Meet these advocates who are changing the face of disability representation

It’s no shock that people with disabilities face unfounded stigmas about what they can and cannot do.

Emmett Kyoshi Wilson, Jeremiah Josey, Chelsea Werner, Sydney Mesher and Mike Schultz are challenging those stereotypes just by following their passions. 

Here’s how each of them is fighting for better representation of the disabled community. 

Emmet Kyoshi Wilson

Emmett Kyoshi Wilson is a 15-year-old artist and Down syndrome advocate. He got started painting at four years old with encouragement from his parents because he had difficulty writing.

That soon unleashed an imaginative world of bold, abstract paintings, many of which have been hosted in galleries. Wilson even sells his art to raise money for charitable organizations.

“When watching Emmett paint, we feel proud because it’s just fluid poetry and expression,” his father Paul Wilson said.

Jeremiah Josey

Nothing short of a renaissance man, Jeremiah Josey is a pastry chef, author and autism advocate. He learned he had autism as a preteen and has been educating others about the condition ever since via his baking.

“I discovered that baking was more than a hobby when I baked in the kitchen with my grandma and I found out how skillful my abilities were as a pastry chef,” Josey told In The Know.

Baking gave Josey a lot of confidence and courage, which led to some major milestones including modeling, working with top chefs (like Kwame Onwuachi of Top Chef and Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi) and authoring a children’s book.

“I have to help to create a community of young changemakers in my town by raising awareness to the autism community,” he said. “I’m trying to inspire a lot of people in the world and give more encouragement and confidence to those who feel like they can’t make it.”

Sydney Mesher

Sydney Mesher is a professional dancer, model and Radio City Rockette. Mesher was born without her left hand due to the rare congenital condition symbrachydactyly.

“I feel proud to be here and I feel proud to be in my body. It’s been a journey to see how that body is perceived in this industry,” Mesher told In The Know.

“I think that we just need representation in all sorts of ways, not only with limb differences but with diversity and a different range of disabilities,” she added. “Everyone should be able to have a role model that they connect with.”

Mike Schultz 

Micke Schultz is the founder of BioDapt Inc., which manufactures high-performance prosthetics. After a snowmobile accident, Schultz had his leg amputated. The life-changing incident led to him create the Moto Knee, an adjustable prosthetic knee system that helped him continue pursuing his dreams of being an athlete.

“Having something work for myself so I can achieve my goals was one thing, but being able to create something to help other people get back into action for doing something that they thought they could do. That’s pretty special,” Schultz told In The Know.

Schultz has since won several gold medals at the X Games and Paralympics.

Chelsea Werner

Chelsea Werner is a four-time Olympic champion gymnast and model who has Down syndrome. After making her name for herself in sports, it wasn’t long before brands were reaching out to her to model their lines.

“She is unique, something that this industry has not seen before,” her mom Lisa Werner told In The Know. “She’s challenging the norm and I’m very proud that she’s part of this.”

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If you liked this story, check out this article on Shelby Lynch, a Gen Z model with spinal muscular atrophy.

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