Chronically Living and how to make the most of it

Disability Rights with special guest Ashley Jacobson

January 17, 2021 Kelsey, Ashley Jacobson Season 1 Episode 30
Chronically Living and how to make the most of it
Disability Rights with special guest Ashley Jacobson
Show Notes Transcript

This week I'm joined by chronic illness warrior and disability rights lawyer and advocate Ashley Jacobson, who shares her own journey with chronic illness, as well as discusses what rights and laws everyone with a disability (including chronic illness) should be aware of.
In this episode we discuss:

  • why chronic illness is included in under the disability umbrella
  • what a disability rights attorney is and does
  • prominent disability rights and laws we should be aware of
  • what we should do if we encounter stigma, discrimination and lack of access to accommodations
  • person-first and identity-first language
  • tips to make your social media more accessible

Guest Bio:

Ashley Jacobson if a disability rights attorney living with physical disability in Michigan. She also holds a Master's degree in disability rehabilitation counselling and a nationwide certification in disability counselling and assessment (CRC).

Through her law firm, Jacobson Law & Advocacy, she protects the rights of her clients in workplaces, schools, courtrooms, and communities. Ashley also provides disability consulting, assessment, and counselling services throughout the U.S. through her consulting firm Adaptive Inclusion. Her mission is to empower the disabled community and advocate for a more equal, inclusive, and accessible world.

Ashley can be found on Instagram and TikTok @ashleyjacbson, via email at [email protected], or on her website jacobsonlawandadvocacy.com.



Kelsey Harris:

Welcome to the chronically living and how to make the most of it podcast. I'm Kelsey Harris, a chronic pain warrior here to inspire hope and strength to the spoony community, get ready to lift each other up and find ways to live the best life possible. Hi, everyone, welcome back to another episode of chronically living and how to make the most of it. Thank you, everyone for tuning in today. This week, I have an amazing guest who in addition to being a chronic illness warrior, is a disability lawyer and advocate, Ashley Jacobson, welcome to the show.

Ashley Jacobson:

Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Kelsey Harris:

Oh, well, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it. Yeah. All right. So um, first of all, I just I was curious. Before we get into kind of the Disability Rights stuff, and what you do is a lawyer about your chronic illness journey. And you can kind of give us an overview of it and how your diagnosis came about?

Ashley Jacobson:

Sure, sure. So I think like, a lot of us, there was a lot of misdiagnosis, and in finding the correct issues going on. And so I grew up super athletic. I was a competitive figure skater. And when I was, I think I was like 19. I was like, I'm gonna run a half marathon. I was never a runner. So I don't know why I thought I could do it. But I did. And then like, two months after I ran the half marathon one day, I'm in my apartment. And I just like dropped to the floor. Wow, I was having like muscle spasms, I was having this really severe pain, abdominal pain, back pain. And I was like, What the heck is going on. And you know, when you first start getting symptoms, it's really scary. And I kept going to the emergency room, which was not super helpful and somewhat traumatic. So I eventually decided, you know, listen, I'm just going to reach out to the best specialist I can find, no matter how far like I need to go to find them. And so eventually, I finally did that. I went to the Boston center for endometriosis. And they were amazing. I was diagnosed with endometriosis. Just before that through laparoscopy at the University of Michigan. And so I thought, cool, it's endometriosis. I have my answers. No more issues, right? Um, you know, not to mention, like the lack of great treatments for endometriosis. I still had these kind of strange symptoms, I was having issues with my bladder, which, you know, at 2021 was a little bit concerning. And finally, I saw a really good urologist who diagnosed me with interstitial cystitis after, you know, tests and procedures and all that jazz. So I'm like, Okay, I know we have interstitial cystitis. Now. I'm good. And no. So as you probably know, and I'm sure a lot of your listeners know, if you have one thing, it's common to have like maybe a couple of other things going on. And so for years, I just focused on stabilizing my symptoms, more than like seeking out more information about other diagnoses. And so I found a really great pain specialist, who totally changed my quality of life because I for like the first time ever had appropriate pain management. And then I was in this study at the University of Michigan, and I got this experimental medical device in my spine that really helps with my pain. And then I still had these weird symptoms where I was getting like this rash on my cheeks and my nose, really severe joint pain that probably not coincidentally got worse when I was in law school dealing with a lot of that stress. And so, in the past year, I, you know, kept putting off getting getting it checked out until I was like, I'm gonna pass the bar exam, then I'll worry about it. Right. And so then eventually, you know, after being a lawyer for a while, I finally got diagnosed with lupus. Oh, wow. So kind of a handful of things. But they're also, you know, pretty commonly shown together and patients. So I'm lucky that I had a super supportive chronic illness community online. That really like helped me every step of the way.

Kelsey Harris:

Yeah, the online community is amazing.

Ashley Jacobson:

Oh, I mean, I don't know where I would be without them. Truly.

Kelsey Harris:

Yeah. Yeah, for sure. That's, I mean, that's quite a journey. Like you said, it's pretty common for for there to be multiple diagnoses. So if anybody listening and you have one and you feel like you might Have another you probably too, unfortunately. Right? Yeah.

Ashley Jacobson:

And it just takes a while, you know, especially like doing what I do as a job now. And it's been really, like, I knew I experienced a lot of, like gender based discrimination when I was like, go to the ER, and you'd be like, Oh, it's just the stress, like, it's all in your head, you know, or your pain is not that severe. Like, it's, you know, I know, this is just like bad cramps. And I'm like, No, no, that's not what's happening. And so, it really like took a while for me to build up the confidence to advocate for myself. And now like, in my career, I'm seeing just how pervasive of a problem like different levels of discrimination are, whether it's like gender, racial, sexual orientation, like what have you. And so, you know, I'm really hoping that, like, I can continue to give back to my clients, and maybe help them through some of the things that I went through.

Kelsey Harris:

Amazing. I love that. It's so funny, because it's so totally different career path, but it's very similar to, to my thinking, like, I just want to help other people who have been through or going through the same things as me,

Ashley Jacobson:

right, totally.

Kelsey Harris:

Now, you refer to your chronic illnesses as disability, and not a lot of people that I know, with chronic illness do that, and including myself, I never really referred to as a disability. Why do you see them as overlapping?

Ashley Jacobson:

so, so put this into perspective, and I got sick, my senior year of college, and then I started grad school for disability counseling and assessment. And so I was really experiencing disability for the first time while I was learning about it in grad school, which was a real gift. And one of the gifts that they gave me was being able to properly identify, I have a disability, and I have these rights, and I have these supports and resources. And so you know, legally and otherwise, when we look at the definition of disability, you are considered to have a disability if you meet one of three criteria. So the first is that you have some type of condition, whether physical, mental, cognitive, vision, hearing, that affects significantly affects one or more major life functions. And so just that first problem, and chronic illness, meets the definition of disability. And when I was in grad school, like my professors were like, obviously, like, chronic illness has always been considered a disability. And I'm like, No, no, no, you don't understand. The definition shows that it does the social ramifications. And the barriers that we face are very similar to that of other, you know, disabled individuals. And we face a lot of the same disability discrimination, get in the chronic illness community, and even in the disability advocacy community. And there's been this kind of like, disconnect. And I think there are a couple of like, main reasons for that. This is just like my theory in like, my clinical counseling background. But I think a couple things, you know, we must remember that people with any kind of disability, chronic illness are not we're human beings. And so we're susceptible to human nature. And by being humans, we're naturally for most people, a little bit competitive in comparing ourselves to others, right? And so being like, well, they're just sick, but it's not the same, you know, like, it's not, they don't, it's not visible. For many people, they it's an invisible illness, which, you know, chronic illness is often visible in some ways. But, you know, there's just this different interpretation based on a little bit of that comparison, competitiveness. And that is inherent in all of us, that I think, once we identify that, and we explain, you know, to other people with disabilities, let's say comparing, you know, comparison isn't great, but if we want to raise awareness of chronic illness as a disability, let's look at the actual experiences of people with various chronic illnesses. You know, myself, for example, with my interstitial cystitis, I don't have bladder function. I use catheters every day. I'm up constantly at night. So I have to, like really cope throughout the day and night to be able to function. I had to use medical equipment in the workplace. I've needed accommodations and school in the workplace. And so when you look at that condition, and chronic illness alone, that's something that a lot of people with other physical disabilities deal with, right? You know, catheter use and things like that. And then, of course, with like the lupus, I have limited mobility often. And so it's really just breaking down that disabled experiences are different, some people with disabilities Might have it more visible than others. But people with chronic illness not only meet the definition of disability, but we're just as worthy members in this disability community. And so by like separating and segregating us, it's really kind of dismissive of our experience living with disability. And so I've really tried to like raise awareness of that.

Kelsey Harris:

Yeah, I like that. That's, I mean, it makes so much sense. Like you said, it fits the definition. And it's interesting, because I never personally group that together. But when I've used too many sick days at work in the past, they put me on short term disability. Well, clearly, then it's a disability, right?

Ashley Jacobson:

Yeah. Well, I think for myself, I went through this a little bit to where there's like internalized ableism that we often talk about in the disability community where it's like, you know, I don't see myself as you know, I'm not using a wheelchair all the time. Even though I was an ambulatory wheelchair user for years, I still didn't see myself as valid in the disability community, because, like, I didn't need a wheelchair all the time. And so there was that, but then also like, accepting that you have a chronic condition, that is a disability is a process. And so it's okay, if like, a person doesn't identify as having a disability if they have chronic illness, as long as they know that they have disability rights and resources, regardless,

Kelsey Harris:

right? For sure. So all your experiences with having chronic illness, and then obviously, your master's was more in the disability category is that what made you decide to become a disability rights attorney? Yeah, so

Ashley Jacobson:

I actually had some really wonderful counseling clients. And I worked for a nonprofit I've worked for like universities and their disability resource departments. But I worked for this nonprofit, where I was working with individuals, adults, and young adults with different disabilities in the workplace. And so I would help them, you know, maybe find a good job fair, do testing and implementing accommodations in the workplace, and just kind of supports for like, independent living and things like that. And so I had, over the course of one week, I had three separate clients deal with the legal system, and in my belief, and they were handled in appropriately, especially by the police. And so I had this one client that like, really sparked my interest in going to law school, which made my mom happy because she's a lawyer, and she's always told me, You should be a lawyer. And I was like, No, no, I don't want to do that. And of course, like she was right. But I had this one client, who, over the weekend, so I saw her during the week, but over the weekend, she was mugged. And she has a communication disorder that like limited vocabulary. And so she called her she called her mom who called the police on to report that she had been mugged. And when the police arrived, they couldn't understand what she was saying. So they assumed that, you know, she was the criminal, she had done something wrong, she wouldn't answer their questions in their perspective. Um, and so even though there was like, a reason for it, and it was disability base, they arrested her. And that same day, she signed a plea deal, not understanding really what that meant for her life, and being, you know, the provider for her family and our kids. And so it really upset me that people with disabilities can take get taken advantage of in our legal system. And it's so easy to happen, not because the disability community is especially vulnerable, though there are some statistics that show certain populations can be. But mostly because people in our legal system have no background with disability at all. Right. And so literally that day, I signed up for the L SAT. Five months later, I was in law school, and

Kelsey Harris:

Wow. You know, and all it takes is one experience sometimes to kind of shift your perspective, right. So yeah, so what exactly do you do at work? So what is the disability rights attorney? What kind of problems do your clients come to you with?

Ashley Jacobson:

Yeah, so I am really focused on providing comprehensive Disability Services. So I have this kind of unique background, as you talked about with like my disability counseling and assessment, and which is for me, a real plus, because then I can do really thorough assessments to show Look, this person needs accommodations, they're entitled to accommodations in school or the workplace. I know that from my background, here's the evidence, why aren't you giving this to them? And so I really use that kind of holistic approach to it. Design my law firm. And so on the legal side, I focused it Jacobsen law and advocacy, I do one of two things, I protect their rights. So like discrimination and accommodations and things like that in schools, or in the workplace, or even in courts. And then when it comes to the other kind of prong that I focus on on the legal side is protecting their futures. So making sure that whether they're working or not, they have the best benefits they can have. They have the best, like trust to protect their assets. And then of course, like also doing advocacy, to try to like deal with things like marriage equality for people with disabilities and reproductive equality. And you know, this, right. And then, you know, on the side, I kind of do this consulting, where I do like, inclusion trainings, I've done a lot of trainings and panels on like policing and disability and things like that. Um, but yeah, I really try to provide kind of any disability service that somebody might need, just because, like, there's no one stop shop like that. Currently, I'm at least not in my area. Right. And a lot of lawyers especially they hear Disability Law, and they think just social security disability. And living with disability is so much more complex than that.

Kelsey Harris:

Mm hmm. Yeah, for sure. So how if someone's listening, and they're, they're facing some kind of issue at work or school, like, how do they know if they should be seeking out a disability rights lawyer?

Ashley Jacobson:

Yeah. And so, you know, I'll preface this by saying like a little disclaimer, because I am a lawyer, you know, whatever, kind of like things we talked about here, it's just kind of like educational in nature. So definitely seek independent advice from like a lawyer in your area if you do have a specific legal question. Um, but with that being said, before you decide if you even need to seek out an attorney, I would try to find attorneys in your area that are actually equipped with the training and background to understand and thoroughly provide for disability needs through the legal process. And so, I often recommend that if you especially like, if you're a parent of a child with a disability, or you grow up with a disability, or you're quite later on, regardless, you need to make sure that you know, an attorney that you can reach out to you in an emergency, because you don't know when that's gonna be, and you want that person to be experienced and to understand and ideally have, you know, background in serving a client like yourself. And so I would say, try to find at least like one or two options before you even need an attorney. But that being said, if you're dealing with an a current issue, I would just immediately start looking around for attorneys that specialize in that specialize in disability rights, not Social Security Disability alone. That's like a big, you know, misunderstanding, because, honestly, you search disability in law. And that's the only thing that comes up often. And so you also can look at sites like the a DA site, the Americans with Disabilities, I'd say they've got a bunch of resources and questions. And like, frequently asked questions where people say, you know, this happened to me at work, or at the doctor's office or in school. Is that, okay? You know, and you can really do your own research, which I recommend, because a lot of times, people in the disability community are kind of expected to like, let other people take the wheel. And, you know, we, for the most part, are really capable empowered beings. And so like anybody else, do your research on the legal issues and on the situation you're facing, before you go into an attorney, and then a lot of attorneys offer like, initial consultations for free or like a free 15 minute phone consultation or things like that. So you know, there are options if money is tight. Oh, that's awesome.

Kelsey Harris:

Can you tell us a bit about some of the prominent disability rights laws that anybody listening should be aware of?

Ashley Jacobson:

Yeah. And so when it comes to like, chronic illness, specifically, there are a couple of laws that will probably arise and so often, I know, when I first got sick, a lot of the conversation that I was seeing was about like in the workplace, how do you handle having a chronic illness? And so um, the main law, of course, a lot of people heard about is the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ADA, also, you know, like FMLA, and short term disability and things like that come up, but the ADA is really crucial in providing disability rights to people with chronic illness and any disability. workplace. And so under the adea, you're entitled to reasonable accommodations when you're at work. And what's been really interesting with the pandemic, is we're seeing how things that workplaces previously thought were unreasonable are now reasonable, right, which is frustrating. But the plus is now people in the chronic illness and disability community, they have more leverage when seeking accommodations. And so working from home was seen as like, Oh, no, that's impossible. We don't do that here. And now it's more possible. And it's something that with, you know, my lupus especially, which has been flaring? You know, it's been really great to do like hearings online, right, and to meet with clients online, and it's actually beneficial for a lot of my clients that aren't feeling well, but wouldn't want to come into a legal office, frankly, to begin with. Yeah. And so when it comes to like reasonable accommodations for chronic illness, sometimes people ask, Well, what can I ask for. And some of the common accommodations that are usually reasonable, would be like, bathroom breaks throughout the day, like not being penalised for needing to go to the bathroom during a meeting. And you know, additional time on assignments as long as it's reasonable. So like, you know, not taking several weeks to turn in something that's due in a couple of days. But, you know, maybe a little leeway there. Obviously, another accommodation is, you know, attending doctor's appointments, as long as it's not excessive, which is where workplaces and employees sometimes disagree. But those are common accommodations, but also like dealing with pain in the workplace, dealing with nausea, like having access to medication, and storage for those medications, like all of these different things, and symptoms that affect you with your illness. Ideally, and this is what I did with my counseling clients, break down everything that you do throughout the day, every symptom that you see pop up, and then ideally, In what world would you be able to do things either easier, or, you know, more accessible to meet those symptom needs in the workplace. So the ADA is great for that. But it's also, you know, kind of closely tied with the Rehab Act, which, you know, section 504 comes to play a lot when it comes to disability discrimination. And section 504 of the Rehab Act. And the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are tied really closely. If you're like in high school, or younger, and you're dealing with schools and like special education programming, of which a lot of people don't realize chronic illness, students do participate or can participate in that.

Kelsey Harris:

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Ashley Jacobson:

right Well, unlike that's so amazing, because I do see a lot of workplaces that are really hesitant. A lot of it is just like an ego power struggle, kind of thing, which is really unfortunate, and just a lack of understanding and background and disability, especially for a lot of like small business owners. Right. But I also recommend, I mean, there are a lot of accommodations that you can implement yourself that most people don't even notice, you know, like, I use weighted writing utensils, because my pain, my chronic pain is caused a tremor disorder in my hands and feet. And so like, unless I'm pointing out that my pens look a little different, nobody is really noticing, right? And so there are like little things you can do people with chronic illness like myself, like, you know, keeping a subtle heating pad at your desk. Yeah, face packs, like things like that you can do, even if like, you're nervous to talk to an employer about that.

Kelsey Harris:

Yeah, those are great suggestions totally. Now, when people do face stigma, discrimination, aka have access to combinations in either school or work because of their disability, what are some of the like, specific things that they need to know? To make sure that these accommodations are taken care of? Or if they are facing discrimination? What can they do specifically?

Ashley Jacobson:

Yeah, and so when it comes to, like school and work, some strategies are similar, and some are different. So it's important to know that in school, as you get higher in the education system, there's this idea that has been kind of established. And that, you know, sometimes I challenge that as you get older, and as you seek, like a higher level of education, you're supposed to be provided less support. And so like, for example, I see a lot of people that receive special education services, whether it be like extra time on tests, or add or, you know, chronic illness needing to have time off from school, or to do school from home, and are from the hospital. And then when they go to college, and their disability resource office and undergrad is like mostly willing, in many places to provide accommodations, but maybe not quite as thorough as your, you know, high school Special Education Programs is. And then once you get into grad school, and medical school and law school, it gets harder and harder to one request these accommodations, to get them approved, and often if they're not approved to appeal them. And so it's important to know that like, depending on where you're at, and the education system, they might handle things differently. And it but that being said, whether you're in school or the workplace, if you feel you're entitled to an accommodation. And honestly, if you even want to just try and see what they say, even if you don't know like you're exactly entitled to it, like the worst thing they can say is no, right? And then if they say no, then you can, you know, look more into disability rights in the violation of accommodations, you know, providing that. But I also have like a really thorough, great presentation on my social media, where it talks about disclosing your disability, especially in the workplace. And so when it comes to getting accommodations and dealing with disability at work, you have to be really thoughtful about how you approach that not just when you bring it up, how you bring it up, who you go to about it. And so I really break down like all of those factors. Because, you know, for a lot of people, the worst thing you can do is, you know, just kind of bring it up out of nowhere to a boss like in the middle of a meeting. And then like nothing is handled appropriately, as prepared as possible. And if they are giving you a hard time, keep pushing and educating them on disability rights, because oftentimes they just don't realize that you have them. Yeah, that makes sense.

Kelsey Harris:

Well, so that in that presentation, you do this on your Instagram or

Ashley Jacobson:

Yeah, so it's on my Instagram, which is at Ashley B Jacobson. A-S-H-L-E-Y B. Jacobson, SOS. It's kind of long, but and then it's also if you search Ashley Jacobson on YouTube, it's like in full there as well. And so and it's like on my website, Jacobsen law and advocacy calm, but it's really thorough, and it should answer any questions. But if anybody is like listening to this and has questions about specific accommodations or disability rights, they can feel free to message me or email me and I'll keep it confidential and everything. But I just like want people to have these resources because it can make The difference? Absolutely. I think that's awesome.

Kelsey Harris:

So I just started my practicum for my Master's in counseling. And my practicum site, had me do some online training on my second day, which is obviously super fun. But it was, it was really interesting. Because there was a whole section on using person first language. So for some examples for everyone listening, you would say, instead of saying, you know, some disabled person, you would say, a person with a disability, a sick person, you say, a person with a chronic illness? Right? So can you tell us a bit why this type of language is really important to us?

Ashley Jacobson:

Yeah, so it's interesting, because this, the theory on person first language is evolving. And when I was in grad school, they really hammered into person first language. And they said, it's important because you want to look at the person as an individual, and not only focus on their disability. And there are many reasons for this, obviously, we know that people with all kinds of disabilities face stigma in the workplace, judgment in the community, lack of access, and opportunity, unemployment, you know, is really high. And so the idea behind this was, let's kind of take a step back and say, Listen, I'm just like a person, like you or her him. And I also happen to have a disability. And so I really took person first language, seriously. And I still do, I think it's a great baseline, if you don't know how a person prefers to be identified. And people in the disability community have really advocated for just saying disabled. And that's called identity first language. And there are good reasons for that, too. I personally use both for myself, and because people prefer different things. But the reason that a lot of people in the disability might be shying away from person first language as of late is because they feel like, I don't want to my disability isn't an afterthought, I shouldn't have to hide that as who I am. I'm not ashamed of it. Right. So I totally respect that. I also totally respect person first language, but I think a lot of their kind of anger towards person first language is based in feeling like, you know, we're putting our disability after like, it's not, you know, an equal, okay, part of who I am. And so I understand that, but the intent behind person first language was to say, you know, we're not ashamed of our disabilities, we're not hiding them. It's just one part of who we are. Right. And so, you know, for me, I use both, if people say I preferred, you just call me disabled, or if you see them, like online saying, I'm a disabled person, respects that, like, always respect with a person wants to be identified as, but person first language is also a good baseline, to be respectful, and to acknowledge disability when it's appropriate, but to also like, not highlight disability if it's completely irrelevant to the conversation, right? That's like, kind of a level of stigma too.

Kelsey Harris:

Yeah, for sure. So, so for anybody listening who's maybe, you know, like a friend or family member or something like that, that baby start with person first language and to let somebody correct you

Ashley Jacobson:

is a good word. Like you. I mean, you of course can also ask,

Kelsey Harris:

of course, yeah,

Ashley Jacobson:

I mean, that's always possible. But like, when you're first meeting somebody, you know, I understand it's awkward to be like, so do you like being called a disabled person or not? Um, but like, a good rule of thumb is just to like, if you have access to their social media, usually, like you can tell. Yeah, that's fair. But I mean, person first language has a lot of merits, especially in the media and how the media has portrayed the disability community, I understand why there's this like, lack of trust there that they're going to handle disability appropriately in their articles.

Kelsey Harris:

Yeah, for sure. It's very, very similar to using it with mental illness, as well, because, you know, I, my last course, I was taking psychopathology and, you know, they really emphasize that, you know, it's people with schizophrenia, not schizophrenics, but then when I was talking with one of my friends, she kept saying schizophrenics I was like, Oh, my God.

Ashley Jacobson:

I know well, and like, especially when you're training person first language is like a little cringe when you hear people not use it. And so for me, like in disability advocacy, it's been a journey like, I have never been ashamed of like, having a disability or identifying as having one. But I did like misunderstand, at first, like the other side's approach to like, No idea. Like disabled, and this is why. And so like kind of through connecting with other disability advocates, I've learned to kind of embrace the term disabled for myself respect if they want to use it. But I also like still kind of like person first language when I'm in the workplace. Because unfortunately, in a lot of workplaces, especially in like, LA, people focus on disability with the wrong ideas, right? in the workplace, like I kind of prefer person first language for myself.

Kelsey Harris:

Cool. Yeah, totally makes sense. So I mean, everybody's got to kind of figure it out for themselves. This basically comes down to for sure. Yeah, um, you post a lot of tips on Instagram for making social media more accessible. And actually, I was going through them, and I was like, Oh, I think I want to start using some of these. So can you share a couple of them with us.

Ashley Jacobson:

Sure, sure. So, um, this is another thing that like, my background in training with my Masters really came in handy. And but also, like, connecting with other people in the disability community online was really helpful. I'm still like learning a lot always from them. And but there are like a couple of things that you can do. And at first, it might be like, Oh, this is taking like two extra minutes to add this onto my post, it's so annoying. But when you get used to it, it's quick. And it makes such a difference for reaching different audiences. But also for like, increasing, who views your content and who like actually soaks it in. Because studies have shown, like captions, for example, I have an iPhone, and I use the clips app on my iPhone. And if you select captions before you start recording the video, and it, you know, does the captions while you're talking, and then you can go in and edit them. And like, I usually have to fix a few things, right. And then, you know, the captions are there. And it's not only great for people who have hearing loss, or who are deaf or anything like that. But studies have shown that most people consume social media without the sound on and so like, think of the person, you know, on their phone, at work on the toilet. Together does, they want to be kind of secretive about it, you know, or like, you know, unfortunately, like teenagers in school or whatever. But you know, most people prefer to have captions. And so you're going to reach a wider audience, but it's also going to be accessible to literally like, hundreds of 1000s of people with disabilities that otherwise would have not been able to consume your content at all. And so captions are really great. Again, I use the clips app, but there are many different apps for that. And also, like if you're doing, you know, like images, like on Instagram, for example, maybe not as frequently on Facebook, but for like Instagram, or anywhere where you're sharing images, and putting an image description. So what I like to do, and this is kind of evolved a little bit because now you can add an image description actually like in the image. And so for image descriptions, this is what I do, I post the image. In the caption. At the bottom, I'll put an image description. So like, for example, a picture of my dog or cat, oh, say you know, a dog and cat huddling on a couch, right? And that's the image description, I put it in brackets at the end of my post, and then I copy that, and then it on Instagram, and I have videos actually on my page showing you how to do this. But you at the very bottom, under the advanced settings, when you do a post on Instagram, if you click that, it'll show alt text, and then you just copy and paste the image description there. That way if they use screen readers, like if they have low vision, or they're blind, or you know, for a variety of reasons, people use screen readers, they can have the alt text version, or they can just see the image description in your post. And again, probably sounds like this would take a lot of extra time from my long discussion of it. But it really is pretty quick. And so captions image descriptions, I always try to if possible, add as many like options as I can for consuming it. So if I'm posting a video, even if it wouldn't normally have sound, I might record audio over it to explain what's happening. for that presentation for disclosing your disability at work. I actually like speak out the slides as well showing the words like the text on the page, and including captions and a transcript. So like really you just want to think of you know, people who have their vision affected people who have their hearing affected people who have like different disabilities or neuro divergence that, you know, makes sensory really overwhelming How can I adjust the colors or the You know, video and everything, the graphics to make it more sensory appealing. And so again, I have a lot of like tips on that on my page, but captions and image descriptions are a good way to go.

Kelsey Harris:

Yeah, awesome. Yeah, there's the captions, the image descriptions were the ones that I was like, ooh, I think both of those aren't too hard to do. So

Ashley Jacobson:

yeah, well, and another great one, actually, I had somebody mentioned this, to me, is if you have a lot of images that have like a white background with like black text, for people with different like vision disabilities, that contrast can be startling and like a little bit difficult to read. So even sometimes, just changing the filter on even text, images that you post can make a huge difference to make the white a little less Stark, right and a little bit easier to process. And so there are tons of pages online that like give little tips on this. Obviously, like my page, like Tiffany Yu, who you know, is great. She's like, iamTiffanyYu on Instagram, she provides a lot of tips, project hearing to run by Mariela, she does a lot of tips regarding like, hearing loss and deafness and content. So just really, like if you search the hashtags for accessibility online,you'll find a bunch of stuff.

Kelsey Harris:

Awesome. That's so great. I know you kind of ran through your social media before, but can you just give it to us again? So your social media accounts and where people can reach out if they have questions?

Ashley Jacobson:

Yeah, definitely. Um, so my Instagram, I have my personal one, which you know, I have the most content on. It's at Ashley B. Jacobson, A-S-H-L-E-Y-B-J-A-C-O-B-S-O-N. And I also have an Instagram for like my law firm, which is JLAfirm. And then I can be reached via email, [email protected] Also, if you go to like my website, jacobsonlawandadvocacy.com. There's like a contact box. That's easier than maybe typing in that long email address. But yeah, I mean, anytime anybody, even if they want to, like message me on Instagram with a question, if I can't help, I'll find somebody who can. Um, you know, I can do legal services in the state of Michigan, but I can do consulting services really nationwide, or even internationally. Nice. So, um, you know, I'll do whatever I can to help.

Kelsey Harris:

That's amazing. Ashley, thank you, again, so much for coming on today. This has been like super informative, and I really appreciate it. So I know the listeners do as well. Well, thank

Ashley Jacobson:

you. Thank you for having me, Kelsey. I really appreciate all that you're doing for the chronic illness community. And you know, with your career, I wish you the best of luck. That's amazing. And, um you know, thanks for having e on. I'd love to do this ag in sometime.

Kelsey Harris:

Yeah, I definitely think we could probably make that happen in the future again. All right, and everyone listening this week. Remember, keep making the most of it. Thank you so much for joining me today on the chronically living podcast. If you love this week's podcast, please subscribe, rate and leave a review. Until next week, stay strong.