Dr Donna Walton is a Washington, D.C., native, an award-winning speaker, an author, an advocate and a board member of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. She has dedicated a significant amount of her time to fight for diversity causes, especially within the disabled community and with a focus on women of color. Walton earned her bachelor’s degree in 1979 from American University, a master’s degree in 1985 in Adult Education from Syracuse University, and in 2005, a doctoral degree in Counseling from George Washington University.
Walton became an amputee at the age of eighteen due to osteogenic sarcoma, a potentially fatal form of bone cancer, and initially struggled to accept and adjust to the loss of her leg. Acceptance took her some time. Ten years passed before she wore a dress again, when she finally realized that “one leg was not the sum of who [she] was.” She emphasized that while acceptance personally took her ten years, it comes whenever one’s ready; there’s no magic number. Her successes gave her more confidence and led her to the conclusion that her disability was not negative at all. Walton recounts the experiences that led to her acceptance and reinvention in her novel Shattered Dreams, Broken Pieces. She contends that in her history as an activist, her book is her proudest achievement.
Walton is also the founder of the Divas With Disabilities Project. She founded the project in 2012. “[It began] with women with disabilities connecting with the topic and meeting other women like themselves,” said Walton. The project strives to reshape the perception of what a “disability” looks like by promoting women of color through an array of media platforms. Divas With Disabilities works toward this goal by providing opportunities that increase the participation of Black and Brown women with disabilities in mass media industries. The organization creates and hosts programs, events and initiatives that promote civic engagement and financial empowerment to accomplish its goal. One of the most promising initiatives is the creation of a talent pipeline of qualified actors with disabilities from which casting agencies and film directors can hire Black and Brown women with disabilities. Divas who already are present in certain arts use their platforms to amplify and magnify the stories of women of color with disabilities.
Divas With Disabilities started as a small Facebook group but has grown into a nationwide movement with more than 2,000 members and supporters. “It was extremely eye opening,” Walton says of the project’s success. She continued to say that it was fortifying to know that she was not alone on this journey. She was reassured by the fact that there were other women who had the same vision as her to see themselves portrayed in mass media and film, where their disability is just a detail of their character rather than their sole defining trait. Walton cites the lack of role models, and not seeing herself reflected in mass media on a regular basis, as the impetus for the creation of the initial Facebook group.
Fascinating, empowering and creative, Dr Walton’s uplifting narratives of equality, acceptance, self-love, reinvention, resilience and faith inspires audiences to new heights.
Speaking topics include:
What’s A Leg Got To Do With It?: Living With Passion. Power & Purpose
Embracing the Diva in You: Learning to Live Out Loud & Unapologetically
My Body. My Business, No Apology.
Diversity and Inclusion
Disability Sensitivity and Awareness
For more information on Dr Walton’s virtual and in-person keynotes, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org