Irish disability-rights activist Sinéad Burke chosen by Meghan Markle to appear on cover of British Vogue
Life & Style

Irish disability-rights activist Sinéad Burke chosen by Meghan Markle to appear on cover of British Vogue

IRISH ACTIVIST Sinéad Burke will appear on the September issue of international fashion and lifestyle magazine British Vogue.

The Dublin woman, a disability rights activist, says she is “proud, incredibly honoured and humbled” to appear alongside fourteen other influential women on the cover of the magazine, which is guest-edited by British Royal Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.

The issue is titled ‘Forces For Change’ and features feminist actress Jameela Jamil, LGBTQ+ advocate Laverne Cox, Extinction Rebellion founder Greta Thunberg, as well as other influential female figures. One space depicts a mirror, encouraging the reader to become an outspoken force for good.

Ms Burke is most-known in Ireland and abroad for her TED Talk “Why Design should include everyone” in which she speaks honestly about the struggles people with disabilities face in a world where all infrastructure was built only with the able-bodied in mind.

In the talk, she says “I often forget that I’m a little person. It’s the physical environment and society that remind me”.

Born with Achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, Ms Burke draws real, important and well-needed attention to how it is the structure of society, rather than her condition, which makes life more difficult.

Things most of society take for granted—such as using a public bathroom—can be an undignified ordeal, she explains.

“Using a public bathroom is an excruciating experience. I walk into the cubicle but I can’t reach the lock on the door. I’m creative and resilient.

“I look around and see if there’s a bin that I can turn upside down.

“Is it safe? Not really. Is it hygienic and sanitary? Definitely not. But the alternative is much worse.

“If that doesn’t work, I use my phone. It gives me an additional four to six-inch reach, and I try to jam the lock closed with my iPhone.

“Now, I imagine that’s not what Jony Ive had in mind when he designed the iPhone, but it works. The alternative is that I approach a stranger. I apologise profusely and I ask them to stand guard outside my cubicle door.

“They do, and I emerge grateful but absolutely mortified, and hope that they didn’t notice that I left the bathroom without washing my hands.

“I carry hand sanitiser with me every single day because the sink, soap dispenser, hand dryer, and mirror are all out of my reach.”

Even when something is designed as ‘accessible’, she asks, who is it accessible for? Disabled bathrooms are designed for wheelchair users, with raised toilets, meaning that it is still too high up for those with her condition to use with ease.

The TED Talk has over one million views and is available to watch here.

We’re lucky in Ireland to have smart, outspoken women who fight to use their platform for good.

Congratulations, Sinéad Burke.