NYC, New York, USA
Nina Naval is an actor, writer, director, producer, stress-baler and a dog mom, She grew up in the Philippines but moved to New York City in 2019 to pursue a degree at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. During the studies Nina's disability started to be more visible, leading to the diagnosis of Postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) and Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS). Nina recently graduated with two additional minors in Disability Studies and Anthropology while doing her best to fight ableism along the way.
Nina shares that her relationship to her own disability is rather indifferent. "It’s certainly a part of my identity, but it isn’t the most interesting part about me. I do, however, have very strong feelings about inaccessible spaces (in every sense of the phrase), and ableist mindsets. Those affect me way more than my medical history. Many times, I’ll find myself in discussions with authoritative figures to make spaces more readily available to everyone, disabled or otherwise."
"People should remember that my disability really is the least interesting thing about me, so they shouldn’t use it to define my entire personality. I do talk about it a lot, mainly to argue against ableism, but I’m full of other non-disability related stories. They should also remember that my disability doesn’t mean life is less worth living and that it isn’t something one can overcome, just live with.
In my time at university, I experienced many micro- and macro- aggressions against people with disabilities, either directly or indirectly. In my final year, in particular, I decided I simply didn’t want to stand for it anymore. I didn’t want to excuse it. I didn’t want to be patient and keep the peace." The problem was that, the announcement of the project happened before it got consent from the disabled people who the professor wanted class to write about "After that, I spoke up. First to my classmates and my professor, and when my concerns were dismissed as not a big deal, I brought it up to the offices of Equal Opportunity and Student Advocacy.
One of the hardest things about that, though, was not the hurt that I felt about the ableist actions, but the absence of my majority able-bodied class’s support, especially since, when I had spoken about the issue prior, they had seemed to agree on the problematic nature of the class. Many simply stared and remained silent. It was an incredibly isolating experience. My experience, though, was one of many. My disabled friend would later echo that isolation when she experienced macro- and micro- aggressions in their class and spoke up about it. Nobody but the disabled community seemed to care. So, I took my belief of visibility is awareness and decided to highlight these issues more on my social media platforms in the hopes that the people who follow me would know how to better fight against ableism and support the disabled community."
Do what you do best, no matter what people say.
Nina talks about her appreciation when it comes to the healthcare access in New York City, USA. "I have met many open-minded medical professionals in the city more than anywhere else. Something I’d like to change is the way we approach inaccessible spaces. It’s 2022. There is no excuse for spaces to be inaccessible anymore. Housing should be accessible. Public spaces should be accessible. Public transport should be accessible. No more excuses."
I've asked Nina what are her thoughts on reducing the amount of discrimination and ableism around us. She answers that "we could start by being seen. "It’s a tricky and uncomfortable feeling, but the more the world sees us, the more normalized we will be. The more normalized we are, the more we are accepted and considered in decision-making. We vocalize our needs as much as we can (while taking care of ourselves), so that the world knows exactly what they are. The more noise we make, the more people will join us and make noise themselves. Eventually, we’ll be able to rest, and inclusivity will be more like a reflex and less of a chore."
How to raise awareness of disabilities then? Nina believes that you should "do what you do best, no matter what people say. I’m a disabled actor and oftentimes people don’t really think that’s feasible based solely on the fact I’m disabled. I do it anyways. People see that and they see me and they see disability. Hopefully, with the rise of my career, I’ll be able to spread even more awareness simply by showing just how possible it is for a disabled person to be successful in any field. That’s the optimistic goal, anyways. Of course, I’m not saying that all disabled people should become actors, but instead, do their best to succeed in the field of their choice (whatever that field is, whatever their definition of success is). Again, I’m a firm believer in the idea that visibility in of itself spreads awareness, so whatever we can do to be visible (to the point where we are as boring as anybody else) would be a great place to start."
Nina shares her experience, daily life and talks about raining disability awareness on her instagram so it's worth visit and giving her follow to be up to date with her valuable posts. You can do so by clicking an instagram icon on this page.