YouTube’s growth as a platform for self expression and raw honesty has made it a destination for young people looking to have real conversations about topics that affect their lives.
For few groups is that kind of opportunity more important than people with disabilities.
When people with intellectual disabilities assert their own narratives outside of YouTube, they are often seen as not having the ability to discuss their own experiences. People with physical disabilities are also often discouraged from talking candidly about their every day lives through uncomfortable glances that warn their disability is not something to discuss.
Vloggers with disabilities are boldly fighting against this stigma — and they are using YouTube to help.
The video platform has become an essential medium for people with various disabilities to share their experiences, talking fearlessly about their everyday lives. Though not an exhaustive list of the talented creators out there, these 11 people with disabilities are using YouTube to share their own stories and advocate for their communities in noteworthy ways.
1. The Clairity Project
Claire Wineland is a 19-year-old YouTuber living with cystic fibrosis, a chronic genetic disorder that causes severe damage to a person’s lungs and other vital organs in the body. As an advocate, Claire uses her channel — called The Clairity Project — to talk candidly about her terminal illness. Her videos are undeniably engaging, using humor and plenty of personality to make heavy subjects like death approachable.
Claire is known off YouTube for her advocacy work through her nonprofit, the Claire’s Place Foundation, which provides emotional and financial support to individuals living with cystic fibrosis and their families. Claire has been a featured speaker at several TED events and was featured in the television series My Last Days, a show depicting the lives of individuals living with terminal illnesses.
2. Zach Anner
Zach Anner is a popular YouTuber known for his humor and frank discussions of disability through his personal channel. Zach lives with cerebral palsy, using a power wheelchair to get around. His experiences with disability serve as an essential cornerstone of his comedy routines.
His series of Workout Wednesday videos intertwine fitness with humorous inspirational talks, a hit with his more than 310,000 subscribers. Zach is also releasing a book called “If At Birth You Don’t Succeed,” a comedy-driven memoir chronicling his life.
3. Annie Elainey
Annie Elainey identifies as a “chronically ill, disabled, queer, woman of color,” and uses a wheelchair to get around comfortably. As a YouTuber, Annie talks candidly about disability, body image, gender, race, LGBTQ identity and mental health on her channel.
Annie dedicates a lot of time to shattering misconceptions around disability on her channel, particularly for those living with invisible disabilities or conditions. The vlogger is also part of the #NoMoreCraptions movement among YouTuber creators, an effort to improve the accuracy of closed captioning for deaf and hard of hearing viewers.
4. Jordan Bone
Many frequenters of YouTube may remember vlogger Jordan Bone from her viral video addressing why her hands appear to be fisted when applying makeup in beauty videos. In the video, Jordan disclosed she is quadriplegic due to a car accident, with partial paralysis in all four limbs.
Jordan creates videos on beauty, fashion, lifestyle and positivity on her channel, using makeup as a way to express herself. She is releasing a memoir in May 2017, titled “My Beautiful Struggle.”
5. Josh Sundquist
Josh Sundquist is a vlogger and comedian who lost one leg as a child to cancer and now uses crutches to get around. The vlogger creates entertaining videos on a wide range of topics, including relationships and sports, which are all informed by his experience with disability.
When not making videos, Josh is a Paralympic ski racer, motivational speaker and bestselling author of several books. His impressive Halloween costumes go viral every year, ranging from a foosball player to an IHOP sign.
6. JD Dalton
JD Dalton is an Indigenous, gay, low-vision YouTube creator with albinism. These complex and intersecting identities are essential to JD’s channel, where he promotes self-love and acceptance through honest conversations about identity.
JD uses his channel as an avenue for social change, embracing the title of activist in relation to his thought-provoking videos. He also often collaborates with YouTube creators of various identities to bring a greater spectrum of experience to his channel. JD is also part of the #NoMoreCraption movement, with all his videos closed captioned.
7. ASL Stew
YouTubers Jill and Jenna Stewardson — a deaf/hearing couple — created ASL Stew to advocate for the importance of Deaf education, awareness and culture. Through their YouTube channel, the women talk about everything from communication to hearing privilege. Many of their videos feature perspectives from both Jill, who can hear, and Jenna, who is deaf.
The pair often discuss what it is like being in a deaf/hearing relationship, the importance of Deaf culture and the complexities of ASL interpreting. Jill and Jenna are both supporters of the #NoMoreCraption movement, with their videos captioned and signed with ASL.
8. Rikki Poynter
Rikki is a 25-year-old deaf vlogger who makes videos on beauty, lifestyle, deafness and Deaf culture. Many of her videos center around providing hearing individuals with practical tools to be better allies to the Deaf community, spreading awareness of Deaf culture in the process.
Rikki started the movement #NoMoreCraptions to call YouTube creators to include accurate closed captioning on their videos for deaf and hard of hearing viewers. She also often critiques the media, calling out problematic depictions of deaf characters in entertainment, while praising positive and helpful representation.
9. Amythest Schaber
Amythest Schaber makes videos about “autism, disability and living life on the spectrum.” They use their channel as a form of advocacy, making videos that further understanding and dispel stigma about living with autism.
Their series, Ask An Autistic, breaks down common questions about autism from someone who lives on the spectrum. In videos on their channel, Amythest explains what neurodiversity is and whether or not autism can be considered a disability. The often complex answers are broken down simply, leading to engaging and educational videos
10. Sitting Pretty Lolo
Lolo uses her channel, Sitting Pretty Lolo, to talk about her life as a person with a physical disability. The YouTuber lives with ALS — or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — which is a progressive disease impacting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Lolo, who uses a wheelchair to get around, covers everything from wheelchair-friendly fashion to dating and sex on her channel.
Lolo’s bubbly personality and infectious confidence make her videos educational, yet incredibly fun. She uses her channel to challenge misconceptions about disability — especially the assumption that people with disabilities can’t have an enjoyable life.
11. The Mandeville Sisters
Amelia and Grace Mandeville are just two normal sisters living in London, making engaging and hilarious videos on YouTube. Grace was born with one hand and often jokes about how she lost her hand, claiming she ate it off in a Halloween-themed video or that her sister Amelia flushed it down the toilet during childhood.
Using humor, the pair cover everything from disability-related discrimination to the perks of living with one hand. The two also make videos that have little to do with disability awareness, like trying American candy.