The European Week for the Employment of People with Disabilities (EWPD), which will take place from November 14-20. This yearly event will be the occasion to raise awareness of the difficulties that people with disabilities face to access the work world, while offering them the opportunity to meet with companies offering jobs.
Mason Ewing, the American-Cameroonian film producer and blind creator of the Madison Color clothing brand, whose disability has « disturbed » many people around him. In an exclusive interview with Toombow Kids magazine, this artist and CEO of the Mason Ewing Corporation describes his views on disability and explains how he he learned to love the labels that people have put on him…. They made him want to prove he could succeed.
Toombow Kids: Hi Mason, how are you? Thank you for being with us today. To begin, have you ever experienced discrimination because of your disability in relation to your career?
Mason: First of all, hello readers and thank you for inviting me here today. Yes, I have experienced a lot of discrimination. I remember the first time I told people I wanted to be an artist and work in the fashion and film industries, people didn’t believe me. People made fun of me, because they thought that people that are visually impaired could not work in the art world. According to them, it is a completely visual field. I don’t agree with that at all. For me, art is about emotions, creativity, knowledge, openness, passion and love. These qualities are essential, and I don’t need to be sighted to be artistic. Also, take the example of blind people like me, we have something that sighted people don’t have: we are more attentive of our surroundings, our eyes are more wide open than theirs and that is a 100% certainty.
Toombow Kids: In your experience, do you find that companies give job seekers with disabilities a chance?
Mason: No, because unfortunately, companies are run by human beings. It makes me laugh because I am one myself. And it’s just that human beings often forget that people with disabilities have incredible and sometimes supernatural abilities. Companies are afraid to take risks, especially in France, whereas in other countries like the United States, they trust people. They give a chance to disabled people, but it should be like that in all countries.
Toombow Kids: To return to the subject of France, did you know that the unemployment rate is twice as high for people with a disability there? What do you think about that?
Mason: I’m not surprised. For France, like many other countries, the problem is a lack of openness. All these employers fear the unknown, of anyone different from them. They don’t consider us as human beings, but as handicapped people with a capital H. However, if they gave a chance to handicapped people today, they would be very surprised! Look at me, according to many people, I am a genius and a prodigy even though I am blind, and my handicap is not a hindrance at all. So, companies need to forget their preconceived ideas and prejudice to understand that people with disabilities are people just like everyone else. And if one day all these countries want their unemployment rates to go down, they must stop judging others because we are all equal.
Toombow Kids: What would you say to people who think that people with disabilities can’t do anything?
Mason: What I would say to them is, you must stop the nonsense! If you think about it, everyone has a disability in one form or another. To this day, I still don’t know what that word means. I just know that I am an ambitious person who has a great passion for the artistic world and especially for a medium that is visual: cinema. It’s already a challenge for me so I don’t need other people to make it any harder. What I can say is that everyone must fight for their dreams and not listen to others. For me, the person with a disability is the one who will not dare to do things and sabotage themselves. That’s how I see the world.
Toombow Kids: Many children around the world who have a disability would like to work in the arts but give up their dreams because they think it would be impossible for them. What would you like to tell them?
Mason: What I would tell them is simple: Dream big ! Also, do not close the doors on yourself. If there are people out there who judge you, just ignore them. I’ve noticed that some people are jealous of me because I’ve managed to thrive in my career, or because they couldn’t manage to succeed themselves. Seeing someone who is blind, but has their eyes wide open in the art world and loves their job as a producer, yes I can understand that it could bother them.
You must not forget that today I have another way of seeing, it is with my touch and my emotions. When you are in my situation, do not hesitate to use your fingers to explore your environment. I love the moments when I find objects and I’m busy decorating the set for one of my projects. I have a blast working on film and television projects, especially when I’m writing a script, or when I get a good feeling in a location and I know that’s where I’ll film. For example, if I still had the sense of sight that I had until I was 14, I know I would never have been able to notice as many details as I do now. Yes, I may have lost my eyesight, but I have gained other abilities, so I’m thankful for my blessings.
The last thing I want to say to kids who want to be in the arts or in other fields : Just go for it and listen to your heart. That’s the most important thing, the heart, and emotions. In life, nothing can be taken for granted, but when you have self-confidence and drive, you can reach great heights.
Toombow Kids hopes that Mason Ewing’s story will give children with disabilities the courage to follow their dreams . We wish everyone a great Disability Week!