This woman shared that she's #DisabledAndCute. The internet reacted.

Keah Brown feels cute, and she's not afraid to show it.

But for the 25-year-old from upstate New York, it hasn't always been that way.

“It took me a while to get to that place to feel any sort of positive thing about my physical appearance," says Brown, who has cerebral palsy. "So now that I do, I’m like, hey, I might as well celebrate it.”


On Feb. 12, 2017, Brown shared photos of herself on Twitter using the hashtag #DisabledAndCute.

The idea behind the hashtag was pretty simple.

“What I wanted to do was make something that felt empowering to me and to other disabled people," she explains.

The message caught on.

Others in the disability community started sharing photos of themselves using the hashtag, too.

Before long, #DisabledAndCute became a trending phrase, with lots of people joining the conversation.

"I wanted to do something to celebrate disabled folks and take the time to really take back the narrative that all we are is something to be pitied or used as what I’d call, 'inspiration porn,'” Brown says.

Inspiration porn, she notes, is "only being as valuable as what you can achieve or make able-bodied people feel about themselves."

The hashtag became intersectional, too, with people from all walks of life and various experiences chiming in.

Sometimes, pets made appearances.

But mostly, the hashtag filled up with selfies from folks who were feeling good about being themselves.

“It’s been overwhelmingly positive,” Brown explains of responses to the hashtag — although not everyone's been on board.

Some voices in the disability community were critical of Brown's choice of the word "cute," she says, explaining that able-bodied people often talk down to folks who are living with a physical disability. When able-bodied people say things like, "You're so adorable" to those living with a physical disability, it can be demeaning and infantilizing.

But that point wasn't lost on Brown.

“What I wanted to do was reclaim the word ‘cute,’" she says. "I think it’s OK when we feel cute, and it’s OK to say that.”  

"I generally dislike making human beauty the focus of any discussion," one user wrote. "But why not celebrate?"

“A lot of times — specifically with social media — disabled people are often used as memes or jokes," says Brown.

"And this hashtag was a way to put that on its head and for people to tell their own story and celebrate themselves in a positive way.”

Scrolling through responses, you'll notice #DisabledAndCute wasn't so much about being "brave" — it was about loving who you are...

...and showing off fierce photos, too.

Some people's disabilities were more visible than others.

But that wasn't the point, either.

"We are all hella #DisabledAndCute" was more what the hashtag was going for.

And the internet pulled it off quite nicely.

Brown wants able-bodied people to understand she "doesn't have to be your inspiration porn or your pity party to be good enough."

But she'd appreciate your help in fighting for what's right.

Disabled people "can have happy lives — we can be loved," she notes. "We don’t need you to feel bad for us. It would be nice if you were in our corner when we’re fighting for our rights, but you don’t have to feel bad for us, because we’re living full lives.”  

Check out more photos and join the discussion on #DisabledAndCute.

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Brian Olesen never imagined he would end up homeless.

The former U.S. Air Force medic had led a full and active life, complete with a long career in the medical field, a 20-year marriage, and a love of anything aquatic. But after hip surgery and chronic back pain left him disabled in 2013, he lost his ability to work. Due to changes in eligibility requirements, he couldn't qualify for federal veteran housing programs. His back issues were difficult to prove medically, so he didn't qualify for disability. Though he'd worked his whole life, having no income for five years took its toll. He got evicted from a couple of apartments and found himself living on the streets.

But in 2018, two things completely turned Olesen's life around. He was able to both qualify for disability and to move into an affordable housing community in Miami's Goulds neighborhood called Karis Village.

When people think of affordable housing, they don't usually picture a place like Karis Village. The 88-unit development is brand new, and built with an attention to design that is not always expected for developments that serve as home to people on limited incomes. The apartments have tile floors, marble countertops, and all new appliances and furniture, and the grounds are beautiful and well-kept, with a playground and common areas for residents to gather.

Brian Olesen in his kitchen at Karis VillageCapital One

Karis Village isn't just a housing development; it's a home and a community. Half of the units are set aside for veterans who have experienced homelessness, like Olesen. The other half are largely occupied by single-parent families.

"To me, this building was just a gift," says Olesen. "All of the different parties that got together to put this building together… making half the building available to veterans. We've got no place to go."

Addressing veteran homelessness was one of the goals of Karis Village, which was built through a partnership that included Carrfour Supportive Housing — a mission-driven, not-for-profit affordable housing organization in southern Florida — and Capital One's Community Finance team. More than just an affordable place to live, the community has full-time staff on hand to help coordinate services—from addiction recovery programs to transportation options to job search and placement. Also included are peer counselors who provide emotional and psychological support for residents.

Karis Village, an affordable housing community in Miami, Florida.Capital One

Carrfour President and CEO Stephanie Berman says the core function of the services team on site is to build a supportive community.

"Often when you think of folks leaving homelessness and coming into housing, you think of shelters or some kind of traditional housing," she says. "You don't really think about a community, and that's really what we build and what we operate. What we're really striving to create is community. We find that our families thrive when you create a sense of community."

The intention to create a supportive community at Karis Village was a priority from the get go. Fabian Ramirez, a Capital Officer on Capital One's Community Finance team, says the bank did a listening tour in southern Florida to explore community development and affordable housing options in the area and to hear what was most needed. After deciding to partner with Carrfour, the bank provided not only an $8 million construction loan and a $25 million low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment to help build Karis Village, but it also kicked in a $250,000 social purpose grant to help fund the social support services that would be put in place for residents.

"It's not just all about providing the brick and mortar," says Ramirez. "It's about being able to contribute to the sustainability of the development and of the lives of the people who move into the building."


Capital One

Olesen says he and his fellow residents benefit greatly from the network of support services offered in the building. He says a counselor comes to meet with him once a month, sometimes right in his apartment. He also gets help maintaining a connection with the Veteran Affairs office. Other services include social workers and counselors for drug addiction and alcoholism.

Olesen loves being around other veterans, and he says hearing the sound of children playing keeps the community lively. He says anywhere else he could afford to live on disability wouldn't be nearly as nice and would likely involve shared kitchens and bathrooms and neighborhoods you wouldn't want to go out in at night.

If it weren't for Karis Village, Olesen says he doesn't know where he would be today: "I had nowhere to go and this is a safe, beautiful place to spend my retirement."

"I don't think they could have done a much better job of putting this place together and supplying us with what we need," he says. "I have so much appreciation for the ability to have a place to live. And then you add to that that it's beautiful and completely furnished and you didn't need to bring anything—I don't know what more you could ask for."

Karis Village and another development for veterans built the same year enabled the neighborhood of Goulds to meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare an end to veteran homelessness in the area.

Ending veteran homelessness altogether is a complex task, but communities like Karis Village show how it can be done—and done well. When government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate funding programs come together to solve big problems, big solutions can be built and maintained.

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Capital One