Introducing Ardra Shephard
Ardra Shephard is taking the world by storm. Author of the award-winning blog Tripping on Air, Ardra is internationally recognized as an influencer and, more aptly, a game changer. Through her voice and actions, she has become a role model and inspiration for those dealing with multiple sclerosis and disabilities.
Ardra and MS
In this Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, we spotlight Ardra Shephard as our MS Champion. Her journey with MS redefines what it means to have MS and be disabled.
Ardra, a resident of Toronto, Canada, was diagnosed with MS in her early twenties. Since then, like many patients, she has grappled with the cycle of grief that has accompanied the physical and psychological losses imposed by MS. Ardra explains how she deals with resulting losses:
“The only way out of grief is through it. As long as MS continues to take, the cycle of grief will continue. The good news is that we can learn to grieve better. In my experience, validated feelings get managed, and giving myself permission to freak out from time to time lets me acknowledge my losses so that I can count my blessings. Grieving openly allows me to receive love and support from my community and lets me know I’m not alone.” Source.
Living with MS
Her losses came in a variety of flavors.
A born fashionista, Ardra was challenged to maintain her fashion-forward image with MS. Her frustration started with losing her heels. Arda recounts her disappointment when foot drop, common among MS patients, ended her ability to (safely) wear heels. Unfortunately, the loss of this vital fashion stable was later eclipsed by MS’s further progression. As she explains:
“It wasn’t until the effects of MS forced me to add mobility aids (first a cane, then a rollator, and sometimes a wheelchair) to my wardrobe that my look-at-me-outfits began to attract unwelcome glances and even some stares.”
As Ardra recounts, in the eyes of others, a mobility device defined her first and foremost as disabled, no matter her wardrobe. Worst yet, many observers, such as a random taxi driver, believed their prerogative was to intrude and inquire about the cause of her disability. Frequent barbed reminders of the worst thing that had happened to her were painfully outputting. She felt diminished in the face of a pervasive stigma towards disabled individuals. She was seen as her disease, not for who she was.
Disability has an image problem.
Changing the Image of Disability
Ardra decided to do something to change that image problem. She started with herself. As Ardra explains, in 2018, she took control of her narrative by hiring a professional fashion photographer, a stylist, and a makeup artist.
“If I wasn’t finding the empowered disabled images that would help me recognize myself, I would create my own … if a picture really is worth a thousand words, we want these portraits to shout from the rooftops that disabled bodies deserve to be seen and celebrated.” Source.
Her new, beautiful photos inspired a social media movement. Ardra started sharing her photos online with the hashtag #BabesWithAmobilityAid. The response from the MS community was overwhelming. Her aspirational message has since taken off. More than 50,000 examples of disabled-styled inspiration have been submitted with the hashtag.
Fashion Dis is Born
Ardra’s disabilities makeover continued from the 2018 photo session. In Ardra’s words, “the real makeover is the one that gets people rethinking what it means to be disabled.”
Her mission to embolden others with disabilities spawned Fashion Dis: a TV fashion show where high fashion meets adaptive fashion. Working with designers who understand the importance of style and fashion and disabled models, the make-over series Fashion Dis first aired in 2022. Each episode celebrates a head-to-toe overhaul of a frustrated style-seeker, to date curtailed by limited adaptive options. As a result, the series restores the aspirational nature of fashion for all. A transformation from ignored to the “cool kids of disability” is now captured on an engaging TV show. The second season of Fashion Dis starts in May on AMI-tv in Canada. Check it out.
Taking Charge of Your MS
We applaud Ardra’s take-charge efforts to change the world for those with MS and disabilities.
BeCare Link addresses another critical need MS patients face in their ongoing care. We created our company BeCare Link in 2017, driven by a personal passion to help empower patients to monitor their neurologic and cognitive status from home. Our app is the only one that generates validated, quantitative measures that you can share with your healthcare provider to secure better care to treat MS. (Find out more about BeCare MS Link here).
Like Ardra, BeCare Link is focused on making a difference for MS patients. BeCare MS Link’s capabilities for monitoring neurologic function from home is a game changer in improving MS patients’ care.
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