eldar  42:11  
What is one of your favorite places that you've visited or most impactful on you?

Jenny Smith  42:16  
most impactful? That's that's a better question Afghanistan by far. Oh, okay. Because it's not the most enjoyable. It's not the easiest, but it's definitely the most impactful. It's not what you see on the news, because the stories that we see on the news are not the individuals that you get to meet and look in the eye and have a conversation.

Naveh Eldar  42:39  
Right.

Jenny Smith  42:40  
And it's not seeing a man carried in in a wheelbarrow being pushed in a wheelbarrow to receive a wheelchair. And yes, that story might have been on the news that a bomb was dropped somewhere during the Taleban. But this is the end result. Right? And yeah, I mean, how long were you there? I went on six different times. Okay, for about three weeks each time. Oh, wow. And honestly, I have to say, by the time of that, the end of that three weeks, I was typically ready to come back and get into my bathroom because I could never even get into the bathroom. Bathrooms are inaccessible, never had a shower. So we had to get really, you know, creative with how I washed my hair because I'm a happy girl as long as my hairs wash. I can go to the shower. But, um, but once again, it's that dependency and seeing that as I've had to become okay with that over the years, I'm having become Reliant. I was there to do something to help someone else. But I needed help to do that. And that's okay.

Naveh Eldar  43:56  
Yeah. Awesome. I'm in a very unexpected answer. So that's always good

Jenny Smith  44:01  
there. Yes.

Naveh Eldar  44:03  
Do you have a show that you binge watch?

Jenny Smith  44:06  
Oh, my gosh. There's been a while because of COVID. I'm not a binge watcher per se, but I'll watch like a half a show while I'm eating dinner. So right now. Okay, this is going to be embarrassing. Her of disc Hart of Dixie would be one that I've been watching. It was another author had mentioned it I'm like, well, let's check it out. And then Hannah was another one. I definitely binge watched that one that was that kept me on my toes. But the best TV show of all time is alias. Oh, definitely. I want to be Sydney Bristow and speak 37 different languages and be able to kick boys butts. So

Naveh Eldar  44:51  
very nice. Very nice. And then so last question is since you don't binge watch what is your favorite activity to do? Just relax or enjoy yourself

Jenny Smith  45:02  
reading. I always try to get into bed at least a half hour before I plan on going to sleep. It just helps me relax it. I get out of my chair First of all, so I'm in bed, have my book and just that's like the most glorious time of the day for me. It's just getting to lay there and read a book and escape for a little bit.

Naveh Eldar  45:23  
So you know that I that was supposed to be the last question, but I have to ask. Well, so what are you reading right now?

Jenny Smith  45:28  
Right now I am reading a book by Rachel Hawk. And it was just she's a newer author for me. She's not a new author. She's a New York Times bestseller, but I'd never read any of her stuff. So it's about meeting a prince and getting married Of course.

Naveh Eldar  45:48  
Oh, look at you. You said you were a girly girl. So you lived up to I

Jenny Smith  45:52  
do I Yeah, I am. And then you know, alias so. alias, people can't figure me out. And that's right.

Naveh Eldar  45:59  
And Hannah. I mean, Hannah's like she's she's, you know, she's not girly girl at all that that? Yes.

Jenny Smith  46:06  
I guess. Am I allowed to say badass?

Naveh Eldar  46:09  
Sure. Yeah, you can say whatever you want on this show.

Jenny Smith  46:11  
No. I agree with that. But I'm like, sometimes you just that's kind of what she did. So yeah, gotcha.

Naveh Eldar  46:18  
Well, look, Jenny, thank you so much for your time, and for your for your blog, and like taking the time to just educate people and and I look forward to reading more of your stuff. Stay in touch. Follow Jenny's blog at Jenny Smith rolls on COMM And I will provide a convenient link for you in the episode description. You can also find Jenny on all social media outlets under the same name of Jenny Smith rolls on. Also, make sure to subscribe to this podcast and you can follow my pages on all social media outlets as well. In the next episode, I welcome Barb subblock nee, also known as rolling rainbow BB, partly because of her personality, and she likes to dress in colorful attire, and partly because of her body art. Barb is an active advocate from a small town. She was Ms wheelchair Pennsylvania in 2018. And the People's Choice winner at ms wheelchair America 2019. I'm really excited to speak to Barb who can address the experience of living and advocating from a small community. So I look forward to seeing you next time. Bye

Transcribed by https://otter.ai