Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology With Whitney Harris

Whitney Harris is the Executive Director for the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology, Inc. (FAAST). Whitney is passionate about creating a reality in which all people are equal and have equal access. Her disability advocacy work started in 2008 when she joined the Florida Youth Council and became a volunteer at the Florida Youth Leadership Forum. Being inspired by others who have disabilities has led her to become an active member on the Board of Directors for three national organizations: the Association of Youth Leadership Forums, the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, and the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. Whitney’s leadership and involvement with these organizations have provided an opportunity to experience examples of best practices to bring to Florida. At the state level, Whitney is a long-time volunteer with the Florida Youth Leadership Forum and Treasurer of the gubernatorial appointed Florida Independent Living Council. Whitney has a Bachelors of Applied Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics from St. Petersburg College, a Masters in Nonprofit Management from the University of Central Florida, and is a Certified Prosthetist (CP).

For more information about FAAST and Florida’s YLF:
Andrew Gurza: http://www.andrewgurza.com/

SPEAKERS: Whitney Harris, Tony Delisle

Tony Delisle  00:00

Well Hello there, and welcome to another exciting edition of the independent life podcast. Today we are bringing you Whitney Harris, Executive Director for the Florida Association for Assistive Services and Technologies, otherwise known as FAAST. She’s also heavily steeped in the Youth Leadership Forum, yearly event that brings in all kinds of students from all over the states with various disabilities to our state’s capital, where they’re introduced to all kinds of different advocates and legislators and peer support wonderful activities to build leadership and the next generation. She provides all kinds of insights into this podcast, certainly unpacks what FAAST is all about providing assistive technologies and devices for people so that they can live more independent lives, these things could be something like modified eating utensils, to modified cars, things that help people out with mobility, and getting around all different kinds of technologies and great products that they are getting out to people, to make them affordable for people to access, and to teach them how to use it is a game changer for people’s lives. So I look forward to you really understanding what FAAST is all about how she’s leading this organization, and how to get involved with it, especially if you are someone that you know and care about, could use some of those technologies. One of the things that I found most valuable in this conversation for me was when she really starts talking about some of the values that are needed, and that she’s learned from, in having a disability, to live the independent life. She really goes in on what it means to have integrity, what it means to be somebody that is able to persevere through all the different challenges and experiences that life can throw at you, to have patience, to be humble, all the all the great ones that are just so needed in order to be the best version of ourselves so that we can serve better. Whitney, in my perspective is somebody that is just this really inspiring, all star who is just, I get better every time it’s she just, you know around her presence and where she gets to share her own experiences and their story and what she’s all about. So I’m just really excited to put this out there for you. I hope you get as much out of it as I do in this interview with her. And I look forward to having her on more podcasts as well because she’s just so phenomenal and really helping to change and shape the landscape of disability for the better and she has some really good ideas about how that’s going to happen for the future that I’m very excited for y’all to dive into. Whitney Harris. Well Whitney, I am so glad that you’re here to have a conversation with me. I have a you know list of people that I’ve been super eager to get on the show. And I gotta tell you, a lot of them are people that I’ve had a lot more mileage in conversations and connections with than you. But there is a list of people where I haven’t had the time to sit down and really just dive into your world or their world and there’s a shortlist of those people and you’re like high on that list because I’ve always admired you from afar. I see you on the come up and what you’re doing is so phenomenal and your lived experiences and your your inspiration that you really have is just amazing. So I want to kind of start there in terms of how has your disability helped to shape you as a person? How has it impacted your life personally and professionally?

Whitney Harris  03:52

Thanks, Tony. Yeah, I disability is my life. I am fortunate and I will acknowledge that I have privilege that disability doesn’t have to define me but I choose to let it define me. I am born and raised in actually Santa Rosa County, Florida. My family’s been Floridians I think we’re eight generation Floridians, so we’ve been here since before Florida was a state. Yeah. All in the panhandle for what that’s worth. So my disability I actually my right arm and right leg did not fully develop in utero. It’s a birth defect called amniotic band syndrome. And I was born in 1990. So you can do the math on my age there but it actually was kind of before they started checking for that all the time. So I actually was born to my parents who had no idea that I was going to come out without a fully developed right arm and right leg so it’s a little bit of a shock for them. Kind of took some time to adjust but honestly, I think it turned out better that way because I did not grow up in a family that had to talk about disability or had to accommodate really, I think I was in high school before someone put a bar in the shower in my bathroom. We didn’t even realize it was a thing that I would need until I think my parents just happened to come across something and realize she might be able to use that when she showers. So I have, I actually have four siblings, I’m the second oldest. And I think that helps as well. So kind of growing up around kids, I did not really have friends with disabilities growing up, there were a few of us through the school system, where we’d have to do occupational therapy together, you know, or physical therapy in elementary school. And it’s kind of cool. And I think that has shaped me in a lot of ways of not having to have my disability, almost like daily reminded to me through my childhood. So it wasn’t until actually the summer before my senior year of high school when I was introduced to the Florida Youth Leadership Forum, where I actually learned about disability culture and disability history. And you know, I like caught the bug. I wanted everything to do with the community, and I wanted to help as much as I could and get involved. So I think we’ll probably touch more on the Youth Leadership Forum. Got me going, Yeah, yeah, so I, I actually went to school for orthotics and prosthetics. So I’m a certified prosthetist, and I practiced in prosthetics for a couple of years out in Colorado and realized, dealing with health insurance, and patient advocacy, it, it, it was so taxing, right, because you’re like, trying to get people what they need, but their health insurance is saying, well, we won’t pay for what they need, we’ll pay for this other device. And the words around the medical field and how they view disability and the medical model and everything. And it just by the end of the day, I would be so drained, you know, not even calling people by their name, but by their diagnoses. And then, of course, if you have an amputation, it’s your level of amputation. And that just, it was too much for me. So I was able to move back to Florida, get more in the disability community. And that kind of skyrocketed being in Tallahassee and started working for different disability nonprofits. So that that’s what got me where I am today.

Tony Delisle  07:16

Wow, what a journey. So I want to go in on something you initially said about. I don’t have to choose disability as an identity, but I choose to choose disability as an identity. What does that mean?

Whitney Harris  07:33

So actually, over the course of I think a lot of this social justice conversation that happened in 2020, especially, I came across a post from someone named Andrew Garza. He’s a Canadian who does a lot of disability advocacy, and he wanted people in the disability community to check our own privilege on does your disability have to define you, you know, do you..Does your everyday interactions are they defined by your disability and I never viewed it that way. But as soon as I read his words, I thought, Wow, my disability really doesn’t define my day in and day out. I do wear a prosthesis on my leg. But that’s like putting on your shoes every day. And sometimes your shoes rub you and you don’t want to wear them. So I have a manual wheelchair I can use. But it it’s something that I want to define me because I want to be able to talk about it without stigma. And I want to be able to have conversations on access, and how far I can walk without it being something that we really have to say, Oh gosh, will Whitney be able to walk that distance? Let’s have a conversation versus just something I can casually throw out. And it gets accepted. And we roll on to the next topic.

Tony Delisle  08:45

So do you feel like there was a time in your life where it did serve you to not identify as a disability to where now you are identifying and it’s empowering you in some ways?

Whitney Harris  08:56

Yes. So growing up, my grandmother used to tell me that she loved that I wasn’t disabled. And I never really knew what that meant. Because I thought you’re right, I’m not disabled, because I didn’t know anybody. And I was just doing everything that my siblings and my cousins and everything we’re doing, and there were points throughout, like middle school, I didn’t realize that I wasn’t going to be accepted into the percussion program in the middle school band, because they didn’t think I could drum because I didn’t have an arm and my mother advocated for me, but she didn’t spell it out for me. So that was a whole thing that I just missed because I didn’t even think it was an issue. And also I didn’t have to do PE classes past elementary school. And my mom always told me it was because I took a long time to change my clothes. Which you know, I kind of viewed as a good thing because I was like, Oh, that’s why I don’t have to do PE because I take a long time to get dressed. That’s perfect excuse when really it was dressed. In my prosthesis and putting shoes on my prosthesis just actually being physically able to do that kind of dressing. But I had this mentality that that wasn’t even something that came up on my radar when I was thinking through different processes.

Tony Delisle  10:15

So I want to try to then connect to how you’re choosing now to identify yourself as someone with a disability. And perhaps as you’re alluding to, how you were raised by your family, and also how you were treated in the medical model, as you were saying, diagnosis after label after label after label being thrown your way, can you connect all that together and see how that all really has come about for you?

Whitney Harris  10:41

I can try to. So being introduced to the disability community through the Youth Leadership Forum, and actually seeing other adults who had disabilities that were volunteers of the program, kind of opened my eyes to realize I didn’t have friends with disabilities, I wasn’t, you know, actively seeking out other kids my age and of course, there were others in my schools, I actually was… I have a learning disability as well. So I was going through a learning strategies program all through middle school and high school and so all the other kids in my classes had learning disabilities, but it wasn’t ever something that we talked about. So it almost felt like like a cool club that I was finally introduced to that I wanted to be around. And then maybe it has to do with that peer support, you know, that you didn’t, you didn’t know you needed that until you come across it and then it’s like whoa, these are my people, like they get it, I can talk about wearing a prosthesis and when it rubs me and how much that sucks and someone else understands.

Tony Delisle  11:47

That connection is is priceless, to be able to relate to people that have gone through very similar circumstances and situations. So with that said, between identity and perhaps how it was influenced by your parents and your traveling through the medical model and finding a peer group that you could then identify with and have some shared experiences. What would you want to tell people as far as a reason why people should care about disability? What’s the big why here, so that you know you’re born you know, with disability is a part of your life so much so that you know, you don’t even notice it at times. But people who may not be as directly impacted as you are with disabilities, what would you say to them about why they should care about disability?

Whitney Harris  12:31

So I think you’ve said it on this podcast before disability impacts everyone, even if you aren’t, and I say this a little bit cheeky, even if you aren’t privileged enough to have a disability, you probably will come across someone in your life and your family as you age, your parents age, you’re going to come across disability, whether you identify it that way or not. So it’s, I would say it’s probably impossible to avoid it. And I also think, why would you not care about other humans? Right? Like of course you don’t you don’t…Yeah, yeah, like I it disability is just another you know, flavor of normal, then how could you not care about others and in their different life past?

Tony Delisle  13:14

Disability, another flavor of normal? What would it taste like? Yeah. So Whitney, I want to I want to you threw out something out there that I would want to explore a little more here. What does that mean, the privilege of having a disability?

Whitney Harris  13:30

So at that first Youth Leadership Forum, someone had said that disability is a minority group, we’re the only when you can join, we don’t discriminate against age or race or religion, or wealth, anything like that. And I just thought that was mind blowing, just absolutely mind blowing, thinking that you have this culture. And really, anyone can be a part of it. And I think that I view it as a privilege. I also think growing up I got a lot of attention because of my disability. And of course not identifying that way. I didn’t always view it as people are staring at me because I don’t have an arm and a leg, you know, I kind of would laugh and say, Oh, well, my hair does look fantastic today, and it kind of like builds up your confidence a little bit when you can just kind of change change the perspective of it. Yeah. So I like to, I like to look at it it’s like something that’s going to set me apart. You know, I can, I can never be cloned. Right? Like I have, I experienced a birth defect that if somebody cloned me as a human, they’re not going to get the same physical person so I… disability just gives me that much more uniqueness that no one else is going to get to experience of course, me as an individual, but also this extra piece that I get to bring to the table

Tony Delisle  14:55

So powerful. Wow. I really like how you reframed it as a privilege, and perhaps an advantage, that’s just wonderful how you can like, perhaps even change your attitude just based on how you see something, and changing the way that we perceive something can really be so empowering and how you reframe that. That’s amazing. And so with that being said, what have you found that has benefited your life through having a disability that you think perhaps wouldn’t have been benefited? Had you not had a disability?

Whitney Harris  15:31

I want to say my career, but that’s so hard to justify, because I went into prosthetics, knowing that I used a prosthesis, and I thought this would be the most impactful tool on my personal life is if I actually understand what’s going in to the manufacturing and the decision making. And really, because of the experience of learning about other people who have disabilities, and learning about the the services that are offered to us, being in high school and getting that access, it really opened so many doors, you know, I was able to be a vocational rehabilitation client that helped me pay for college and I had met people who were advocates of that system and helped me figure out how to get my mileage to school and my car insurance paid for my cell phone paid for and all of these things. And then coming back in to the network here in Florida, you know, it was my best friend at the time, her mother that I started working for, and then being able to network, you know, networking is so important. But all of my networking has been through the disability community, it hasn’t really been outside of it. And I think that’s, of course, by choice. But I’m also very fortunate that all of these doors have opened, because of the networking that was afforded to me, because of my connection to the community.

Tony Delisle  16:54

As you you’re talking about these doors opening and the network to the community, that obviously takes us into the space of what you’re up to professionally right now. And being the executive director of FAAST, I would love for you to explain that to people, what FAAST is, what it’s all about how they can get, you know, linked into it. But first, I want you to talk about well, why? Why FAAST? Why is it so important that this organization exists, which is within the Independent Living network where you know very much a sister agency where you reside in the same places in federal and state, you know, governments and serve very much the same people and doing you know, different services, but all aiming that independent living so, so explain to me the the why, what and how of your organization FAAST. And we’re going to dive into leadership forum shortly. But you do so much. And this is is a huge position. And I would venture to guess you perhaps are the youngest director that this organization has perhaps had. I don’t know if you’ve looked into that, but I think that says a lot about you, like a very old soul and very wise and you know, very young and enthusiastic and inspired form. So talk to us.

Whitney Harris  18:08

Thanks, Tony. Yeah, I definitely I love a challenge. And I love that FAAST has been able to afford that to me. So first, I want to talk about assistive technology, because that’s kind of a term that it’s not quite alphabet soup, as you’ve said before, but it kind of is very much within our own industry. So assistive technology is really honestly anything that helps an individual with a disability, do whatever they want to do. So that’s extremely broad, but it could be it could be a remote control for your TV. If you view that as assistive technology, it could be your glasses, I view my prosthesis as assistive technology, but it can also be, you know, robots that are helping you eat, or it could be different spoons, and forks and knives that help you. It could be a ramp, anything like that. So the federal government back in the 90s actually realized that they can assist people with reduction of government aid, if they are providing them access to assistive technology. So theoretically, a person with a disability if they need assistive technology to work, if they need it to live in their community, if they need it for recreation, and leisure, whatever they need assistive technology for, they wanted to create a program, and probably the idea was to reduce government spending, so that people would have access to this assistive tech to be able to do what they needed to do. So the federal government created the Assistive Technology Act, it came out I think, in 98, maybe don’t quote me on that, I should know that but a lot of dates thrown in there. And through that the state of Florida through vocational rehabilitation created FAAST which is the Florida Alliance for assistive services and technology. So we were created in the 90s. We are a 501 c three nonprofit What we are tasked to do, it’s very similar, kind of like the aisle network where we have partner organizations, every state and territory in the country has an assistive technology program like ours, and we teach people about assistive technology so we can do information and assistance activities. So if anyone in the state of Florida calls and needs to learn about assistive tech, you can call us. Then once you kind of get your foot in the door, we talk to you about the different assistive technology that we have, we actually have over 4000 pieces of assistive technology in our state library. Yeah, it’s an incredible amount. Um, what we do now is we partner with the six different nonprofits across the state, and they’re like our regional hubs. And we have one in Pensacola, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Miami. You can find all of those on our website, which is faast.org. And I think.. Awesome. Awesome. Yeah. So if you come to FAAST, we can actually get the 80 for you and show you we can demonstrate take two different devices, Florida and can come to us and you don’t just have to be a person with a disability, you can be that family member. So if right now with COVID, if they’re not comfortable traveling, you can be the parent or the family friend that comes and learns about the assistive technology for the individual. We also assist people from different professional services. So the education, community, employment, community living for all of our centers, as well as different places in the technology field, so you can come to FAAST we can show you the different products and demonstrate them for you. So you can either learn what would work best for you, if you’re the individuals, or the client that you’re working with. And then we actually let you borrow them. So you get to take our at home for 30 days, try it out, actually see if it’s gonna work for you. And then if it does work for you, fantastic, we’ll help you find ways to get it purchased, we ourselves don’t buy AT for you. But we have a whole funding guide that helps you kind of point that out. And we have resources and local connections, all of our regional centers do to help you get that assistive technology. And we also one of the really cool things we do is we do have a financial loan program. So if you do want to buy the tech and your insurance won’t provide it or maybe vocational rehab won’t provide it. Or maybe it’s just too much paperwork and you just want to build your credit score, you can do a financial loan through FAAST and we work with people with fixed income, low credit scores, we have a credit building program, we have low interest rates, we do everything we can to help the individual with a disability purchase the assistive technology, we’ve had people purchase modified vehicles, we’ve had people purchase ramps for their homes. Hearing aids is a really big one that we’ve been doing a lot of lately. So really anything that you need if you want to take out a financial loan, you can call FAAST and we can put you through that program to see if you can get accepted through our loan program. So that’s our way that we can help people buy assistive tech and the idea is just to give more and more people access to whatever lives they want to live.

Tony Delisle  23:14

This is huge. I mean the idea that you get people the assistive tech that they need, trained them on it, provide 30 days, date before you marry, and then help provide financing for the wedding ring and and everything else that could accompany the cost of being married and being able to do that and it’s it sounds like you’ve just wrapped so much around the individuals that you’re serving with the disabilities that need the tech for them to live their lives independently. What can you tell us about what this technology, the assistive tech, has done for people in their lives? I imagine it could be different depending on like you said, Is it a modified vehicle versus you know, a modified utensil that people perhaps use for eating, but I imagine there’s probably a consistent way that people respond to getting this technology in devices into their lives. So So what do you have to say about what you’ve seen when people actually get these technologies for them to live independently?

Whitney Harris  24:16

So I will speak anecdotally from secondhand stories because those regional partners that we partner with, they are the boots on the ground talking to people in and out but I you know, I’ve heard stories about people getting communication devices and being able to speak for the first time and being able to identify that they aren’t using the right pronouns for them. So we know that actually like share what’s inside because they didn’t have those communication tools. I mean, just communication tools in general. Yeah, its incredible. We recently were able to, we had a grant that gave out different home smart technology. So being able to open the door with your voice. So thinking like, in an emergency, not being able to get out of your home, if you don’t have a personal care attendant, but being able to use your voice to open the door, and especially with COVID, if someone has personal care assistance coming in them not having to touch everything. Because stuff is voice activated. And that’s assistive technology that you can get from Amazon, you don’t even have to have special training. But we have those items at our loan library as well. So people can try them out before they purchase. I mean, it really, it goes just the whole gamut of different perspectives I guess, I don’t even… we cover all this abilities. It’s just yeah, it is really incredible.

Tony Delisle  25:40

Yeah, yeah, I was asking you a question that was pretty broad there. You just for myself, in my own use of assistive technology in my life, that I wouldn’t be able to, you know, have the professional opportunities that I have right now, certainly, I wouldn’t have succeeded academically, and wouldn’t be able to do some of the things that I do in my own personal life without them. And to imagine a life without some of the things that I’m able to do now, because of having those, it’s night and day, it’s so profound these devices can have on the quality of life for people. So it’s just such a wonderful service that you do there. And we’re going to make sure that we have all the links to get a hold of you, how people can apply how people can learn what technology might be the best fit for them, and get trained up on it, and understanding some of the ways that they can get this equipment acquired, that you offer there as well. It’s just so phenomenal. So you alluded to it this earlier, another piece of which, your bucket, so to speak professionally, that you’ve been occupying for quite some time, as a participant, as a volunteer, as a leader. And you know, someone that’s really steeped into this is youth leadership. And if you could explain to us what that means, youth leadership in particularly in the world of disabilities for us, that would be I think, a really good place to start on on this.

Whitney Harris  27:23

Absolutely. So, you know, when we think about the disability rights movement, and the history that we’ve had within our own community, it really isn’t that old in the grand scheme of, you know, civil rights movements, and, and a lot of different ways people are constantly talking, at least in the disability circles I’ve been in is what is the next generation going to bring, you know, can we really bridge to let the youth know where we’ve been, to educate them so that they’re advancing our cause. So within a lot of disability, disability organizations, they have concern for that to make sure you know, our stories are being told, so that the next group of advocates can really keep fighting the fight. So youth leadership within the disability community, what I really think is special about it is that you don’t have to be a 15 year old, just to be considered a youth leader. A lot of times Youth Leadership goes up to age 30. So people who have all different levels of intellect and cognition that might not be as mature when you’re an 18 year old can still be and have access to a lot of these youth leadership circles, and being able to learn what you need to learn to bring that advocacy forward. And it’s so powerful, so powerful, being around young people who are inspired to keep the movement alive and keep change going.

Tony Delisle  28:47

So what have you seen as far as some of the things that have worked well, in terms of getting youth engaged in being leaders in carrying the mantle? Like what are some of the things out there that you’ve seen that are really helping to facilitate exactly what you’re unpacking is the vision and reason why Youth Leadership is important? What’s been working so far?

Whitney Harris  29:08

So I think a great resource in Florida is the Florida Youth Leadership Forum, which I’ve mentioned, it’s currently house through FACIL, which I know you’ve spoken to Jane Johnson a few times on this show. So this has been in Florida, I think we’re at in 25 years or so this program has been in Florida. It’s Yeah…

Tony Delisle  29:31

It’s almost as old as you there, in doing the math.

Whitney Harris  29:33

Yeah. It’s a curriculum based out of California’s vocational rehabilitation. So it’s another program that’s been expanded across the country because it works. And what it does is it brings together high school students who have disabilities, and really the entire focus is to get them employed, you know, teach them soft skills, leadership skills to help them with employment, but what it does and kind of like what I alluded to or blatantly said before is it helps with that peer support. So all of a sudden, you have a group of people who have similar experiences, and are going out into their community and they’re getting these connections that then they can share with you that you can use in your own personal life. And through through that you kind of like think, what’s the next step? How can I keep getting involved and you can come back as a volunteer, as I did with the Youth Leadership Forum, or what we’ve been trying to do is get them get these youth connected with their local Centers for Independent Living, because you can be a board member, as a youth, or some centers have the Youth Advocacy councils or advisory councils kind of things, there are so many opportunities to advance leadership at a young age that can really kind of sculpt the rest of your career. And for me, also, APRIL, the Association of programs for rural independent living, they’re a national association, they actually dedicated to seats on their board of directors for youth members. So, yeah. So you can kind of even if it takes you outside of Florida, that takes you nationally, through connections through April is actually how I ended up with the Florida Independent Living council as a board member for them. And we’re constantly trying to get youth on our council. So it’s, it’s finding all these opportunities and realizing even as a young person, you can, you can find these board opportunities, these council opportunities, or even just volunteering, that’s gonna make a huge difference that can teach you so much about leadership, and about giving back and almost philanthropy as a whole.

Tony Delisle  31:44

Sure. So So if I’m hearing you correctly, one of the things that have been really progressive is the more opportunities that are out there to be a leader. In particular, you were talking about the Youth Leadership Forum, which is a week long, I believe, usually held in July, event where people in the state of Florida at least come from all over the different parts of Florida that are youth with disabilities, and participate in week long activities there at the Capitol in Tallahassee where they get to just be immersed with people that are already leaders, people that are volunteers and been in the program before and then people that are new to the program and understanding and getting that so I love that opportunity is out there for people and and being someone that was a participant, a volunteer and now someone that’s really helping to lead organize these youth leadership forums, what can you say that people would get out of participating in a week long event like that. So we have one coming up in the summer of 2021. We want to put this on blast, and you’ll get excellent people up there to Tallahassee, so so what are some of the things that people can expect to get out of participating in an event like this?

Whitney Harris  32:49

So a lot of what I’ve heard and I’ve I’ve worked with, we call them delegates, the first year high school students that come in, that’s what the program is all about is these delegates, and you find out so many resources, right? Because the Youth Leadership Forum tries to bring together you know, can you go through VR, can you go through your local CIL? Who can you get connected with, because even even if you’re in Florida public schools, you don’t necessarily graduate having all of these different resources. So that’s a huge piece of it is kind of knowing how to stay connected, and how to get what you need to advance your own career or life or whatever your goals are. Another big one is that peer support. There’s also a huge piece, like you mentioned, we go to the Capitol, we learn about advocacy, about grassroots advocacy, how to call your legislators, how to look them up, kind of how to tell your story to them. And then, when we’ve been able to go in person, which historically we have last year, it was actually virtual, and I believe this summer, it’s going to be virtual, but we would get to go into the house chambers at the Florida Capitol. And the delegates get to sit in the seats. And we do a mock session where the delegates actually get to create their own bill and argue it and debate it. So we kind of we do these activities where you don’t realize you’re doing public speaking. So you kind of you’re having fun and you’re arguing with your friends on getting a bill passed. Oh, but you’re standing up in front of a crowd and someone hands you the mic. And we also have a talent show, which again, you think, okay, fun talent show, but you’re standing up in front of your peers, and you’re doing something bold and vulnerable. And everyone cheers, right? Like there’s never, there’s never been an experience where someone didn’t get just a roaring applause at the end of putting themselves out there. So you just have all of these kind of like social interactions that you don’t think anything of but when you leave, you’re filled with confidence. And you’re filled with pride because you’ve learned about this community. And you just go out charged, you know, like just filled to the brim and ready to take on life and whatever it brings you. 

Tony Delisle  35:00

Yeah, wow, I’m inspired, just living vicariously through your explanation there. So I just wanted to highlight how participants can, you know, learn resources, and learn the system. And like you bring it up VR and all these other things that, we understand the system. But imagine people that don’t even understand what’s out there, the resources that are available to them. So giving them that information, huge, then you talk about skill building, I hear a lot of skill building in this, like you’re talking about public speaking, one of the number one fears that people consistently is public speaking, even more so even over the fear of death, like people would rather be given in the casket than giving the eulogy. So its a big fear, its a big skill. And then learning those skills. And often, like you said, through peer supports that are inter woven throughout this program, and baked into all of this is how to connect how to collaborate, like you said, grass roots are such an important part of advocacy and being a leader. So I, all those buckets, right, there seem to really go into the essence of what it means to be a leader through this opportunity, again, like you were saying, more opportunities now than ever, for people, students with disabilities, to participate in an experience like this, to learn to become an advocate and leader and etc. So that leads me to the question of, how do you define what a great leader is like? What are those characteristics that makes a great leader? Values, virtues? What is some of those things like I hear from you, you got to be resourceful navigate systems, you need to have certain skills and competencies like public speaking, be able to collaborate, get some grassroots things, be inspired, you leave in this inspiration’s a huge part of what we do, and then be purpose driven. But so you laid that out there, there’s some really good skills, what are some of the values like leaders really need to be embracing to in order to be really great leaders? So I think something that I really embraces integrity, you know, what, what are you going to do when no one’s looking? What are you going to do? That’s character! That’s the definition of the character, right is how do you behave? How do you conduct yourself? Yeah.

Whitney Harris  37:09

Absolutely. And I, I, I have a big heart for finances, I love money management, I will never be an accountant because I don’t really want to learn all of the terms. But I, I know the essence of it. And, and that is so huge, to actually be able to fix mistakes, or call out mistakes when it comes to your money or somebody else’s money. So when I think about integrity, I think you know, you have to want to do the right thing, when nobody is asking you to do the right thing, or nobody even knows there was the option. So that is probably mine. My biggest piece of being a leader, but I think another big one is perseverance. And that really ties into also, being someone who has a disability, you can’t ever give up, you know, failure is a part of life failure is going to happen. Patience, you have to have the patience to really wait things out, wait for opportunities to come, wait for those doors to open. But if you don’t persevere and keep getting back on the horse, and keep ripping those doors open, if they’re not coming open as quickly as you want them to, you’re not going to get anywhere. And so being a leader, you have to jump at these opportunities and persevere even when things get hard. And if your organization or wherever you are is challenging. Or maybe I we’ve all sat on those board meetings that are just incredibly boring. And you think I’m so ready to take a bathroom break, but you just have to keep, keep showing up and keep persevering and being engaged and doing what needs to be done. I’m hitting on so many things you’re..

Tony Delisle  38:44

You’re hitting on so many things like each one of those could be its own episode. But I love how you really bring into your people’s character when people aren’t looking I, I’ve often heard in leadership, it does matter when you’re not on the clock, how you conduct yourself, because it will eventually bleed over into when you are on the clock and how you conduct yourself and that needs alignment. I also like how you put in you to play perseverance. And so I do find that perseverance is something that’s very much needed. And I’ve often struggled when when I’ve been knocked off the horse or when I’ve quote unquote, not succeeded or failed, and have certain tools in my toolkit that I used to keep going and persevere. So I’d be interested to know, what does Whitney Harris pull out of her toolkit, when she has perhaps been challenged or you know, hasn’t maybe lived up to your own expectations or goals? Or those are the kinds of things, like what do you do to to persevere when the times are really tough and dark. And this can help other people too. I want this to be a platform to where we can learn from each other about certain really concrete skills that we can take action within us in our own lives to persevere. So what are the toolkits you use to get into a level of perseverance needed to be successful like you Whitney?

Whitney Harris  40:01

A big thing for me is that peer support and mentoring, you know, you don’t have to have an identified mentor-mentee structure with people but you kind of end up finding people who’ve had experiences that you can learn from who are your friends, or maybe they’re just associates or colleagues kind of thing. So I, I am constantly on the phone or texting or walking in the other rooms, since I’m at home talking to my husband about things, just kind of getting my perception of it out, you know, just saying it, I, I critically think a little bit better when I actually am I hearing myself talk versus keeping it all in my head. So being able to bounce off ideas, finding others who have had those experiences. And that has really helped me a lot is being able to know that. You know, I’m not alone in this, I tend to say a lot like it’s so nice knowing I’m not the first executive director of FAAST, I’m not the first executive director ever. There are others who have done this work before, and who have had experiences similar to mine. And even if I don’t know who they are not able to talk to them. They’re just different ways that people approach stuff that helps me think through what I need to do and figure out what, what needs to happen. And maybe it is just having patience to let things play out. But yeah, I have, I have a really fantastic network of people throughout Florida and the country that I can call and kind of talk through different ideas to help me help me stay on top of my game.

Tony Delisle  41:34

I find that to be incredibly valuable as well, and having that support and different perspectives. Do you find that it’s important to have people in that circle that you turn to as mentors to, perhaps not always agree with what you’re talking about or saying or seeing things? I see a lot of confirmation bias, I guess it’s called when people, you know, are very agreeable, and always on the same page and etc. So, A, do you find it valuable when people don’t agree with you and B, how do you work with that I often find with myself, sometimes I’m resistant to it, and need to be more open to it. Because there’s a lot of power and knowing what we don’t know. And it really helps us to think again and do those kinds of things. So So talk to me about that, like how you handle perhaps, when you get feedback, perhaps that isn’t so easy to listen to, or is outside of what you kind of believe in? How do you process some of that?

Whitney Harris  42:33

Yeah, that’s a great question. And I honestly think that ties also to so many experiences related to disability when you’re trying to share what your perspective is, and people just don’t get it. But I do have people in my life, they might not blatantly tell me that it’s just an awful idea. But I tend to come on really strong. And I don’t know if that’s just my, my age and not having so many experiences to kind of know what, what the best decision is. But in my mind, sometimes I leap right to where I think I need to go. And I have people that will tell me, okay, well that that’s drastic, or that you really don’t have to go that far. You can kind of ease into it. You don’t have to make the decision today or tomorrow. Or you can say no, I’m, I’m personally very bad at saying no to opportunities. I view them all as valuable experiences, even if it’s a terrible experience. It’s still valuable. I have one of my close friends now who has almost her gut reaction is to be like, okay, but you don’t have to say yes to that, you can you can say no. And that goes against so much of who I am and wanting to keep just having these experiences. So I’m, I’m trying to learn that I’m, I’m kind of with you. And it’s yeah, it’s a challenge to really slow down and smell the roses and kind of listen to other people’s experiences and respect them and learn from them to. It’s tough.

Tony Delisle  44:05

Yeah, yeah. And that’s where the growth happens. And I want to hone in on this notion that it is important to say no, sometimes even sounding great collaborations and whatnot, I found in my own path early on, especially you know where you are, I had to say yes to everything. Because being on the come up and looking for opportunities to prove yourself or get involved or to network was really important during that season, and still is very important now, but it seems that farther along the path that I’ve gotten to where I have more connections and more things going on, and more plates spinning and now there’s lots of opportunities coming and have that same mentality of when I first began where there wasn’t as many opportunities that I say yes to everything, for me hasn’t lined up and it’s become more important to discern. You know when to say yes and when to say no, and I find it very Difficult as someone that’s very nature to collaborate to, to want to try and do it all, I find it very inspiring to want to say yes, because there’s so much to do. And there, here’s these opportunities to do it. But one thing I found a lot of wisdom is is in the idea that if we say yes to something, we’re also saying no to other things. So for me, really taking that into account when i when i decide whether or not I’m going to say yes to something. I’m also saying no to other things. So that’s made it a little easier for me to do that. But I still struggle with that myself.

Whitney Harris  45:31

Absolutely. I actually, I read this really incredible breakup book that talked a lot about if it’s not a hell, yes, it’s a Hell no, no and kind of person dumped you, you should move on. But I think about that a lot with those those opportunities of, you know, sometimes it’s like, oh, I really should do that. That would be really helpful, you know, and I’m gonna learn something, but it might not always be a hell yes, like, wow, that checks every box that I want to do right now, that’s going to help me. And so it’s kind of like it can be that cut and dry if it needs to be. So I try to use that, in my mind. Is this really a hell yes? Is this do everything I need to do in my life, and there’s just nothing that’s even a little bit iffy, which is good dating advice as well.

Tony Delisle  46:26

That definitely works that definitely works. So what is right now in terms of where you see the landscape of disabilities, you’ve talked about assistive tech, the importance of youth in leadership? What are some other areas out there that you are like, hell, yes, that’s an important issue right there, we need to be honing in on that. There’s a lot to be done, what out there really is something that’s really captivating you right now or has been for a while about issues related to disability that we really need to be all in on.

Whitney Harris  46:59

So I think this one is like, so incredibly simple, but it’s just inclusion and access. And of course, access is a much bigger piece of the pie. But I think in 2020, so many people started talking about societal barriers, especially when it came to race. But so many of those conversations also tie in to disability and those barriers that we have. And I think that people are talking about this stuff now, you know, social media, now that everyone’s home, being safe, they have access to chat and learn more of what’s available. So I’m really excited that so many people are kind of talking about disability, I actually, I started volunteering with this human rights organization because they wanted disability as a part of it. And they talk more about sexual freedom. And of course, people again, think taboo when it comes to sexuality and stuff, but that disability is part of the human nature. So why would you not include that in the conversation? Yeah, so people are people are talking about it. Now people are putting more image descriptions on their social media posts, because they see other people doing it, they’re captioning videos, now, you know, there’s, there’s so much to access that people might not even realize it’s all for, you know, people with disabilities, but it’s there and it’s coming. And I feel like we’re so close to like making it mainstream, at least, electronic access to the internet and social media. And so that, that gets me pretty jazzed I and I love that FAAST in particular, can be part of that when it comes to assistive tech and we can be part of those conversations of how easy it is to be just a little bit more inclusive, even even adding pronouns to your emails, or your email signature, like such an easy little change, that can have a huge impact on others that you interact with.

Tony Delisle  48:57

So as your, like, you just gave a really good one there on how we can be better and learn more and through this communication and amplification and attention now on disability and more conversations that are being out there. I kind of see the duality of that. So I see in one sense, you know, can really steer the conversation in a positive place and take it into that direction. So what does that direction look like to you? So if we we now have more conversations being had, where would you hope that it takes us as a society or culture or as a group or whatever it may be?

Whitney Harris  49:35

I want to see more people with disabilities and more people who identify as disabled actually out in my community, right like we, you, I’ve heard stories of people saying well you don’t see people with disabilities being your teachers or your manicurist or checking you out at the grocery store. Not because they don’t exist, but maybe they don’t identify and of course it’s not something you wear on my Hello My name is kind of name badge, but disability not being a stigma or not being some marred expression that you don’t want to identify with. So actually, just openly having people know that they have a disability, again, they don’t have to identify, but that we can talk about it. So we’re, we’re trying so hard to talk about it now. But I think that there’s still something within some of us where we don’t want to use the label. And you don’t have to use the label, but you can still talk about your experience with it. And kind of share that perspective of, you don’t identify, but also, you know, maybe you need time to recoup more than others from interacting with society and that kind of stuff. So I, I think we’re so close to just having everybody out in the open, and disability just being accepted as a part of life. And actually being something that people can experience not being, you know, growing up, I you, people used to always tell me when they saw another person without an arm in the grocery store, and I just, I never knew who the person was. So I didn’t care who the other person without the arm in the grocery store was. But that was their experiences, they saw the one person and thought, well, that’s similar to you. So you must care that I saw this other human and it’s like, yeah, I mean, but if more people are out, then it just becomes that part of everyday life.

Tony Delisle  51:29

So so you kind of with that almost have a lead into the corollary of that question about where you hope it takes us and where, you know, it can drag you drive the conversation in terms of evolving. What is a cautionary tale now that there is more amplification, there are more voices out there are there cautionary tales that we should be thinking about, and having this new conversation moving forward, that you would want to perhaps have in the back of people’s head, so it does go in the direction that you see as being more favorable about disability?

Whitney Harris  52:03

Gosh, when you say cautionary tale, I automatically think to all the people who can use images online for online for use that you don’t want them to right, so all the the people that view disability is something that they maybe idolize or something that is very special to them, and they may take images, that’s what I think, would you say cautious. I know that’s not where you’re going with that. But I, I think that we can’t go into this. Maybe guns blazing, just rent ramming everything into everybody’s experiences, because it is so personal, disability is so personal. And even if we are talking about it, and I’d love to see a world one day where it’s just talked about and not stigmatized. It has so much vulnerability, and maybe not even understanding yourself and understanding what is going on with you. You know, disability can come with some diagnoses that maybe people don’t understand, or it isn’t defined. So I think, though I so much want us to get there. Maybe as my not going in so strong and so cutthroat, we probably do need to ease, ease into it and let people find their own path on their own time in their own way, instead of just saying, you know, this is how it’s going to be from now on. So you need to identify because you have that label, or you have that diagnosis or you have whatever it is just kind of letting people come to terms with themselves, just as we all are finding who we are as individuals and how disability fits into that.

Tony Delisle  53:42

Yeah, for me, it wouldn’t when you describe this, I hear a lot of humility being needed in this conversation. And it is easy sometimes for us to get into preacher mode, or prosecutor mode, or even politician mode. And I’m seeing I’m stealing this from Adam Grant’s new book, Think Again. And I think for me, I’ve seen where I slip into those roles as well, in trying to articulate something where I think I found some truth and want to share it with other people. So easy sometimes to slip into those roles. And it seems to me the antidote at times, is having humility, and then entering into the conversation. So I really appreciate you really kind of for me, illuminating that part of it. Very much needed.

Whitney Harris  54:28


Tony Delisle  54:47

So tell me, what are some of the most important life values or virtues that you’ve learned personally, through having a disability that really have been something that has served you to be a better version of you, that has also allowed you to be such a great servant for others?

Whitney Harris  55:06

I think patience is a big part of that. I want to go further and longer than maybe my body wants me to, and kind of being patient with what I need to do. And I think being kind, I, I’m sometimes not so kind, I mostly think to my body, I, you know, my physical limitations are so much bigger to me than my maybe mental limitations. And I think that, you know, I want to go and do things and I have to have to value what I have physically and what it can do for me and, and be kind to it, I actually became vegan, I actually became..I say pretend vegan since 2010 I think

Tony Delisle  55:57

Fake vegan?

Whitney Harris  56:00

Every new meal, I was gonna be vegan, but it just never quite worked out. That’s hilarious. But I I did that as a way to be kind to my body just kind of seeing if that if that helped with some of my back pain are my you know, foot swelling? And and it has so even if it… Yeah, it’s, it’s something that I’ve learned. It’s been incredible that I you know, of course, you want everyone to eat the way that you eat. So then you can just cook for them. And everyone can live a happy life. But but that’s, that’s the value that..

Tony Delisle  56:30

Yeah, how’s hubby doing with that diet? Yeah, well, you know, one of the things that you’re hitting on there is is shown in the literature is that that kind of a diet is shown to be anti inflammatory. And and many even people with rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory chronic conditions have seen some benefits. And that’s just not my opinion. There’s a lot of good science behind that. But I want to get back to what you were saying about some of the virtues that you’ve gained. You mentioned patience few times here. And one of the things that I’ve learned from my Brazilian friends who speak Portuguese, is that the root of the Portuguese word, patience, paciencia, probably saying that, like a gringo. But the the meaning comes from the science of peace, the science of peace, and the way I turn it, tie it into social justice and patience, because many of us in this movement, we see people that are in dire straits, they have immediate and very pressing needs. And we want to do things now immediately because of the human condition. And it causes us to have patience who No, that’s a tough one. And to find also inner peace as we do, the work we do is very challenging. And for me, in order to be in this game for a while, I need to really understand the science of peace. And I often use the quote that for me, and I believe this was Ronald Reagan had said, Peace isn’t the absence of conflict, it’s our ability to be peaceful while we resolve conflict. Oh, man, that’s a tall order, right. And so it is, as you say, patience, I connected with this piece and trying to do what we do through peaceful means. And to do that, in a chaotic world, that’s very stressful. That’s, that’s something that I aim for, at least. And so that’s what I wanted to share with you, as you’re saying, your wisdom and truth about what you have is a value in virtue. So man, very powerful, they’re very powerful. So talk to me about some of the things that you are most excited about when you envision the future, disability, yourself, personally, professionally. What’s really exciting about the future for you, I think, you know, during a time like this, we’re looking perhaps for some optimism, some inspiration, those kinds of things and you seem to have a lot of inspiration. So what were really inspires you about the future?

Whitney Harris  59:05

So I think one of the kind of neat things that came out of this whole pandemic thing is that people are able to access others through their computers. So whether that’s, you know, a conference like being able to participate in a virtual conference for all of our brothers and sisters in the disability community who have not been able to access that stuff, and to have remote interviews for jobs and being able to work remotely and work from home. I, as soon as this started happening as people started to go home, but still be able to work and access things that they need through telehealth and all of that stuff. I just, that excites me because I’m so hopeful we can hold on to that hold on to that access as we go back into the world that we can still have virtual conference components and allow people so freely to work from home. And to maybe have those flexible work schedules and stuff like that, and I, in a time like this, that that’s what I hold on to is how well we’ve done access, if we can just keep, just not let that go as we go back out into the world.

Tony Delisle  1:00:15

Yeah, I like to think that this disruption has been a game changer for some of the innovation that’s needed moving forward to be more inclusive and have access and reach more people. That’s a great one in terms of putting a silver lining in a gray area. You’re so good at that Whitney, you’re so good at that. I’m going to ask you some standard staple questions that we ask all our guests. And it’s really interesting to compare and contrast some of these questions. But what are some of the words that you have heard that are synonymous with disability? Not necessarily words that you agree with? But what are some of the words that you’ve heard?

Whitney Harris  1:00:49

I think handicap was probably the one I grew up with hearing the most. Special Needs is another big one.

Tony Delisle  1:00:59

Big in education.

Whitney Harris  1:01:00

Yup, and one that Florida picked up on a few years ago was unique abilities. I always thought that one was hilarious, because no, because no one else is unique. Only the people with disabilities have unique abilities. The rest of the rest of the world is just plain boring, non unique. No run of the mill.

Tony Delisle  1:01:20

Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Whitney Harris  1:01:22

Yeah. Um, but probably all the other ones that people have heard, you know, crippled or handi capable. I’m not a big fan of these inspirationally kind of..

Tony Delisle  1:01:33

Like softeners, I call them softeners. Yeah. Yeah, softeners. But, but is there a word that you have come across that you’re like, Oh, that’s a little more empowering at all? Or is it like, you know, just a word to word or words do matter. But at the end of the day, they point to something that’s an essence and more focused on that versus the signpost of the word that pointing to what’s your, do you have something? Is there something out there that you would replace it with, if you had a wand that you could wave?

Whitney Harris  1:02:04

So, I very much, I think want to put pride back in the word disability. I know people break it apart and say, you know, it’s the lack of ability and all of that jazz, but part of that disability pride movement is you know, owning our words again, and giving them power. So I, I do like saying, are not always using people first language when I’m identifying myself, not others, but I’ll say I’m a disabled female. And I do say that I have a disability. But I try, I think words have so much meaning and I try really hard to copy however someone else identifies themselves. So trying not to actually put my own label on them. Um, I guess I do with a bigger group of saying the disability community but if I were to talk to anyone, I kinda, I wouldn’t. First of all, I don’t ask what their disability is, because I think that’s just who really needs to know that like, what how does that actually help you with anything but letting them identify however they want to if they say that they’re a person with such and such, then that’s how I try to remember them versus I should say a big examples in the limb loss community of people who walk around saying they’re amputees. But not everyone in the community uses that term. But when you’re in that community, that’s one that they just throw around quite liberally and kind of gets tied to almost its own personality traits of if you have an amputee, you’re a certain way, it’s it was very weird to me. But that’s a word that maybe not everybody uses, even though you’re in that community. So I try to I try it’s, it’s a challenge to let people just identify themselves to me however they want to and they, they might not even because right, not everyone wants to talk about disability all the time. But, even in other identifying factors. Just letting people letting people say it right, not pushing them into a box and pushing them into a way that I need to use the words to help me figure it out. I can just call them by their name. Until they they give me some other words to use.

Tony Delisle  1:04:17

Wow, very refreshing. Do you have like a tip in terms of social etiquette when communicating with people with disabilities that you would want to share with people? There seems to be a lot there to offer up. So somebody is wanting to get more involved in these conversations and to understand better, what advice do you have for people in terms of etiquette and disabilities and communicating that you would want to share?

Whitney Harris  1:04:45

So I think, kind of tying into that language of, you don’t have to talk about disability if you don’t want to, and I think if you don’t have a disability, I think about this a lot in the dating world. When you talk to A lot of people have disabilities, they don’t know when to identify and when to bring it up. And if it’s a secret and stuff like that. And that’s really any communication with someone you don’t know, you, if you don’t have a physical disability, it’s not apparent that you have it. You kind of question when it needs to come up. And I think sometimes people not in our community, they think, well, I have to bring it up, like, let’s go ahead and talk about it and get it, get it out of the way so that I know that they know, I’m sure. And again, if you just think about it as a characteristic, we aren’t all going around talking about our hair colors, and why our hair colors are a certain way or you know why…

Tony Delisle  1:05:39

Speak for yourself. Go ahead, sorry.

Whitney Harris  1:05:46

But you know, our own expression of our personalities or our how we express our physical characteristics like it doesn’t, it doesn’t always have to be point of conversation. So I, I come across people who want to say, you know, I did see someone at the grocery store that doesn’t have an arm, or Don’t worry, I have disabled friends or you know, my cousin has a limp, things that I might I don’t, I don’t care, unfortunately, about all of those experiences, you don’t have to take this one physical trait of mine and make that how we connect, you know, we can connect through so many different ways. So I think kind of letting people take the pressure off to know that you don’t have to talk about disability all the time, or have to put a name to it or have to make it a part of how you build a relationship. And just, again, just letting it be a characteristic or however someone wants to identify with it.

Tony Delisle  1:06:42

Wow, that’s great. I love that. You don’t go around to your able bodied friend saying hey, guess what? I saw someone in the store, they had both arms and legs!

Whitney Harris  1:06:51

They would look at me like I had lost it. Yeah.

Tony Delisle  1:06:54

Right. Yeah, yeah. So Whitney, if you could tell us, what is the independent life for you?

Whitney Harris  1:07:05

Choice. Choice is, a big one, for me. Being able to choose the life that I want to live, right not being able to choose if I want to have maybe a two story house, even though I know a lot of people close to me would really push me from not having that, being able to choose you know which grocery store I want to go to, even if it’s much bigger, or being able to choose that I don’t want to go to the grocery store, and I want to order my groceries from home, just just having that choice to live my life, how I want to live it. And I know, not everyone has those opportunities, especially when we get stuck in those societal barriers, and different social structures that we get put into. And again, that goes to my privilege of not having my disability identify me, or not having to identify by my disability, better way to say that.

Tony Delisle  1:07:58

But choosing to anyway.

Whitney Harris  1:08:00

Yeah choosing to anyway, and choosing to use stairs when I don’t have to or choosing to walk until I’m exhausted when I could have taken an elevator or something like that, you know, kind of, it’s my choice. And I think living my life independently, and the independent life is all about choices.

Tony Delisle  1:08:18

Well, I am really happy that you chose to involve your professional life in advocating for people with disabilities, put in your talents, your wisdom, your lived experiences out there for others to grow and learn from, to lead an organization to be on all these different boards that you’re a part of, to have the courage despite perhaps I would imagine some vulnerability and fears about sharing your story and who you are, and to having the perseverance to continue on even when you didn’t feel like it, to have the patience needed to really do what you do. And so much more Whitney, you’re you’re you’re a true role model for many of us, not just youth, but for those of us that are like twice your age and have been seasoned and are turning gray. And so you thank you for being such a shining star in this area and being about it and not just talking about it. You’re so eloquent when you do talk about it. But you’re also someone of great work and great actions and huge deeds. And I really look forward to seeing where your leadership takes the movement and all that you do and those that you work with as well. It’s such a honor to to sit down and talk with you, this won’t be the last time we connect and talk in this format. It’s probably the most You and I have heard this shared at one time to connect. So just from my own personal benefit. This has been very inspiring for me, and I hope others that listen to it really take away what you have to offer in inspiring others to be the best version of themselves. You can Have a lot of great information on exactly how to do that, and how to also serve others and be part of organizations to see the change in the world that we wish to see. So I just want to acknowledge you that so much for Whitney, thanks for all that you do.

Whitney Harris  1:10:12

Thank you, Tony, that you are so incredibly kind and I am trying to be very humble and just honored. It’s a great honor to have this conversation today.

Tony Delisle  1:10:22

It’s hard to hear compliments. And, but they’re all very true and I’m just reporting on what I’m observing. So, Whitney, thank you so much do you do you have any kind of quotes or inspirational sayings or anything like that that you would want to share with us and no worries? If not,

Whitney Harris  1:10:39

um, I do have an inspiration saying I don’t know if it was actually quoted by anyone, but I heard it at my first Youth Leadership Forum and it’s don’t cope, conquer. Oh, yeah. So that…

Tony Delisle  1:10:50

Don’t cope, conquer. Wow, that’s a good shot in the arm of inspiration to take moving forward. Don’t cope, conquer, conquer our fears, conquer our vulnerabilities, our insecurities. I love it. Whitney, thank you so much for coming on. 

Whitney Harris  1:11:08

Thanks, Tony. 

Tony Delisle  1:11:09

Till next time, onward, and upward. Take care.

Amy Feutz  1:11:17

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 cilncf.org@gmail.com 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.