2023 Tom Wilson Leadership in Disability Award winner selected! Shakia Guest-Holloway
Congratulations to Kia for being our 2023 awardee!
Now in our third year of offering this esteemed title, Lime Connect established “The Tom Wilson Leadership in Disability” award in honor of Lime’s “first believer,” advocate, and board chair emeritus. This prestigious award recognizes young professionals who live out Lime Connect’s mission of “rebranding disability through achievement,” and is presented annually. Out of many amazing applicants, we are excited to announce Shakia (also known to us as Kia) as our 2023 winner. As part of this honor, Kia will gain a mentor from within the Lime Connect Community, plan and host several events for our members, and join us throughout the year as a keynote speaker for our most prominent events.
Get to know Kia through our brief interview below!
Q: Hi Kia! We would love for you to give a brief introduction to who you are. How did you first learn about Lime Connect?
A: Greetings to all! I am a working professional who suffers from chronic pain disabilities (Fibromyalgia, Migraines, and CFS/ME); I am currently working as a Program Administrator at a major private University, in Atlanta, GA. It was through a friend who was also a college student, with a disability seeking job leads post-graduation that I learned about Lime Connect. With fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, I had serious concerns about finding a job that hired professionals with disabilities. I found Lime Connect a useful resource because, at the time, there weren’t many resources for disabled job seekers. In addition to my current role, I created a platform to support and voice people with invisible disabilities via social media, which I hope to expand into additional social media platforms that give voice to persons with disabilities.
Q: Wonderful. How do you believe you have helped to rebrand disability through your work and efforts?
A: Socially, I feel that I’ve helped rebrand disability by giving disabled people a platform publicly. Discussing disabilities is no longer taboo, and we no longer have to hide what makes us different. This has allowed disabled persons to be accepted and embraced by society. We are now increasingly seen as capable and valuable members of the community, and we can take part in activities without feeling like outcasts or incapable. This has been a truly empowering experience. This has led to increased opportunities for disabled individuals, both in the workplace and in the community. With increased acceptance, my hope is that this will lead to the passing of laws and policies to protect and safeguard disabled persons’ rights, enabling us to live our lives with dignity and respect. With COVID, more and more people are diagnosed with ME/CFS, and the condition is no longer viewed as an unusual phenomenon. As much as possible, I intend to join adversary panels concerning my disability so that I can personally impact research, etc., that will bring awareness to the disease. There is still dishonest and dangerous rhetoric about Fibromyalgia, especially on social media. I use my platform to debunk those myths but also to put a human face to the disease. We are real, and our voices deserve to be heard.
Professionally, I attempted to rebrand disability by ensuring that persons with disabilities are included in our decisions as a department. For example, permanently implementing a virtual recruitment event that was once completely in-person. Knowing that some participants, myself included, experienced mobility issues, hosting the event virtually allowed for a larger pool of candidates who can attend the event and not worry about navigating an in-person event with a disability. This is especially critical for access and mobility. This is a mission I’m truly passionate about, as it allows persons with disabilities the same opportunities that every person deserves. Unfortunately, higher education remains antiquated when accommodating persons with disabilities. In my role, whenever possible I attempt to ensure that our events are inclusive to persons with disabilities. I also strive to bring awareness to places on campus that aren’t helpful to persons with disabilities who have accessibility concerns.
Q: How do you plan to maximize this award recognition and platform?
A: I hope to generate more awareness of disabilities and how they affect us both personally and professionally through this award recognition and platform. On professional social media sites, there has been an increase in discussions about the inclusion of disabilities in DEI initiatives. Whenever disabled people request accommodations, it should not be seen as a weakness, but rather as a strength; because it does not mean we are asking for special treatment but tools that help us succeed in our professional careers. As a disabled professional, I would love to provide solutions to accommodations needed to succeed.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with our network of fellow students and professionals with disabilities about you?
A: Yes, of course, and thank you for asking! I can recall a few years ago I was afraid of being labeled as “disabled” as I feared the professional backlash would be insurmountable. In our country, oftentimes, your worth is based upon your productivity. What’s more, being disabled was viewed as a weakness or something that should be hidden from others. Thankfully, this mindset is changing rapidly, and my mindset has changed as well. I am proud to be a part of the community of disabled leaders/professionals, etc., and proud to be a recipient of the Tom Wilson Leadership in Disability Award.
Q: We know you have been active within our new Community Platform, is it okay for people with shared interests to connect with you there?
A: Sure! I am always open to connecting to people, and I hope by sharing my story I can help someone in a similar situation as I once was.
We are excited to begin working with Kia to share her story while also creating more impact for our community. Are you a professional or student with a disability and want to connect directly with Kia? Join or log in to the Lime Connect Community Platform today and search for her within our Connections people directory. This one-of-a-kind platform allows professionals and students with disability to connect and share their experiences across the US and Canada. Sign up and get started today to find your community!