Ruth Rathblott

@ruthrathblott | contributor
Ruth Rathblott is a TEDx and Inspirational Speaker, and a former award-winning CEO, who is committed to creating inclusion for all. She speaks about her personal and professional journey through the lens of someone with a visible disability and shares what it is like to lead and live life without limits or labels. Ruth was born with a limb difference and currently speaks on issues of inclusion and diversity, the gifts of being unique, the freedom of accepting your differences, and rising above life’s challenges. Ruth works with organizations that want to broaden their conversations on diversity so they can create inclusive work environments, develop more cohesive teams, and leverage out-of-the-box thinking. Ruth touches on invisible disabilities, covering hidden differences, and otherness. Her story speaks to how we cope with feelings of isolation, our need to feel connected to others, the ability to rise above life’s challenges, and the freedom gained from letting go of shame. She demonstrates the power of living authentically and enables the recognition that our differences are our greatest gift.
Community Voices

My recent TEDx

<p>My recent TEDx</p>
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Ruth Rathblott

We Must Include Disabled People in the Fight for Reproductive Rights

On Saturday, I found myself outside of City Hall in NYC with hundreds of others rallying for reproductive rights. We were there to protest Texas’ very polarizing abortion law, which severely limits a woman’s access to own her healthcare. The law makes it nearly impossible to terminate a pregnancy after six weeks, no matter the circumstance, and provides a $10k bounty to those who successfully sue the woman, the doctor, and/or those assisting her; the law went into effect 30 days ago. Other states have similar laws just waiting to be enacted. I joined this Women’s March, my first, because the agenda was ultra-clear: protest the Texas law, prevent similar laws from being enacted in other states, and show support for why freedom of choice matters. For two hours that afternoon, I enthusiastically listened and repeated the chants as countless speakers expressed different viewpoints on reproductive justice and rights: young and old, politicians and nonprofit leaders, LGBTQ+, different races, and genders all represented. I photographed countless posters with language of support for reproductive rights and those pleading for women to be able to control their own bodies. It was powerful. However, as the speeches ended and the large crowd moved to finally march, I felt a waxing sense of disconnection. As a woman, I felt included. As a woman with a disability, I did not. Not once, during the long speeches filled with repeated refrains of “Abortions Rights Are … (fill in the blank for the group),” did I hear shouts on why abortion justice and rights matter to those with disabilities. Those with visible differences (like mine) and invisible mental health and neurocognitive differences were nowhere on the agenda, in the chants, or on posterboards. Instead, those with “otherness and disability” were a very definitive “etc.” during the shout-outs of “Race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.” As I have shared in previous articles and in talks, on my travels through diversity and inclusion, I have often felt left out, missing from the agenda, and not included. I woke up this morning upset and unnerved, questioning: Why wasn’t disability covered? Is it even necessary to recognize those with disabilities specifically in these conversations? The answer to the second question is a resounding yes. Some sobering statistics from NOW, all of which can lead to potentially having to make a reproductive choice: Women with disabilities are three times as likely to be physically abused or assaulted. As many as 40% of women with disabilities experience sexual assault or physical violence. People with intellectual disabilities are victims of sexual assault at rates more than seven times than those without disabilities. And those stats and others are cited by multiple sources. Google them, please. It’s horrifying and eye-opening. Not hearing even one speaker on Saturday mention the connection between disability and reproductive justice was beyond disturbing, is beyond disturbing. We need to include people with disabilities in the conversation on abortion rights and justice in meaningful ways. This is our health too. Also, it’s time to expand diversity to be more inclusive. People with disabilities need to be part of the diversity conversation in more meaningful ways as well. I am planning to contact the organizers to share my disappointment and solutions on disability inclusion, and I vow that I will be on the stage standing with my people with disabilities next year. Abortion Rights Are Disability Rights! Join me in expanding diversity to include those with visible and invisible differences. Postscript: Wherever you land personally and politically with your opinions on reproductive health and justice, my main point here is to please include people with disabilities in the conversation.

Ruth Rathblott

We Must Include Disabled People in the Fight for Reproductive Rights

On Saturday, I found myself outside of City Hall in NYC with hundreds of others rallying for reproductive rights. We were there to protest Texas’ very polarizing abortion law, which severely limits a woman’s access to own her healthcare. The law makes it nearly impossible to terminate a pregnancy after six weeks, no matter the circumstance, and provides a $10k bounty to those who successfully sue the woman, the doctor, and/or those assisting her; the law went into effect 30 days ago. Other states have similar laws just waiting to be enacted. I joined this Women’s March, my first, because the agenda was ultra-clear: protest the Texas law, prevent similar laws from being enacted in other states, and show support for why freedom of choice matters. For two hours that afternoon, I enthusiastically listened and repeated the chants as countless speakers expressed different viewpoints on reproductive justice and rights: young and old, politicians and nonprofit leaders, LGBTQ+, different races, and genders all represented. I photographed countless posters with language of support for reproductive rights and those pleading for women to be able to control their own bodies. It was powerful. However, as the speeches ended and the large crowd moved to finally march, I felt a waxing sense of disconnection. As a woman, I felt included. As a woman with a disability, I did not. Not once, during the long speeches filled with repeated refrains of “Abortions Rights Are … (fill in the blank for the group),” did I hear shouts on why abortion justice and rights matter to those with disabilities. Those with visible differences (like mine) and invisible mental health and neurocognitive differences were nowhere on the agenda, in the chants, or on posterboards. Instead, those with “otherness and disability” were a very definitive “etc.” during the shout-outs of “Race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.” As I have shared in previous articles and in talks, on my travels through diversity and inclusion, I have often felt left out, missing from the agenda, and not included. I woke up this morning upset and unnerved, questioning: Why wasn’t disability covered? Is it even necessary to recognize those with disabilities specifically in these conversations? The answer to the second question is a resounding yes. Some sobering statistics from NOW, all of which can lead to potentially having to make a reproductive choice: Women with disabilities are three times as likely to be physically abused or assaulted. As many as 40% of women with disabilities experience sexual assault or physical violence. People with intellectual disabilities are victims of sexual assault at rates more than seven times than those without disabilities. And those stats and others are cited by multiple sources. Google them, please. It’s horrifying and eye-opening. Not hearing even one speaker on Saturday mention the connection between disability and reproductive justice was beyond disturbing, is beyond disturbing. We need to include people with disabilities in the conversation on abortion rights and justice in meaningful ways. This is our health too. Also, it’s time to expand diversity to be more inclusive. People with disabilities need to be part of the diversity conversation in more meaningful ways as well. I am planning to contact the organizers to share my disappointment and solutions on disability inclusion, and I vow that I will be on the stage standing with my people with disabilities next year. Abortion Rights Are Disability Rights! Join me in expanding diversity to include those with visible and invisible differences. Postscript: Wherever you land personally and politically with your opinions on reproductive health and justice, my main point here is to please include people with disabilities in the conversation.

Ruth Rathblott

Deciding Whether to Disclose Your Disability on Dating Apps

On a recent date, the prospective guy, let’s call him “Adam,” and I met for a quick “looksie,” the one-and-done drink to help you decide if you want to go on an actual date. Adam and I were having a good time; we shared the basics of who we are, what we do, blah blah blah, and swapped stories of bad dates — those dating prospects that looked nothing like their pictures or talked incessantly and never asked a question about us, and so on. We both felt a sense of relief that we appeared “normal.” He even remarked how refreshing it was to connect with a “smart woman” who wasn’t playing the texting back and forth game. We split the second glass of wine. Then, Adam threw out one more bad date story, announcing out loud (and it seemed really loud) that she was “crippled.” What? That took my breath away and not in a good way. I immediately thought, do we even use that “c” word in 2021? Who says that? The curiosity was killing me. “What do you mean?” I asked pointedly. He said, “Yeah, I showed up, and she couldn’t walk. She lied in her profile.” I got more curious, “Well, if she had shared that in her profile, would you have gone out with her?” He answered, “Probably not.” Wanting to keep exploring and help him dig his own grave, I just couldn’t help it; I asked if he enjoyed the date at all. He said, “It was fine, but she lied, and I can’t get past that.” Not wanting to be caught as a “liar” myself, I thought it was an excellent time to make my own big reveal. So, I told him. As someone born with a limb difference, missing my left hand, I have wrestled with the idea of sharing pictures in my dating profile that reveal my hand. Typically, I recognize that dating profiles are very surface level; we only put what we want people to see there. I reserve the right to determine if someone is “hand-worthy” before I share that part of myself. I decide, are they worthy of getting to know about my difference? This time, it called for an exception, “unworthy” but a must know. His mouth dropped open; he was embarrassed. I shared that while I hid my hand for 25 years, I now decide if a guy is worth it. I also shared that I have been learning to create space in case guys had any questions, but I know at this age that I don’t want to be with anyone who didn’t have tolerance for disability, let alone refer to it in a derogatory way. He asked for the check. I went home and regaled my “bad date” story with a few people. Missing the point, one person remarked, “Well, I guess then you are still hiding?” I replied, “No, I choose who gets to know when I am ready.” As a follow-up, I asked, “If you found yourself single and on a dating app, would you share your own mental health challenges?” The answer was a clear and immediate no. That made me wonder. Why do we expect people with visible disabilities to show and tell but not anyone else? I gave “Adam” a chance to say sorry, but my phone never rang. I deleted his profile. I am still glad that I told him. And I hope that I broadened his mind about disability (even if just a little) and that he will never tell that bad date story again.

Ruth Rathblott

Deciding Whether to Disclose Your Disability on Dating Apps

On a recent date, the prospective guy, let’s call him “Adam,” and I met for a quick “looksie,” the one-and-done drink to help you decide if you want to go on an actual date. Adam and I were having a good time; we shared the basics of who we are, what we do, blah blah blah, and swapped stories of bad dates — those dating prospects that looked nothing like their pictures or talked incessantly and never asked a question about us, and so on. We both felt a sense of relief that we appeared “normal.” He even remarked how refreshing it was to connect with a “smart woman” who wasn’t playing the texting back and forth game. We split the second glass of wine. Then, Adam threw out one more bad date story, announcing out loud (and it seemed really loud) that she was “crippled.” What? That took my breath away and not in a good way. I immediately thought, do we even use that “c” word in 2021? Who says that? The curiosity was killing me. “What do you mean?” I asked pointedly. He said, “Yeah, I showed up, and she couldn’t walk. She lied in her profile.” I got more curious, “Well, if she had shared that in her profile, would you have gone out with her?” He answered, “Probably not.” Wanting to keep exploring and help him dig his own grave, I just couldn’t help it; I asked if he enjoyed the date at all. He said, “It was fine, but she lied, and I can’t get past that.” Not wanting to be caught as a “liar” myself, I thought it was an excellent time to make my own big reveal. So, I told him. As someone born with a limb difference, missing my left hand, I have wrestled with the idea of sharing pictures in my dating profile that reveal my hand. Typically, I recognize that dating profiles are very surface level; we only put what we want people to see there. I reserve the right to determine if someone is “hand-worthy” before I share that part of myself. I decide, are they worthy of getting to know about my difference? This time, it called for an exception, “unworthy” but a must know. His mouth dropped open; he was embarrassed. I shared that while I hid my hand for 25 years, I now decide if a guy is worth it. I also shared that I have been learning to create space in case guys had any questions, but I know at this age that I don’t want to be with anyone who didn’t have tolerance for disability, let alone refer to it in a derogatory way. He asked for the check. I went home and regaled my “bad date” story with a few people. Missing the point, one person remarked, “Well, I guess then you are still hiding?” I replied, “No, I choose who gets to know when I am ready.” As a follow-up, I asked, “If you found yourself single and on a dating app, would you share your own mental health challenges?” The answer was a clear and immediate no. That made me wonder. Why do we expect people with visible disabilities to show and tell but not anyone else? I gave “Adam” a chance to say sorry, but my phone never rang. I deleted his profile. I am still glad that I told him. And I hope that I broadened his mind about disability (even if just a little) and that he will never tell that bad date story again.

Ruth Rathblott

Deciding Whether to Disclose Your Disability on Dating Apps

On a recent date, the prospective guy, let’s call him “Adam,” and I met for a quick “looksie,” the one-and-done drink to help you decide if you want to go on an actual date. Adam and I were having a good time; we shared the basics of who we are, what we do, blah blah blah, and swapped stories of bad dates — those dating prospects that looked nothing like their pictures or talked incessantly and never asked a question about us, and so on. We both felt a sense of relief that we appeared “normal.” He even remarked how refreshing it was to connect with a “smart woman” who wasn’t playing the texting back and forth game. We split the second glass of wine. Then, Adam threw out one more bad date story, announcing out loud (and it seemed really loud) that she was “crippled.” What? That took my breath away and not in a good way. I immediately thought, do we even use that “c” word in 2021? Who says that? The curiosity was killing me. “What do you mean?” I asked pointedly. He said, “Yeah, I showed up, and she couldn’t walk. She lied in her profile.” I got more curious, “Well, if she had shared that in her profile, would you have gone out with her?” He answered, “Probably not.” Wanting to keep exploring and help him dig his own grave, I just couldn’t help it; I asked if he enjoyed the date at all. He said, “It was fine, but she lied, and I can’t get past that.” Not wanting to be caught as a “liar” myself, I thought it was an excellent time to make my own big reveal. So, I told him. As someone born with a limb difference, missing my left hand, I have wrestled with the idea of sharing pictures in my dating profile that reveal my hand. Typically, I recognize that dating profiles are very surface level; we only put what we want people to see there. I reserve the right to determine if someone is “hand-worthy” before I share that part of myself. I decide, are they worthy of getting to know about my difference? This time, it called for an exception, “unworthy” but a must know. His mouth dropped open; he was embarrassed. I shared that while I hid my hand for 25 years, I now decide if a guy is worth it. I also shared that I have been learning to create space in case guys had any questions, but I know at this age that I don’t want to be with anyone who didn’t have tolerance for disability, let alone refer to it in a derogatory way. He asked for the check. I went home and regaled my “bad date” story with a few people. Missing the point, one person remarked, “Well, I guess then you are still hiding?” I replied, “No, I choose who gets to know when I am ready.” As a follow-up, I asked, “If you found yourself single and on a dating app, would you share your own mental health challenges?” The answer was a clear and immediate no. That made me wonder. Why do we expect people with visible disabilities to show and tell but not anyone else? I gave “Adam” a chance to say sorry, but my phone never rang. I deleted his profile. I am still glad that I told him. And I hope that I broadened his mind about disability (even if just a little) and that he will never tell that bad date story again.

Ruth Rathblott

Deciding Whether to Disclose Your Disability on Dating Apps

On a recent date, the prospective guy, let’s call him “Adam,” and I met for a quick “looksie,” the one-and-done drink to help you decide if you want to go on an actual date. Adam and I were having a good time; we shared the basics of who we are, what we do, blah blah blah, and swapped stories of bad dates — those dating prospects that looked nothing like their pictures or talked incessantly and never asked a question about us, and so on. We both felt a sense of relief that we appeared “normal.” He even remarked how refreshing it was to connect with a “smart woman” who wasn’t playing the texting back and forth game. We split the second glass of wine. Then, Adam threw out one more bad date story, announcing out loud (and it seemed really loud) that she was “crippled.” What? That took my breath away and not in a good way. I immediately thought, do we even use that “c” word in 2021? Who says that? The curiosity was killing me. “What do you mean?” I asked pointedly. He said, “Yeah, I showed up, and she couldn’t walk. She lied in her profile.” I got more curious, “Well, if she had shared that in her profile, would you have gone out with her?” He answered, “Probably not.” Wanting to keep exploring and help him dig his own grave, I just couldn’t help it; I asked if he enjoyed the date at all. He said, “It was fine, but she lied, and I can’t get past that.” Not wanting to be caught as a “liar” myself, I thought it was an excellent time to make my own big reveal. So, I told him. As someone born with a limb difference, missing my left hand, I have wrestled with the idea of sharing pictures in my dating profile that reveal my hand. Typically, I recognize that dating profiles are very surface level; we only put what we want people to see there. I reserve the right to determine if someone is “hand-worthy” before I share that part of myself. I decide, are they worthy of getting to know about my difference? This time, it called for an exception, “unworthy” but a must know. His mouth dropped open; he was embarrassed. I shared that while I hid my hand for 25 years, I now decide if a guy is worth it. I also shared that I have been learning to create space in case guys had any questions, but I know at this age that I don’t want to be with anyone who didn’t have tolerance for disability, let alone refer to it in a derogatory way. He asked for the check. I went home and regaled my “bad date” story with a few people. Missing the point, one person remarked, “Well, I guess then you are still hiding?” I replied, “No, I choose who gets to know when I am ready.” As a follow-up, I asked, “If you found yourself single and on a dating app, would you share your own mental health challenges?” The answer was a clear and immediate no. That made me wonder. Why do we expect people with visible disabilities to show and tell but not anyone else? I gave “Adam” a chance to say sorry, but my phone never rang. I deleted his profile. I am still glad that I told him. And I hope that I broadened his mind about disability (even if just a little) and that he will never tell that bad date story again.

Ruth Rathblott

Deciding Whether to Disclose Your Disability on Dating Apps

On a recent date, the prospective guy, let’s call him “Adam,” and I met for a quick “looksie,” the one-and-done drink to help you decide if you want to go on an actual date. Adam and I were having a good time; we shared the basics of who we are, what we do, blah blah blah, and swapped stories of bad dates — those dating prospects that looked nothing like their pictures or talked incessantly and never asked a question about us, and so on. We both felt a sense of relief that we appeared “normal.” He even remarked how refreshing it was to connect with a “smart woman” who wasn’t playing the texting back and forth game. We split the second glass of wine. Then, Adam threw out one more bad date story, announcing out loud (and it seemed really loud) that she was “crippled.” What? That took my breath away and not in a good way. I immediately thought, do we even use that “c” word in 2021? Who says that? The curiosity was killing me. “What do you mean?” I asked pointedly. He said, “Yeah, I showed up, and she couldn’t walk. She lied in her profile.” I got more curious, “Well, if she had shared that in her profile, would you have gone out with her?” He answered, “Probably not.” Wanting to keep exploring and help him dig his own grave, I just couldn’t help it; I asked if he enjoyed the date at all. He said, “It was fine, but she lied, and I can’t get past that.” Not wanting to be caught as a “liar” myself, I thought it was an excellent time to make my own big reveal. So, I told him. As someone born with a limb difference, missing my left hand, I have wrestled with the idea of sharing pictures in my dating profile that reveal my hand. Typically, I recognize that dating profiles are very surface level; we only put what we want people to see there. I reserve the right to determine if someone is “hand-worthy” before I share that part of myself. I decide, are they worthy of getting to know about my difference? This time, it called for an exception, “unworthy” but a must know. His mouth dropped open; he was embarrassed. I shared that while I hid my hand for 25 years, I now decide if a guy is worth it. I also shared that I have been learning to create space in case guys had any questions, but I know at this age that I don’t want to be with anyone who didn’t have tolerance for disability, let alone refer to it in a derogatory way. He asked for the check. I went home and regaled my “bad date” story with a few people. Missing the point, one person remarked, “Well, I guess then you are still hiding?” I replied, “No, I choose who gets to know when I am ready.” As a follow-up, I asked, “If you found yourself single and on a dating app, would you share your own mental health challenges?” The answer was a clear and immediate no. That made me wonder. Why do we expect people with visible disabilities to show and tell but not anyone else? I gave “Adam” a chance to say sorry, but my phone never rang. I deleted his profile. I am still glad that I told him. And I hope that I broadened his mind about disability (even if just a little) and that he will never tell that bad date story again.

Ruth Rathblott

We Must Include Disabled People in the Fight for Reproductive Rights

On Saturday, I found myself outside of City Hall in NYC with hundreds of others rallying for reproductive rights. We were there to protest Texas’ very polarizing abortion law, which severely limits a woman’s access to own her healthcare. The law makes it nearly impossible to terminate a pregnancy after six weeks, no matter the circumstance, and provides a $10k bounty to those who successfully sue the woman, the doctor, and/or those assisting her; the law went into effect 30 days ago. Other states have similar laws just waiting to be enacted. I joined this Women’s March, my first, because the agenda was ultra-clear: protest the Texas law, prevent similar laws from being enacted in other states, and show support for why freedom of choice matters. For two hours that afternoon, I enthusiastically listened and repeated the chants as countless speakers expressed different viewpoints on reproductive justice and rights: young and old, politicians and nonprofit leaders, LGBTQ+, different races, and genders all represented. I photographed countless posters with language of support for reproductive rights and those pleading for women to be able to control their own bodies. It was powerful. However, as the speeches ended and the large crowd moved to finally march, I felt a waxing sense of disconnection. As a woman, I felt included. As a woman with a disability, I did not. Not once, during the long speeches filled with repeated refrains of “Abortions Rights Are … (fill in the blank for the group),” did I hear shouts on why abortion justice and rights matter to those with disabilities. Those with visible differences (like mine) and invisible mental health and neurocognitive differences were nowhere on the agenda, in the chants, or on posterboards. Instead, those with “otherness and disability” were a very definitive “etc.” during the shout-outs of “Race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.” As I have shared in previous articles and in talks, on my travels through diversity and inclusion, I have often felt left out, missing from the agenda, and not included. I woke up this morning upset and unnerved, questioning: Why wasn’t disability covered? Is it even necessary to recognize those with disabilities specifically in these conversations? The answer to the second question is a resounding yes. Some sobering statistics from NOW, all of which can lead to potentially having to make a reproductive choice: Women with disabilities are three times as likely to be physically abused or assaulted. As many as 40% of women with disabilities experience sexual assault or physical violence. People with intellectual disabilities are victims of sexual assault at rates more than seven times than those without disabilities. And those stats and others are cited by multiple sources. Google them, please. It’s horrifying and eye-opening. Not hearing even one speaker on Saturday mention the connection between disability and reproductive justice was beyond disturbing, is beyond disturbing. We need to include people with disabilities in the conversation on abortion rights and justice in meaningful ways. This is our health too. Also, it’s time to expand diversity to be more inclusive. People with disabilities need to be part of the diversity conversation in more meaningful ways as well. I am planning to contact the organizers to share my disappointment and solutions on disability inclusion, and I vow that I will be on the stage standing with my people with disabilities next year. Abortion Rights Are Disability Rights! Join me in expanding diversity to include those with visible and invisible differences. Postscript: Wherever you land personally and politically with your opinions on reproductive health and justice, my main point here is to please include people with disabilities in the conversation.

Community Voices

Excite to share and to learn from others

Through sharing my personal journey of overcoming the shame of having a limb difference and hiding it for over 25 years, I have found that many people can relate, as they have had to cover and hide their own differences, whether physical, mental and/or personal background-- the visible and invisible. The gifts I have discovered from accepting my difference have been incredible, and include the freedom to be me, the power to be authentic in relationships, and the ability to connect fully with others-- and bringing my full self/human to work.

#MightyTogether

2 people are talking about this