Brave Spaces with Ciawanda McDonald

Ciawanda McDonald is the Executive Director of Disability Solutions for Independent Living, covering Volusia and Flagler County. She is a voice for the independent living movement, in terms of equity, diversity, and intersectionality, spearheading a group comprised of folks throughout the state to advance the conversations related to equity for all groups of people with disabilities. She unpacks the important things that are needed to be know in having these conversations, what are the terms, what’s the context, and what’s the conversations being had, how does it conceptualized, and why its important to really understand who we are, our awareness of ourselves, our implicit biases. Ciawanda discusses addressing the fears we have when entering into these conversations, how to overcome them, how does it all tied back to the independent living movement, and how we can do better to serve better for the people that we’re charged with serving and providing.

Some of the work they done at the centers is creating brave spaces that encourages a dialogue that recognizes differences and holds a person accountable for what it is that they do or say and sharing experiences. Within these work groups, participants share their own experiences, have conversations, and work on how to make the centers for independent living more diverse and more equitable for others.

Disability Solutions for Independent Living, Inc.
119 South Palmetto Avenue, Suite 180
Daytona Beach, Florida 32114
386-255-1812  Fax:  386-255-1814
TTY: 386-252-6222

SPEAKERS: Ciawanda McDonald, Tony Delisle

Tony Delisle  00:00

Hello, everyone and welcome to another exciting episode of The Independent Life. I am so happy to bring to you a conversation that I’ve had with Ciawanda McDonald. She is the director for disability Solutions Center for Independent Living, that covers Volusia and Flagler counties. And she is phenomenal. She runs an amazing array of programs, which you’ll hear in this conversation that address youth in high school and transition services, emergency management, she’s got some amazing experiences that you’re going to hear about, pertaining to how to assist people with disabilities. And it has a real life experience immediately after the impact of Hurricane Michael, where she went in there at the beginning where there wasn’t electricity or there wasn’t, you know, enough gas to get filled up. So she you know, had to go in with satellite phones and, and all kinds of gear to make sure that she could get in and out and do some of the work that she did there. And on the back end, weeks later, when people are in shelters, she was there doing some great work that you’ll hear about in this episode. And beyond the services that she does there at the center, she really is a voice for the independent living movement in terms of equity, diversity, and intersectionality. You know, she really helps to spearhead a working group that is comprised of people throughout the state that work at Centers for Independent Living, directors and staff and even board members who get together with other people from the Florida Independent Living Council on the Florida Association for Centers for Independent Living on a bi weekly basis to really advance the conversation related to equity for all groups of people with disabilities. And what that really looks like she really unpacks you know, the important things that are needed to know and having this conversation, what are the terms? What’s the context in which the conversation is being had, you know, how is it conceptualized why it’s important to really understand who we are ourselves, our awareness of ourselves, our implicit biases that we have, addressing some of the fears that we have in entering into this conversation and how to overcome them? And really, how does it all tie back again, to the independent living movement, and you know, how we can do better to serve better for the people that were charged with serving and providing the services with. So she’s just a very wise person, she has an incredible quote, that’s put in there by Dr. Martin Luther King that really talks about the power of love. I think one of the most important ingredients that’s needed for our times, and especially to advance the this conversation, it’s been told to me a few times that you’re understanding the complexity of the situation and the numbers and in the story it tells and doing better and serving better is certainly needed. But it also is about the heart, and where’s our, is our heart. And I think that again, you know, points to some of the conversations that she talks about when she talks about, you know, self awareness and knowing who we are addressing some of the insecurities and fears that we might have, how to go about doing it in a way that’s really just based on creating a safe and brave space to be able to have these conversations. So I look forward to for you to hear this and learn as much as I have from Ciawanda, she’s just phenomenal. So it’s a pleasure to have here. Have a conversation and share this episode with you all. Well, hello, everyone, and welcome back to another edition of the independent life and Oh man, this is such a special occasion. You know, you’re on my short shortlist of people that I’ve been excited to interview ever since launching this because I certainly learned a whole lot from you anytime you and I get together and talk and discuss and connect. So I’ve always been wanting to have our conversation shared with other people. And this is a great platform and opportunity to do this. Ciawanda, you are the Executive Director for disability solutions, a Center for Independent Living, that covers both Volusia County and Flagler county and I want to let you know that this is where I grew up. I grew up in Norman, by the sea, really know the Flagler north of there, the area, the beach, and all the way up to Metanzas Lakes very well. And then south of me, you know, when I grew up, I’m fairly up there. But in the 80s it was the heyday of Daytona Beach. So like I got to experience that while I was in high school. I just love that area. I’ve had many homes throughout my life, but certainly the the formative years of growing up I did in that area. And when I heard that you were moving from Tallahassee to Daytona area that was really kind of like endearing to me, and I’m always interested in how all the directors throughout the state are doing, but particularly you coming in and being new to the area, you know, you’re coming in from Tallahassee. And I know before that you will get into where you live. And I’ve always been thinking about you in a fond way because to me there’s a special place in my heart for that area has been my original home. I hope it’s been treating you well. You know, it goes a long way to kind of overlooking where you did come from Tallahassee. As you know, we’re probably back kassian here in Gainesville. And so he in the academic center to the brainchild universe here, we come in from Tallahassee, we’d recognize and have a platform here for diversity. We are very excited to talk about that topic as well. And get into it here with you. Ciawanda,

Ciawanda McDonald  05:16

Thank you so much for having me. I am excited to be here. I definitely, like you said, Ciawanda McDonald. I am the Chief Executive Officer at disability solutions for Independent Living and as you said, that is a Center for Independent Living. And yes, I was born and raised in Panama City so I am not foreign to the beaches. Of course that’s that’s the Gulf Coast right so it’s a different different body of water but then where I am now here on the east coast of Florida, but I’m excited to be here excited to be in Daytona and I do love the area Tony so thank you for that warm welcome and I’m excited to be here as well.

Tony Delisle  05:54

Well great, you know the panhandle in that area there you know the contrast between do typically the waters they’re a little calmer than the Atlantic you know the side that you’re on now and that was really great for growing up and on the beach and surfing and the intercoastal life that you get some really beautiful backwaters there you know the intercoastal that separates there from the beaches and so yeah, I hope the area has been very good to you You’re certainly deserving of it and I’m really glad to hear that you serve that area you know growing up from there I do know some of the unique needs and challenges of the area you got rural in there. You also have had an a population that have expanded quite a bit I’m talking like the Daytona or greater Daytona area and even DeLand. Volusia County itself is quite big, you know, it’s got a lot of area there that has really exploded since the time I grew up there from the 80s until what it is today, so I mean, the amount of growth at that area has had, so you both have rural and you both have like some densely populated areas, you know, I am well aware of, you know, some of the economic challenges that you know, the counties have faced as well. So tell me, you know, as your Center for Independent Living that covers this area, and to experience some of the growth that it has and some of the economic channels is that is going on, why would you say your centers have an important center for the for the communities that you serve?

Ciawanda McDonald  07:10

So for the Daytona area, there is a fairly large population of individuals here with disabilities and so those of you who are not from the Daytona area may or may not know that the division of blind Services has a program here that assists individuals who are visually visually challenged and so they have a large population here right that they bring here and do some training with and those individuals are then placed in the community so that has increased the population of individuals with disabilities but to bring it back to Centers for Independent Living, I I feel like our center is important for the community because this is a large area that services individuals with disabilities and so it’s a place that you can call home right? Which is important right? We all want to feel like we belong somewhere like there is a place that we can go to receive services and that is what I feel the Center for Independent Living is on disability solutions for independent living like you said to embrace that that growing population that we have here in Volusia County in Flagler County, and Flagler’s growing, its truly like the best kept secret in this area.

Tony Delisle  08:23

Yeah, and I recognize that growing up, I mean, yeah, the the population in Flagler County, again, when I was growing up there, you know, in the 70s, and 80s, and to what it is now, especially largely due to Palm Coast area, it has really expanded. And so you know, with this growth again, but still largely rural, I mean, these counties are very large counties, you got the stretch of beach and Felicia county covers, I mean, it really is just, you know, from, you know, New Smyrna Beach area, you know, southward a little bit from there all the way northward to nearly where the southern border of Flagler county is up north of Ormond Beach, it’s a huge area, it’s very big, it’s very big and reliant on the tourist industry, which can fluctuate you know, and as it is now with COVID. And, you know, some of the challenges that go along with there. I’m glad you mentioned, the division of line services there I, you know, lived in the Daytona area, and happened to you know, benefit from those services. And they were helpful to me during the time that I grew up there. We didn’t move there because of it. But I was just fortunate enough and privileged enough to be born in an area that had that resource for me being legally blind. Again, another reason that, you know, that area definitely endears itself into my heart. So tell us about some of the specific things that you do at your center for people who have disabilities, what are some of the services that you do?

Ciawanda McDonald  09:44

So um, of course, like all centers, right, we have the five core services that usually are offered for from all Centers for Independent Living, so I’m just for those for those five core services with those who don’t know what they are, I’ll just kind of go into those and then talk about how disability solutions fulfills those services. And so of course, we do information and referral, something all centers do, right if you if you need a service and it is not offered by disability solutions, we will find an organization that does or we will attempt to find an organization that does. We absolutely do our best, right and since so then we will, at that point in time, give you a referral to partner with that organization and do some of the work. So, information referral is huge for us, right? Like all centers, it’s, it’s a huge service, because we are not able to fulfill all needs, but we absolutely want to make sure that needs are met. And so information and referral is one that we do independent living skills, right? Huge for disability solutions, pre-COVID, we offered classes where youth and adults could come to our center, and we have a pretty large kitchen there. It’s a kitchen that’s accessible for those who require wheelchairs, and mobility aids, right. And so the kitchen is designed for those individuals on the countertop sit a little lower, so that you can will your chair up to the countertops and spaces like that, so you have the opportunity to learn to cook. In addition to that class, we coupled a class with that, that allows you to go to maybe a local brochure, and with a menu shop for items on the menu. And then after you shop for those items, the following week, you will attend a class and learn to cook what’s on the menu. So it was a it was a huge class for us, pretty popular class. Since COVID, though, we have had to make that make that class a little bit different, right, we do the shopping online now, for those individuals who don’t have a smartphone, we offer the opportunity to receive a smartphone, three months of service paid. And so after you get your smartphone, we assist you with learning to do that shopping online, how to get some of the apps that are for your local stores, right some of your larger chain groceries, and then how to put the items in your cart, and just things like that, you know, to prepare us for COVID try and keep us all at home out of the stores. So that’s um, that’s still something that’s huge, huge for us. Since COVID, we also have started trying to do the one on one cooking classes. So that’s, that’s actually coming now we have Yeah, we have a partnership with the Occupational Therapy Assistant students at Daytona State College. And those students come in and they help teach techniques for anyone that’s having any type of difficulties maybe, um, dexterity, grip, those types of things. And so um, that’s huge for us. As far as an independent living skill, those two things. And on down the list, we we do transition services, right, like every other center, as far as a transition services, we have in the past had a youth specialists that goes into the elementary, middle and high schools and that are local, and that individual usually attends an IEP meeting and sits with that parent to try and help the parent, you know, figure out what services are needed for that child in the educational setting. So that’s also been a pretty popular program. For us, we are having to make that look a little different, right since COVID. But um, so it’s, you know, all trend change to a virtual platform. But that is a service that we definitely still offer and also any type of nursing home transition, any institutional transition in it coming out of the hospital coming out of a nursing facility, because of course, we want individuals to be community based, that’s absolutely service we try and offer. We do some home modifications, mainly ramps. So if you have anyone that has accessibility issues with getting in and out of their home, we try and provide ramps for individuals. And let’s see, we have a partnership with our local housing authorities, multiple housing authorities as a matter of fact. So we’ve had the opportunity to assist with rental deposits, we’ve had the opportunity to assist with utility deposits for individuals. So just some of the services. Also like in emergency management, we’ve helped our consumers create an emergency preparedness plan. And we also offer a just a little duffel bag with some goodies in it for emergency purposes, i.e hurricane, a pandemic, right. So just those are some of the things that we offer their disability solutions.

Tony Delisle  14:35

You do so much there and and I want to start off with what you did, you know, see information and referral. There’s so many complex needs that are out there and there’s a lot of different opportunities that people don’t know about or organizations that are out there that may not be something we provide but we can link somebody and help them navigate you know the complexities of the systems that are out there. So that that is not to be overlooked because you know, be In a connector and and not just you know, give him a number but you know really doing the warm handoff and talking with the people on the other side with them to be able to make sure that you know everybody’s connected. So that is not to be underrated at all, that’s huge, you know, just knowing what’s out there is, you know, one of the biggest barriers and then connecting people is huge. And the other piece of this is, you know, the independent living skills, I really applaud you with the nutrition program both pre and post COVID. You know, with really showing them you know, how to buy and purchase and then prepare, it’s really feasible for people to eat healthy on a budget and and in a way that you know, tastes good for people too. And you’ve given them those kind of skills that you give is huge. And now virtually, with the online ordering, I got to tell you, I kind of think that’s probably a large part of that’s going to probably stay you know, even post COVID I would imagine you’re already you know, accessibility to you know, the tech to do it, you know, these phones, that’s a huge barrier that you’re overcoming there. That’s just phenomenal and your ramps and working with emergency management and we’re gonna get a little into some of your personal experiences with emergency management, you got some really our boots on the ground experience, you know, a close on that, that I think it’d be really good to get into. So yes, you’re, you’re you’re phenomenally on that, but I want to hit on, you’re in the schools and your advocate in the schools, and you were talking about that with your youth. Yeah, I just think that’s phenomenal. I know, there’s a lot of, you know, important attention going on into this age group. And this time of year, time of the lifespan where it’s really impactful on people and their ability to live independently. So this is an important timeframe while people are in high school. And as they leave high school and the years following high school are just a really important piece in time that we can really set the trajectory for people throughout their whole lifespan, to live independently and have a high quality of life. So, you know, talk a little bit about the program and experience, you know, what you all either offer there, or some of the experiences that you’ve heard about people that come to that kind of a program.

Ciawanda McDonald  17:00

So oftentimes what we hear from parents is that, you know, they have children at some of the schools on locally, and they don’t understand the IEP process, right. Um, they have, they have children, and they know, the children has, you know, have received these diagnoses that oftentimes are complex in and of themselves, right. So the parents often even understand about the diagnosis, or what that child may need to be successful at school. And so our advocate, attends those IEP meetings with that parent kind of talks to the parent about on social supports and things that may be needed that they are aware of, for example, we have one parent, who their child is a is a runner, right? So they, they are often running to get on the school bus and running, when they get off the school bus. They run into traffic, and things of such and so we’ve had an advocate who has been able to assist with getting that transportation set up in front of that child’s home. And so the child does not, does not have the extended on walk to get to the schoolbooks. So if in fact, that child has an obstacle of, the barrier of getting on the school bus safely, getting that, that pickup at home makes it a lot less stressful for the parent, for the the driver and for the, for this child. And so this just kind of some of the things that we do, but it’s all unique and tailored to what that child needs at the school system.

Tony Delisle  18:26

Yeah, I really liked that you support parents, especially through the process, you know, it can be very confusing and especially going into these kind of issue areas where maybe it is a first time for parents to come to terms with acknowledging and working through, you know, what it’s like to have their son or daughter you know, with a disability navigating the system trying to get the accommodations they need, there’s a lot of testing usually involved, it is super confusing you I like that with our new state plan, say plan for Independent Living, you know, some of some of the the goals, they’re really pushing us more and more in this direction that your centers already doing your centers already out there in the schools and working with parents and working with students with disabilities, and supporting them. So I really commend your center and what you’re all doing and, and I look forward to seeing that expand into other centers and other areas in yours as well. So that we can do more to serve better, you know, in that area, because it does seem to be you know, a place in space that we can really serve immediate need.

Ciawanda McDonald  19:21

Absolutely, um, there is a great need there.

Tony Delisle  19:24

Yeah, and another need that’s very timely, related to you know, COVID pandemic is natural disasters, and you’ve got quite a bit of experience and what we’re calling you know, emergency management, and disabilities and incentives for Independent Living over the last, I’d say six or more years, more and more. Each of the centers have been doing more work in terms of emergency management, preparedness, response and recovery for people with disabilities. And these issues and activities are wide and deep. You’ve been touched by that and you know, very personal and professional way as well. Then you go on to France, I suppose. One being I think they’re in Daytona over some of the past hurricanes I think even Irma may have caused some flooding damage to the center that you have. I believe you’re in downtown Daytona Beach and for those you know about the the Daytona Beach downtown area is on the intercostal waterway on the Halifax river so you know it’s like right there on the edge you know it’s beautiful land I mean it really is but only when it’s when it’s swollen you know it’s in your back door there’s a problem so I know your center itself is you know, even suffered some damage but more you know, even devastating in many ways was hurricane Michael. Like you said you grew up in the panhandle and during that time if everybody can you know harken back to that it was such a devastating impact to the area that there was no communications in their roads were not cleared yet we didn’t really know what was going on the center that was there we couldn’t get ahold of any the director and the staff for days it was very concerning. So you’re you were one of the first ones that I know about from our you know, network that actually went into that area where there was like no electricity gas anything you know, was just you know, complete devastation I don’t think there was a telephone pole standing in the area you know, that was there whenever you go into Tallahassee to get loaded up with a satellite phone so can maintain communications and for you to go in during that time and then because the the recovery was so huge, the shelters were open for you know, for six eight weeks beyond the impact of the storm, which is a pretty extended amount of time and you participated in some activities that where you went directly into the shelters where people still for five, six weeks after the storm, were in a shelter. And the needs are huge and wide and you’ve participated in doing some assessments multi agency assessments and and helping to address some of those needs so you know wonder you know, if you can talk on those experiences that you’ve had related to that but from beginning to end you know, and what it’s meant to you, Independent Living you know, some of the things that you know can because I know that was a lot for you, you grew up in the area and you got to see it from beginning to end, and you got to be a servant and all of that as well so I think you have something to share there.

Ciawanda McDonald  22:33

Absolutely I’m just like you said hurricane Michael was was personal for me and professional right because exactly what you said I’m born and raised in Panama City and I family that’s still there right so on the devastation affected my my own parents right, my, my grandmother, who was with me, I actually brought her back I brought her to my home prior to the hurricane so she didn’t, show her home was affected maybe I should say that so she was she was safe but her home was affected so that was from a personal standpoint, right I have family still there and and the devastation for them but also, and I couldn’t get ahold of my family on some of my family members as well. So I’m just like he said going in was was stressful for myself because I didn’t know what I was going to find from from from a professional standpoint, and that like you said, we couldn’t get a hold of the director air and, and any of his employees, any of his staff so so it was just important for someone to be able to be willing to go into that disaster zone and hopefully bring some type of light in so so I did volunteer to do that. And of course, like I said, it was personal. So I needed I needed to go for personal reasons. Anyway. Um, but but absolutely correct. I stopped in Tallahassee, and what many people don’t know is that in addition to a satellite phone, I was able to get some gas and had gas in the back of the car, right I had some food in case because what we know is that the stores were not open. I had some flashlights and things are a first aid kit, you know, just some of those necessities that I thought maybe if something happened me, right, it would help or if I knew someone, that it needed that assistance, I would be able to help to some degree. Um, so yeah, it was definitely a trying time. And I was able to get into the city, which was a little challenging because exactly what you said there was not a telephone pole that was standing, right. It was almost, it was a rippling effect in the sense that when one went down it like snatched everyone down from that point on throughout the city. And, and so it was never It was hard to navigate. And like I said, I was born and raised there. I lived there for some 20 odd years before leaving for college in Tallahassee, and so I knew the streets. Well, it wasn’t anything that would have normally been foreign to me, but it became foreign because no street signs were still up. All landmarks were, um, we had some type of damage. I think the statistics say some 85 to 90% of the city was, was, disintegrated.

Tony Delisle  25:11

Yeah, people remember hurricane Michael was just a buzzsaw. It went through there and such, I don’t know if that was a four or five, off the top of my head, but it was just like such a devastating, just destroy the infrastructure, the infrastructure was just completely toast. And you went, you went into their blind, you know, you did, and you you did get supplied up and you know, gas to get in and out. So assuming that you didn’t have the gas and and made some stops and did some work and a professional, personal, you know, impact there. And it sounds like you really did see a lot and you got to be of help and service to people at the same time.

Ciawanda McDonald  25:36

Right. And I did, I had the opportunity to go into the shelter and do some tech, some work there. And I’ll just tell you the trauma that, the mental anguish that you see, and you hear about right, during, during natural disasters, it’s real, you know, it is real. And so one of the missions was to ensure that those individuals who lived in the community, and we’re community based prior to the hurricane, we were able to get them transitioned out of the out of the Red Cross shelter, and into a community based setting. And so that, that in and of itself was a challenge. But we had a multi agency network that wasn’t there in place, and doing the work. You know, when I went back multiple, I bet… I went back a week or two after the initial shock of it, all right. But that work in and of itself was a huge experience for me, it was.

Tony Delisle  26:44

Yeah, and I’m glad you’re bringing that up. Because for those who don’t know, disasters like this, where you know, people have to be sheltered, whether it’s here in Florida, you know, with hurricanes or the Midwest with cold, or tornadoes, or out west because of fires, or whatever it may be when when people are going into shelters, if you have a disability, your likelihood of going back into the community is not that necessarily what a person without a disability is, and we’ve seen your time again, you know, time after, again, where people with disabilities, you know, who are living in the community go into a shelter, and don’t really return to that community setting and are more restrictive settings or, you know, God forbid, institutionalized care. And we’ve seen the numbers go up and spike up and, you know, institutionalized facilities after disasters, where there’s almost a migration of people that go from community-based settings to institutionalized settings. And we found and you’ve been one of the, you know, tips of the spear in this knowledge of intervening at the shelter level, you know, understanding what the needs are working with the discharge process, and making that recommendation, you know, and referral out to where the people should go is a huge place to intervene, you know, to make sure that they’re not being sent into more restrictive or confining environments, and, you know, helping those that are responsible for assuring that their access and functional needs and accommodations are met, aren’t being met. So being shoulder to shoulder with them and being able to, you know, ensure that, it’s just huge and can’t be underscored, I just want to commend you for being somebody that, you know, was really just their boots on the ground, frontline, you know, being able to, to serve.

Ciawanda McDonald  28:16

It was an honor, it really was an honor, you know, I can’t take all of the credit, right, there were a lot of experienced individuals, a lot of organizations there that were committed to the cause, right, they were committed to the work, and it was a success. So I also want to commend them for being able to, you know, be a part of that process.

Tony Delisle  28:36

Yeah, that’s again, one of the silver linings to come out of a disaster is see how the multi-agency, your collaborations happen and where your organization to always want to do collaborate where it’s just hard we’re also busy even if you want to it can be difficult but here you have to, and the you know, we put in that situation really come together. And for the most part, you know, really navigate some really difficult issues problem solve together and can get the right you know, synergy, you can really get things done. And so that was really wonderful to see, you know, the those organizations doing that. Well, hey, you know, I’m gonna shift gears here a little bit and also talk about some of the work that you’re doing above and beyond there, it’s your center, the extra credit or the just really serving out your life purpose. And what it’s all about, is making sure that when we serve people with disabilities, that we’re serving all people with disabilities and ensuring that you know that you know, we want to make sure that the people that are you know, working in centers and then are serving people are reflective of the population that they’re serving. They were really, you know, responsible in the ways that we really think about all people and creating that safe space for people. It was in the 2019, National Council of Independent Living conference, which was around the, you know, always in July, you know, around the ADA’s anniversary, that it really was an interesting conference, where in, you know, the, really the theme of the conference was diversity, you know, intersectionality and equality, and making sure that the representation is there all across and everywhere as it should be. And it was really big time opening remarks, some of which was by remote McCoy, and now the newly appointed ACL secretary, who’s going to be overseeing their, you know, Office of Independent Living program, she was one of the people that was part of the keynote addressing some of the issues that are related to, we need to do better in serving people who are not white within our community, that the issues that other people experience, who have disabilities that are not white, are unique and intersect with one another, and are complex and are needed to be understoods o that we can serve better. At the end of the day, you know, we can better understand these kinds of things that we can serve better. And that was really the emphasis and push to the conference, it allowed you and I to, you know, have an opportunity to talk there. we known each other for about a year or two, but we never specifically like engaged and talked about the topic, and it’s not that I’m new to the conversation, or that you’re new to the conversation. But the, the conference did open up that space to have dialogue. And you and I did, and, you know, I gotta say, it was very impactful and impressionable on me, and I want to thank you, you know, for being just like, you’re super open and connected and authentic and real, and helping to break you know, a lot of things down for me that really, you know, helped confirm some things that means there’s some things that I learned also, that I didn’t know some of the blind spots, and the those kinds of things. So you know, I want to I want to thank you for that. So, you know, it made it easier for me to talk to you. Because I’ve had the conversation before, there was a you know, in social environmental context, when the conference really opened up this conversation to be had, you know, informally and between the, you know, keynotes between the work sessions, it was really the overtone, you know, the front and center of the conference. So, you know, there, it opened it up, and you and I slid into it, and that was great. It was awesome, you know, but it’s not so easy for all people to do that. And, and for and for many reasons. And again, if we can maybe better understand those reasons, maybe we can make it easier to enter into those discussions and have those conversations. So you know, first off, you know, why, why is it so difficult for us to have conversations, you know, related to race, and the different types of aspects and issues that accompany it?

Ciawanda McDonald  32:56

You know, so that’s, that’s a very good question. And thank you for also having the conversation with me, Tony, because I will say that you’re the first person in my lifetime, who has ever, ever wanted to know, right? ever even had the courage to ask. And so for that, I thank you. But the question is a very good question. Right? I think that there are a multitude of answers to that question, right. And it’s unique to the individual. But from a holistic standpoint, I think that it’s a tough conversation to have, because I think one, it requires you to be very confident within yourself, right? You have to, you have to know who you are, you have to have very good self awareness about who you are, and be grounded in that. And so and so I think that because you are grounded in who you are. And I too, am grounded in who I am. We were able to have the conversation. It’s an uncomfortable conversation. I think, I think it sometimes brings about fear, right? No one likes to be uncomfortable. No one, no one wants to be in that place where they, they feel guilty about being who they are. Right. And I think that a lot of times, that’s what this does. It’s challenging. It’s a challenging conversation to have, right, from a historical perspective. Some things have happened over the course of history that have not been so pleasant. And so oftentimes we feel like we have to make up for that right or apologize for that or, or things are such and that’s not always the case. Because you nor I were living right when things things like that… when history happened, right, so but even we can talk about what has what is happening today, right? Because it’s not, it’s not over right for the struggle is still, still there. But But I really think though, the conversation is just so tough to have because of the fear that it invokes. It invokes fear in a lot of individuals, and I really think that that has a lot to do with it. It’s discomfort.

Tony Delisle  35:00

So do you think that fear then comes from like, I don’t know, I wonder like, do you know where that fear would come from? Is it an invalidation of oneself and or power or just not like you said, maybe examining yourself and who you are or how race you know, particularly if you’re white, how it is a thing and and it’s not somewhere else. It’s actually part of you being white and the culture that you live in, and, and some of the normative attitudes that surround it, whether you recognize it or not, is always in play.

Ciawanda McDonald  35:35

And so yeah, I think I think the fear comes from just not wanting to be seen as a racist, right? Not wanting to be, not wanting, not wanting to say the wrong thing, not wanting to come across as that person that I am the racist in the room, you just don’t want that stigma on your head, right? So, so I think that i think that’s where the fear comes from. It’s just a, it’s just a, I don’t want to be known as that person because I’m not that person, right? So then we try and overcompensate for that. So right, we try and relate to others in a way that sometimes can be offensive. And so we overcompensate for things that we should we don’t have to. And so that’s why I said that, I think it takes a level of confidence to have that conversation and who you are as a person. And so I think that not everyone has that, and is comfortable in within themselves.

Tony Delisle  36:26

Well, I definitely think self awareness, is huge, you know, and knowing yourself, but also just being present in the moment is very important too. Because I think people can sense a level of presence and authentic, you know, kind of nature. But I can really do understand the fear, though it’s not that I don’t have it of, you know, for me, I try to work through the process of it were, for me, fear the conversation is like saying the wrong thing, maybe not articulating where I’m coming from in the right way where, you know, can make you know, someone feel defensive, or, you know, maybe I’ll get jumped on by somebody for it, I think about the times when we go out and do our disability etiquette, you know, kind of trainings with people and it’s kind of the same thing, you know, how, you know, there’s certain words or terms and ways of having a conversation that, you know, are kind of endorsed, there’s a consensus around and there’s some that are like, we don’t say it like that anymore. And that’s in play there too. So I kind of feel like I can use a little bit of what I’ve learned there and try to creating a safer, brave space and people having a conversation there. But also, in now in here, I really do feel, you know, on the other side of that, like the same kind of, you know, apprehension to enter into it. And for me, it, there is a sense of, I guess, it’s good to acknowledge the really, the fear comes from vulnerability, I think, you know, so sort of kind of being vulnerable, and I guess there’s a lot of ego or self identity or, you know, those kind of things again, if you’re not self aware of who you are, that that can be a really a stumbling block, you know, that vulnerability and get stuck in that. But for me, the other side of it, if I can work through it, is humility, you know, and just kind of acknowledging that, you know, I’m human, and other people are too, and, you know, just the intention does matter. It’s not everything, but you know, certainly, you’re trying to learn better, do better, say better, can then lead to courage, and to really, you know, then move forward into the conversation, you know, and so, we can’t be courageous, unless there is an element of fear. You know, I mean, you know, to do do something without fear is not courageous again, because this has that absence of fear. So, you know, in order to be brave or courageous, you know, we have to have that element of it, and it does take a bravery, you know, in on all sides, you know, for sure, you know, not not just not just oh, you know, me and myself entering into this conversation, I realized, you know, yourself as well.

Ciawanda McDonald  38:54

Absolutely, yeah, I just, I just real quick if I can share share a quote. I’m talking to Martin Luther King, you know, said once, “injustice and corruption will never be transformed by keeping them hidden, but only by bringing them out into the light and confronting them with the power of love.” And so I think that you know, if you’re, if you’re someone who’s willing to have that conversation, and bringing it to the light and having the discussion, and you know, and especially in our conversation, Tony, on the other side came a mutual respect, right? And that and there’s a layer of love there that that we share, in that we had that conversation, and as uncomfortable as it may have been at the time. I think what we what we came out of it with is is magical and and you know, just just a mutual respect for one another from a professional standpoint, and I will consider your you to be a friend from there.

Tony Delisle  39:49

Likewise, 100% Well, thank you Ciawanda, I got goosebumps, I appreciate that. The power of love. The power of love is huge. That’s a I think right there, the force that is needed to solve all the issues and problems that we have in front of us, you know, very simply and and I appreciate you for saying that, you know, for, for me, I guess, you know, that is somewhere what I land is, you know, people’s hearts are in the right place, you know that we all have a certain level of ignorance and all these blind spots ourselves, everybody, you know, and we got to rely on each other to, you know, see all around us, I can’t see the back of my head, you can, you can tell me what it looks like. And I also have to, you know, know myself and be able to face some of, you know, my own, you know, insecurities and where the fear does come from, and that being vulnerable, humble and courageous. So well, you know, and I think one thing, too, that you really helped me out with, was just also conceptualizing the conversation, and a lot of the terms that are being had around it. And so I threw one out there to you, that never stopped me from ever having the conversation at all. But I know, it stopped a lot of my, you know, friends who I consider to be fairly open minded, even from entering into the conversation, and it was the term, you know, white privilege, you know, the people that I would know, again, you know, I would, you know, considered to be fairly open minded and good people, and even, you know, their behaviors would show that as well, when that were, you know, we get put into the conversation, it would be almost like a deal killer, like, you throw their hands up and was like, listen, man, you know, white privilege, you know, I’ve had to work for what I’ve had to do, you know, I still had you know, this, that, and the other these other barriers, thought, you know, yada, yada, yada. And, and it was a versa and I was like, you know, how do we address that, because, you know, I recognize that, you know, I do have white privilege, white advantage, whatever you want to call it, you know, the starting line for me is different than the starting line for so many other people. Because mine was up there, I feel a responsibility to help others that started line wasn’t where mine is. And and so, you know, I entered into a conversation with you about that. And, you know, I don’t know if you remember what you told me about, you know, no, Tony, you know, it was it’s not about your, you didn’t have a struggle, or it didn’t work for, you know, what you have, or, or the, you know, there’s other things it didn’t mean, you know, you had a chauffeur, and you know, a golden spoon, put, you know, where it really was more or less, you know, didn’t have to go through what, you know, you go through when you walk out in public, or into a board meeting, or room where, you know, you’re not, you know, you look different than everybody else that’s in there both, you know, you know, in terms of race and, and male or female, you know, to so you got layers there. And, and yeah, it was just, you know, that, oh, that’s privilege, you’re not having to sweat it, you know, when when going into certain social situations, where other people are, it’s a thing, and you know, I’m just oblivious to that. And so I don’t know, I’m, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, I need to stop talking. What do you remember that conversation we had?

Ciawanda McDonald  42:57

I do I remember that conversation and very clearly. And and you’re absolutely right, you did ask the question. And the privilege piece of that word, right implies that you you grew up with a platinum spoon in your mouth. Right? And so and so but but it doesn’t… You know, it doesn’t imply that but but it’s not that at all. It’s the interesting thing about white privilege is that it’s automatically granted to you. It’s not something that you’ve asked for, you know, I know that others would think that, you know, oh, I’ll give it back if I can. It’s not necessarily that from a historical standpoint, right? The way the world has been shaped in the way that minorities have been, have been demonized, often times. And the the alternative to that is that the white male, per se has an actually I will say white male and female had not been demonized, right. And so it implies that white is good. And minority is bad, right? And so that automatically sets that privilege there. And so it has absolutely nothing to do with socioeconomic status. It has everything to do with a layer of, quote unquote, privilege that you receive that you’ve never even asked for. You automatically are granted, you know, when when you’re pulled over by the police, you’re automatically considered doing the right thing, right, versus those of us who have been pulled over by the police aren’t granted that right, we’re automatically guilty until we’re proven innocent. And so that’s just important in this world. But you’re right, I do remember that conversation. And indefinitely. I’m so glad that you were open to hearing the response.

Tony Delisle  44:43

Because it’s helped me, yeah, it’s sorry, I don’t mean to cut you off. Its just helped me pass that along to other people. That is it has been inhibitor into entering into more conversation. You know, for whatever You no reason that it might be like, Oh no, it really look at it like this, it has more to do with this. And more often than not, it’s helped people to just like, you know, get through, you know that term and see it, what it really points to, and don’t run away from the conversation, but be into it and have, you know, the ability to let go your biases and think about, you know, other ways of looking at things and even to acknowledge that whatever you want to call it, whether it’s white privilege, or where, if you want to put a softener on there call it white advantage, or whatever it is, you know, yeah, I found when we had the conversation, when I acknowledged that, you know, as a person who has benefited from that white privilege, white advantage, I got a sense that there was almost like a cathartic sigh of relief from you, in a way, not in a bad way. But there’s like, you know, kind of like, thank you. That’s all that sometimes at least that you were saying was wanted was just an acknowledgement that it’s there, not to fix it not to do anything necessarily right at that time, but just to like, just say, Hey, I see it. I don’t know if you want to speak to that at all. But it was a thing I kind of picked up on a little bit that, I don’t know, it seemed cathartic in a way, I guess was the best way for me to describe what I picked up on.

Ciawanda McDonald  46:10

Absolutely. Because, because I remember in the conversation, you even asked the question, what is it that minorities want? What is it that African Americans want from, from the white community? Right? What is it that you all are looking for? And you know, we threw out the word empathy and had a discussion about that. And to some degree, empathy is that but yes, you’re absolutely correct. It was cathartic. And it still is, right. So it was very, very helpful for someone to ask that and actually care. Because very often that’s not the case. The case is not, we get the question, but usually when we’re there to deliver the answer, because it’s uncomfortable, and most people don’t want to hear it, you know, it’s it’s very uncomfortable. So, so most of the time, individuals don’t want to hear what the answer is, but but it was a sigh of relief for me to know that someone actually wants to know, a, what is it that you’re looking for? And why is that? Right? So so that just that alone was was very comfortable for me. Because usually that’s not the case. So yes, absolutely. Thank you.

Tony Delisle  47:22

Well cool, I’m glad you gotta, you know, no, those are important questions. And, and, and what, you know, it really does lead to having a conversation, like we were saying, there’s some fear around that. And, and I think and having the conversation, knowing the right concepts and terms to be using, but also in the context in which the conversation is being had. So we got terms and vocabulary and jargon that’s associated with all of this. And there’s many, I mean, look how much conversation we got on one white privilege, right? So there’s all these different, you know, terms that are thrown out there, again, the context in which the conversations had, I think it’s also a big important thing to make sure that we’re, we’re acknowledging, you know, what kind of social context is this conversation being had? What do you you know, have for people in terms of the human odor of break it down and understanding some of those important terms or concepts or contexts in which this conversation is being had, so that maybe people can mitigate some of that fear that they might have about having the conversation and not knowing the right thing to say? Or how to say it within the context of the conversation?

Ciawanda McDonald  48:27

So absolutely. So I think what you and I did was we created what we thought to be a safe space, right? In that and so in safe space, it implies that there’s a place when if I’m environment in which a person or can talk about a particular topic and feel confident in having that conversation, just in some of my research, what I found out is that instead, we actually created a brave space and I did not understand or know this term prior to, prior to just doing some research, right? Brave space actually encourages a dialogue, which is exactly exactly what we had, right? It recognizes differences, and holds a person accountable for what it is that they do, or say in sharing their experiences, right. So that’s exactly what we did. So we created a brief space between one another and just just some of the work that we do at the center is we have, we have a equity diversity intersectionality workgroup right. In that work group, we come together twice a month and we have a brave space in where it you know, we thought it was a safe space, but we actually have a brave space and where we share our own experiences, we have conversations and we do work, right. We we work on how to make the Centers for Independent Living more diverse, more equitable for others. And so so I just wanted to make sure that we you know, got into that those two definitions and that the safe, the safe space, actually is doesn’t allow you to share your experience. It doesn’t have that dialogue.

Tony Delisle  50:03

I think there’s an element of, we had, you know, Mark Bennett on a previous episode of ours, and he talks about psychological safety, you know, just to be able to be in a space to where you can share a point of view and a perspective, and to be able to do it in a way that’s gonna be received and not judged or hardest on or retaliatory or anything else like that, and be able to respect at the end of the day is respect. To be able to have that. And, you know, to enter into that conversation, I think is, you know, an element that is so needed today, it definitely seems like a level of offensiveness is had often around the conversation, you know, especially about a lot of these kinds of things. Like, I mean, maybe a lot of it is coming from the fear and stems from that. But, you know, coming from that, you know, space of a brave space, I think is so critical that, you know, can be disarming, you know, in many ways, you know, for entering in the conversation, but but also again, you know, we I think at the end of the day, we’re still responsible for having to face some of the fears and entering the conversation. And that goes for everybody. It’s not just for people, on all, all lines of this. I really appreciate you breaking it down between safe and brave space. Are there any other terms related to this conversation? You mentioned a workgroup with equity, diversity, and intersectionality, which is a group of people throughout the Independent Living network, which means, you know, different centers throughout the state, their staff and directors that are participating on the call, their board members that are participating on this workgroup. There’s members of the Florida Independent Living Council, they’re participating in this workgroup, the Florida Association for Centers for Independent Living, participating in this workgroup about equity, diversity, and intersectionality, you’ve been really helping, doing a lot to lead this groups. And Wanda, you know, and I know, you are one of the things that you’ve been doing is breaking down some terms, and identifying some common just definitions for a lot of those things? Or is there anything out there, you would want to underscore and having this conversation which we’re going to have throughout many different episodes, that might help orient us and where we should, you know, be having these discussions?

Ciawanda McDonald  52:04

Absolutely. Um, another term that, you know, it’s all often used is the equity versus equality, right. And so and so oftentimes, individuals will use that word interchangeably. And I think it’s very important that we acknowledge one versus the other and what they both mean. Our current vice president Kamala Harris, took the time prior to the election to create a video. As a matter of fact, I think it’s on our Twitter account on November 6, Kamala, says, equity says everyone should get the same amount. The problem with that is not everyone is starting out from the same place. So if we’re getting the same amount, but you start it back there, and I started out here, we could get the same amount, but you’re still going to be that far behind me. She says, she goes on to say it’s about giving people the resources and support they need, so that they can compete on equal footing. Equitable treatment means we all end up at the same place. And so I just thought that that was important, because, you know, oftentimes, we talk about equality, right? And, and equality being that we all get the exact same thing. The problem with that, the same resources, right? The same supports… the problem with that today, is that for, for 400 years of, well, there was not 400 years of slavery, but there was some over 250 years of slavery, African Americans and minorities, right, have been discriminated against in this country. And so to start them off as the same place as other individuals, meaning white individuals, you won’t get you know, it won’t be equitable at that point in time, they already have some 200 years plus, right, lead, on on minority, on minorities, right? So, so there’s no way that we can start and have equality, that we have to make it equitable, right? We have to bring those individuals that we have oppressed and marginalized for many, many years, we have to bring them up to an even playing field. And so I definitely wanted to make sure that we share that with the audience. And so so, you know, that’s just a real world example.

Tony Delisle  54:40

How does Centers for Independent Living or the independent living movement itself really play a role in this equity? You know, when it comes to people with disabilities, you know, from different types of backgrounds, like where does this all come together? Because we got a social movement, you know, with the racial equity movement that’s been going on for a while, but we Also the independent living movement, which they started, you know, historically around the same times in their early 60s and they’re still alive today. They do intersect, they do share some space, they also diverge in some areas, but what are your thoughts on how these movements are coming together and where we align?

Ciawanda McDonald  55:15

So I’m glad you asked that question. Because right, the term intersectionality is often used right as we all intersect. And so essentially, what that term refers to, is that interconnected of the social categories that we, we put ourselves into, right. And so disability happens to be one of those categories, race is a category, right, class, gender, all of these different categories that we place ourselves into. And oftentimes they lead to some form form of prejudice or discrimination. And so that’s where the the overlap lies is the intersectionality piece, in that disability happens to be right, another civil right, that has been fought over the course of history correct? And so those individuals have also been oppressed and marginalized. And so they also need equitable treatment as well, right? Because for so many years, they’ve not been treated, institutionalized, right, we both know the history of independent living. And so those individuals have not had a starting place with others in this country. And so, so that’s where the intersection lies. It’s, it’s, it’s with the years of oppression that people people with disabilities have faced in this country as well. And so, so definitely, there’s a connection there.

Tony Delisle  56:44

What role do you think, implicit bias, you know, plays in this, you know, a lot of the issues that we’re seeing, regardless of your race, disability, where it intersects, what do you see the role of implicit bias and how these forces are mingling?

Ciawanda McDonald  57:01

Implicit bias, right, just breaking the term down in just a simple definition, implicit means unconscious, right, and then a bias can be either negative or positive, right, we have all types of biases, but oftentimes when it comes to oppression and marginalization and discrimination, those biases can be negative and so and so in this conversation and in this dialogue, its unconscious biases that we have towards others that often play into how we treat them and and so that is huge, right, in the disability community in the sense that oftentimes we see a person with a disability and we assume that we’re supposed to do something to help them. We assume that they’re unable, we assume that they’re unequal right? And so it’s just important that we acknowledge what an implicit bias is. And exactly if we have any biases towards individuals and of course the unconscious right so it’s kind of hard to do that work but yes, absolutely, implicit bias is in fact an unconscious belief that we may have or don’t even realize that we have towards others.

Tony Delisle  58:16

You know, one of the things that I find for me to be a very important cognitive exercise is to first of all call out the biases that I have and then I’m consciously aware of you know, and then you know, try to you know, search and shine awareness you know, into those places that might be more subconscious and you know, what am I really doing to examine but it really does tie back to your self awareness you know, you were talking about earlier you know, being a key part of this and being really cognizant of those thoughts and being aware of them and calling them out but also late trying to whatever extent to let them go and see you know, the perspective of someone else that has different points of view that challenges biases, to whatever extent possible letting go of my own personal biases and then returning to see how does it all fit together now, you know, maybe maybe I’m more locked into you know, my biases now, or maybe I’ve expanded maybe maybe I’ve been flipped or maybe it’s somewhere in between or maybe I’m questioning and and and just that exercise and being able to do it I find it to be just, you know, so key and examining those but I think it’s like what you said before connects that self-awareness that’s just a huge you know, really I think the science says that we have 60 to 70,000 thoughts a day and and how many of them are subconscious i think is estimated to be around 85%. And, and And of those, you know, again, can we expand that out to be more conscious of the thoughts that we’re having the incessant stream of, you know, thinking and what is going on there takes constant vigilance, eternal vigilance, and it’s always now so you’re always thinking, you know, and that’s a that’s a that’s a very important, you know, kind of skill to build. You know, I think that does all start with that, and how much does that tie into identity and all those wonderful things.

Ciawanda McDonald  1:00:01

Absolutely. And you know, what is what is interesting and unique about biases is like you said we’re constantly having them, we actually rely on our, on our biases, our implicit biases, you know, to navigate the world.

Tony Delisle  1:00:17

Sure. It doesn’t have to be bad, you know, building habits here that are great. We don’t have to think about and spend energy on and…

Ciawanda McDonald  1:00:24

Correct. But but they also create inequities, right? And so oftentimes, whereas Normally, you would use your biases in a positive manner, they can create some, some inequities, you use them to make decisions, you perceptions of individuals, right, behaviors are stemmed from, from our implicit biases. And so yeah, it we absolutely have to be conscious and aware of our own implicit biases, right? It’s so important, it’s just so important. There, we create stereotypes from these different biases. And it’s just necessary that we make sure that we know our ourselves like you said, self awareness is just the most the key

Tony Delisle  1:01:11

that’s the key. That’s Do you have any practices yourself? Do you like go through anything like routines, or rituals or just ways of kind of like checking yourself or anything else like that, that that helps to support you or to continue a certain way of being aware at all?

Ciawanda McDonald  1:01:27

So it’s, it’s funny, you bring that up and you asked me because on one of the things I also want to share with you is the the Kerwin Institute. It’s it’s an institute that’s embedded within Ohio State University. And one of the things that they have on their website, and I believe this, this tool comes from Harvard University, but they have it on their website, and I’m actually going to share the link with you for you to share the with the audience. It has a tool, a tool, and the tool is called Implicit Association test. And so it was developed by Anthony Greenwald Mazarin, Bunjee and Brian Nosek. And so the tip that the the test is a test to assess positive and negative implicit attitudes for race, gender, age, ability, and other identity groups. And so I took the test myself, and you know, I won’t get into a lot of the details about what my test said, I want to share information so that so that they can take the test themselves and see where your biases lie. It was it was, I will say that it was, it was interesting. 

Tony Delisle  1:02:40

Thank you Ciawanda. We’ll be sure to share that. Yeah.

Ciawanda McDonald  1:02:43

Absolutely. The research supports it.

Tony Delisle  1:02:46

You know, for me, that’s a that’s a, you know, important thing is measuring, can we measure a lot of these kinds of different things. And if we have a good tool to be able to, you know, examine some of these things, we ask the right questions, you know, it can show us where, you know, where we’re doing well, in some, perhaps areas that we know, we need to do improvement, and then over time, we can maybe come back to it. So I love being able to, like, you know, capture, you know, we got a good tool, then let’s use it.

Ciawanda McDonald  1:03:11

Yes, absolutely. And it sounds like it, well, I won’t say it sounds a lot of research has been done on this tool. And it’s reliable, it’s valid. And so I will say it, it gave me insight as to where my, where my strengths and weaknesses lie.

Tony Delisle  1:03:25

Great. That’s so powerful, right there, you know, having that knowledge is huge, and being willing to work on it as well. So where do you want people to know, you know, about, you know, people that, you know, have disabilities, you know, but, you know, come from a different race, you know, you know, identify differently, you know, or have more of these intersections, the, they’re the people, you know, like myself, who is a white male with a disability, you know, what is some of those things that I don’t know about, that if I could learn more about, it would, you know, be very helpful in moving the process forward to do some of the healing that needs to be done, you know, for so many people, for all of us?

Ciawanda McDonald  1:04:12

So I would absolutely encourage everyone to, to look within yourself, right? I want everyone to know that we all have biases, we all have these implicit biases that exist. And so I think that it’s important that we make sure that we take a look at ourselves, we take a look at our own practices, our own belief system, right? We we review policies within our organizations, right? We make sure that we do the work that is necessary to self evaluate, right, to make sure that we know where we stand as an individual, because, it’s, it comes within us, right? We start with the beginning and the end, and it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take time to measure that. You, you have you have self evaluate, it’s going to take time to change, it’s going to take time to make sure that you you are aware of who you are, we have to be intentional, I want to make sure that I stress the importance of intentionality, we have to make sure that we are intentional about speaking with someone else, of a different race, we understand and learn cultural differences, right? We want to make sure that and and as it relates to disability, right, we want to make sure that we are knowledgeable about different disabilities, we’re not offensive as we approach others with disabilities. So those are the things we just want to make sure that we know, right?

Tony Delisle  1:05:43

Yeah, absolutely no, and again, it creates that brave space that you’re talking about to be able to get real and have a conversation, because without being able to have dialogue and conversation about it, you know, it’s really hard. And, and often, you know, it is in the work environment where the conversation is put before a lot of people, you know, if you think about, you know, where the, you know, you know, for those of us that work in the human service, you know, kind of arena and area, just by the sheer type of work we do, those conversations are had, but I’d say for a lot of other industries, you know, that can be sometimes the only touch point for where, you know, people really have those kind of conversations, you know, and getting real about those kinds of things. So, you know, what do you recommend for organizations, whether they’re Centers for Independent Living or their other organizations, to be able to create safe spaces for having those kind of conversations, creating psychological safety?

Ciawanda McDonald  1:06:35

So I think that it’s important for organizations to know that this work is necessary, in order for you to progress forward, you’re going to have to do this work, it’s never going to be comfortable. If you feel as though you do not have the background or knowledge to provide the work, you can hire, you know, an organization to do that type of training. And so sometimes that makes it a little bit easier to do instead of, instead of yourself being, you know, trying to create that space, allow another organization to come in and create that space. And so, and so I think that that’s important to also to review your policies, review your procedures, and make sure that you are aware of what type of biases that may exist within those policies and procedures, right your wrongs, right, if you have, if you have discriminated against someone within your organization, and you realize that the practices that you have, the policies and practices that you’ve created, um, have created an uncomfortable work environment, right those wrongs, you know, go to those employees and say, we realize that this policy is, you know, discriminatory in its nature. And we have, we have decided to right that wrong. So those are the types of things, just education, trainings on accountability is important, right, we have to make sure that we’re accountable. Also, one of the things I wanted to touch on just making sure that you look at the data, right, having having a clear picture of your organization, and looking at the data that exists within that organization.

Tony Delisle  1:08:05

So when you mean data, are you talking about, you know, making sure that the people that are being served throughout an organization reflect the demographics of the community in which they’re doing the service?

Ciawanda McDonald  1:08:16

Absolutely, absolutely. If your organization is, yes, the representation is important, you have to make sure that… because that’s what the country is made of, right? The country is not made up of one particular race. As a matter of fact, multi-race is a population that has, over the course of you know, the last 100 years or so has become more and more popular multiracial. There’s not one person that’s made up of what we quote, unquote, identify as a race, same as gender, right? Over the course of the years, there’s multiple disabilities. So those those things are multifaceted. And so we have to make sure that we look at the data and make sure that our organization reflects that data.

Tony Delisle  1:09:01

And you know, I got firsthand knowledge of your dedication to get in the data, leading the equity, diversity, intersectionality workgroup with the Independent Living network that we just talked about, you know, really have helped to lead the research portion of that getting the information that we need to and breaking it down systemically as well, where do these inequities exist within education, employment, you know, the justice system, health, housing, transportation income, you will all these different ways? You know, yes, we’re looking at disabilities versus not disabilities, but how about within the population of people with disabilities within the different racial demographics? You know, are we where are the differences there? The research there, again, gets more narrow, but we have surfacing that and bring in for that information for it throughout this podcast and other platforms, I think is going to be very important. You really have continue the conversation around, well, where do these inequities exist in arming ourselves with the terms that you’ve covered and the concepts and ways that we’re talking about I was very conceptual right now but whether you know having the conversation and really understanding the data and what it’s telling us and then really kicking that around and thinking about innovative solutions of you know what’s working now, what’s not working now what can be done what’s out of the box was different that we can actually you know serve better yeah how can we serve people that are coming through our door that have a lot of different you know, underlying, you know, intersections that go on? How can we serve serve better at the end of the day with all this knowledge all this information all this data, all these other kinds of things at the end of the day, how do we do better? And to me you know, if you have any insights on that, you know how you’re going to string all that along, you know, and yes, we got the numbers and yes, we got the research like, and now we can have the conversation you know, how do you how do you foresee like a better future? I guess would be the better question here for independent living people with disabilities that you know, are you know, mixed race disabilities, you know, different orientations, you know, have much more diversity to them. What do you see a vision for them in the future? What does it look like to you, you know, for for a better day?

Ciawanda McDonald  1:11:05

So a better day is of course, we have we have multiple, you know, all of the organizations that are represented at social services, you know, all multifaceted organizations are diverse in the sense that there’s a makeup of individuals that represents the community that they serve right and so and so that’s that’s the silver lining for me, right is because it is in a perfect world or world no one is unserved or underserved right we often in the in the Centers for Independent Living we often try to identify what areas are unserved and underserved and I think that it’s important that we don’t have that right we everyone should have the opportunity to receive the same supports and resources that are out there colleagues and counterparts have right and so and and I think that’s important, that’s the silver lining for me, is that organizations communities it just as diverse as a world you know, we don’t have the segregation where there’s certain communities education is not segregated education all the schools received the supports needed to for the students to be successful those types of things it’s just absolutely unserved and underserved should not be a service area.

Tony Delisle  1:12:20

I love it you know to be able to you know serve more serve better and and you know, I this just really seems to be an important area to where unfortunately the the most underserved in our areas tend to be minority racial ethnic minority populations and especially when when we get into rural areas we talk about migrant workers and other populations and and how do we reach you know, those that have been so marginalized you know, and I think becoming more culturally humble you know is certainly one of those ways and and doing all this for me if this is the high hanging fruit this is the this is really where I think like if it’s going to maybe take the most amount of work but is priceless in its return. Because like really sometimes we’re hitting some of the you know, highest impact highest need areas here if we can do better and figuring out how to reach those, you know that we’ve not been as successful as we’d like to be.

Ciawanda McDonald  1:13:19

Right? Absolutely. I definitely agree. And that’s I think I think that’s going to be key to our success in the disability community for sure. You know, there should, because we absolutely want to make sure that no you know they have we at one point in time that was the slogan No Child Left Behind right, we we don’t want anyone left behind.

Tony Delisle  1:13:41

Absolutely you know, we’re all in this together and we’re better than united because of it and that’s certainly one of the things that we really like to push forward here in this podcast is disability touches everybody, doesn’t matter your race ethnicity, whether you identify as male female, you know your orientation, political affiliation, you know, religious affiliation, whatever it may be, it does touch all of us and again is that you know place that we can all come together in this part of humanity and relate to one another and be in it for each other and I hope more and more people do that and it really I think then, takes something that traditionally is thought of as being you know a negative and can really make it a positive. The more we see the humanity in one another the more we see each other and each other you know no matter you know where we come from and then also you know paradoxically can can celebrate the diversity that we have you know and points of view and and do it with the power of love. You know, I really thankful that you brought it in that Martin Luther King quote there to us Ciawanda So are there any closing words of thought to put a bow on this, you know, for for coming in and having this conversation which I know, you know, continue on and future episodes?

Ciawanda McDonald  1:14:46

No, I think, I think we actually have everything we definitely should, should have future episodes on systemic race, right? I would love to get into the conversation of how systemically all of this has affected us. Right, because because the reality is, we, we have to know where we came from to know where we’re going. Right. So in this in systemically, we would, we would definitely need to take a microscopic view, and where we have come from, and then just, you know, talk about those, those changes that we need to make to see see where we’re going.

Tony Delisle  1:15:18

Well, I know, I look forward to bringing that information forward, like I said, I think, you know, introducing just these concepts, the terms, you know, is certainly one step of many in this direction, and I look forward to bringing in your more of the quantifiable, you know, information that we have, that we can be, you know, you know, informed by the data, and the best evidence that we have out there. And also question, it doesn’t mean, you know, a lot of the things that, you know, or underlining the data in then what narrative? Does it tell us? What is the story that it’s weaving? What does it tell us? And then what can we do about it, so I look forward to really going on this journey with you, and others, Ciawanda, as we really unpack this, so that we can, you know, learn more about ourselves, as you, you know, really, I think, brought home to us and, and overcome some of our fears that we may have, and really, you know, enter into this with the power of love, and to be able to do this and to advance the cause. And so, you know, I just wanna acknowledge you for, for, you know, being you know, someone that’s been super gracious, and very wise, you know, to me and my wife, and me getting a better insight to who I am and how I can be a better ally, and all of this. So, thank you so much Ciawanda for everything that you do.

Ciawanda McDonald  1:16:29

Absolutely. Thank you for your willingness to be open to that dialogue. Right, but because not everyone is ready to do the work. And I just thank you, Tony for doing that. And I’ll take just a second to, to tell the world how to find disability solutions for independent living. We’re located 119, South Palmetto Avenue, Suite 180 in Daytona Beach, Florida, our telephone number for those of us who are pandemic in the pandemic world, right, which is everyone, and we have to work off of a cell phone right now. It’s 386-566-2346. And that’s a cell phone number. That’s the office line. We also check both it’s 386-255-1812. And you can reach out to us on our social media platforms. Our Twitter is @disabilityvf. We can be reached at Facebook at DSIL Daytona and then also you can follow us on Instagram. It’s @dsilvolusia.flager2019. And so our website is And so you can reach us there.

Tony Delisle  1:17:36

Wonderful, we will have all that information in our show notes as well. And, again, thank you so much Ciawanda and until next time, onward and upward.

Ciawanda McDonald  1:17:46

My pleasure. Thank you again.

Tony Delisle  1:17:49

You take care Ciawanda.

Amy Feutz  1:17:53

thanks for listening to the independent life podcast brought to you by the Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida. If you like what you hear, please rate review and subscribe. And if you know anyone who might benefit from listening, share this podcast and invite them to subscribe to for questions, suggestions, or if you have a story you’d like to share, please email us at or call us at 352-378-7474. Thanks for joining us. Until next time, support, advocate and empower each other to live the independent life.