By Dana Corddry
If you haven’t heard of Eva and Amaira Deotale before, it was only a matter of time. These two mini powerhouses are making rapid strides to raise awareness and empathy toward the disabled community, through upleveling the quality of public education regarding even simple obstacles that disabled persons encounter daily, and how we can each do our part to cultivate a more inclusive and equitable world to inhabit. These two inclusion advocates are taking the U.K. by storm as they take their message on the road, having first published a children’s book entitled Short Stories By The Children, For The Children!, and swiftly thereafter launching a social movement for disability inclusion, via their website beingpurple.co.uk and social media page @IamBeingPurple. In a nod to the tech space, Eva and Amaira’s website has introduced the world’s first disability inclusion bot, called AccessGPT. AccessGPT operates as an answering engine, providing responses to searches for information about disability inclusion and/or accessibility. On the heels of growing media attention, a formal nod from the late Queen Elizabeth herself, as well as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and the momentum of the positive public response that Eva and Amaira have received, these U.K. based sisters are determinedly stepping forward into building the inclusive world that they choose to manifest, one educated mind at a time. If it hasn’t been mentioned that Eva and Amaira are each 9 years old, it’s due to the fact that these two young women demonstrate daily that each of us is capable of making positive change, no matter our age, skill set or circumstances. As Amaira puts it, “Everyone is a super hero. And Super Heroes have weaknesses too. And they have their unique strengths. Each of us has a strength, and we can use it to help”.
Eva and Amaira began holding public speaking events in and around their local U.K. community to educate their friends and attendees about how public buildings such as schools and offices can be built to better accommodate individuals who require structural adjustments, such as larger elevators, wheelchair friendly ramps and restrooms, or safe proximal parking. They teach their attendees to contact public officials and alert authorities when they discover a non-compliant building. Eva is quick, however, to point out that building a world of disability inclusion does not stop short at just making buildings “wheelchair friendly,” keenly observing that many people generalize “disability” as “wheelchair use,” though the term encompasses a myriad of differences meriting varied accommodations to equalize the living experience for individuals living with these differences. Recent speaking events Eva and Amaira have engaged in have included an annual Microsoft event, various popular podcasts, national television interviews for ITV and BBC and the World Book Day Readathon, as well as school assemblies and their own local scout sessions. During these speaking opportunities, the two share their strong messaging about learning to avoid unconscious bias, speaking up for physical accessibility improvements, and educating the public about which areas need improvement for disabled persons.
“If a building isn’t accessible to everyone, it’s not the person that’s disabled, it’s the building. The person can’t change”.
While some of us learn of disabilities much later in life, and in some cases have years to develop an ableist mindset, Eva and Amaira began their education in inclusion early in life. The daughters of a father who lives with GNE Myopathy (GNEM), and whom the girls say has experienced struggles with disability-based unconscious bias in his life, Eva and Amaira are inherently mindful of the supports that a caring family can provide to best facilitate an equal experience for all of the family members in their household. When asked how they help their dad with his daily activities, Amaira lists a slew of tasks that they happily assist with at home, from meal prep to household chores, and helping Dad in and out of the car. Indeed, the girls have been beautifully brought up by their Milton Keynes, U.K. based parents, who have engendered genuine confidence and awareness in their highly intelligent daughters, who are well-positioned to become powerfully effective advocates for change on a global scale. “We want to create change around the world, not just in the U.K.” says Eva with certainty, as she outlines their long-term plan to catalyze change first in their home country of England, before setting their sights on target regions such as the European continent, then their country of origin, India, and Asia.
How Are Two 9-Year-Old Girls Creating Real Change for the Disabled Community?
Eva and Amaira have consistently spearheaded and participated in a number of philanthropic events to raise significant funds to benefit U.K. and U.S. based charitable organizations serving disabled patient communities. In 2022, the two were awarded with the 1,500 pound grant from the Microsoft Corporation, which provided NDF with critical funds toward furthering research and development of a pre-IND stage treatment for GNE Myopathy patients. The girls led a scooter challenge after publishing their first children’s book, both successful fundraising efforts that benefited a U.K. organization that serves the Muscular Dystrophy community to the tune of 4,500 pounds. They handmade 100+ bracelets during a separate fundraiser, gifting them to benefit the Trussell Trust food bank, which assists those in need with costs of daily living. The two girls are highly driven by a consistent desire to benefit their local and global communities, and they use their beyond-their-age insights into the differences experienced by disabled persons, to best advantage the patient communities with the most immediate need for external changes, to be able to operate as fully empowered: employees, students, and members of their communities.
When asked how their school-aged friends have been responding to their many advocacy initiatives, the sisters are eager to explain that their friends are very open to learning, and that they take the full opportunity to educate them about how they can best cultivate an inclusive environment for loved ones, or anyone else living with a disability. “Some people can experience unconscious bias,” the girls explain. So first and foremost, the two teach people to heed those learned areas of thinking which can be improved, offering gentle reminders not to jump to conclusions about anyone. “Sometimes, if somebody is not able to help you, you can jump to a false conclusion of calling them lazy, but they might just have a disability. And that’s preventing them from doing something,” explains Amaira. Having succeeded in their first publishing endeavor at six years of age with their first book, and a second book published 2 years later, the girls decided to self publish a magazine that teaches school-aged children ways to be more inclusive toward others. All of Eva and Amaira’s published works thus far are centered in educating kids about disability inclusion in a fun and engaging way. They are currently distributing the periodical at their local school, where it has been well received by students and teachers alike.
Eva replies to my curiosity over what the sisters’ takeaways have been from their public speaking engagements with her characteristically detailed insights. “Something which is really surprising is the amount of people who don’t really know about the need for inclusiveness yet. I myself always thought that playing everywhere was automatically inclusive, when actually most places are not inclusive. For example, a simple house is not actually inclusive in every way. There are stairs that people with wheelchairs can’t ascend; sometimes blind people can’t make out where they’re going, etc. We didn’t realize this until we started to learn about this topic, but even in our own house, there are areas where our dad struggles. We see the same issues in every house we’ve gone to, for example, the inclines on the ground at the entries of every door. We just don’t understand why it has to be there, instead of builders using wheelchair-accessible alternatives”. Indeed, the sisters are very keen on educating themselves and others about structural impediments for the disabled community, and I would advise all U.K. construction professionals to start tuning into their well-advised message of “if this is possible, why isn’t it being done?” The girls express shock at how few U.K. elevators can accommodate a standard wheelchair due to their size, something that they share with as many friends as they can, in an effort to spread the message until it reaches decision makers who will enforce changes for the better.
The sheer volume of accomplishments that these two young advocates have achieved in such a short amount of time is inspiring, and portends much promise for the next generation, disabled and abled, to be able to cultivate an inclusive world for everyone. Eva says that when she is older, she plans to be an author, artist, dancer, and “purple activist” with her sister. “We are planning on changing the world” says Eva. “I know that might be a bit difficult. But we’re still going to do it”. We don’t doubt it for a minute.