It was more than ten years ago that Erin lost her leg to osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that affects primarily young people and children. She’d been receiving cancer treatment in the United States when doctors discovered that the damage to the bone in her leg was so extensive it would have to be amputated.
“I left the Bahamas as a nondisabled person, and I returned as a person with a disability,” she says during an interview from her office in Nassau. “It shocked me that there was not much infrastructure here. Policy, programs, initiatives, support systems, networks, there was little to none – not even from an awareness standpoint. I asked questions about what I needed, and in that way, I realized what was not being addressed.”
She started small, simply giving her extra supplies and equipment to other people. Realizing the magnitude of the need, she created a foundation to expand her work. One day when she was taking part in a marathon, she found another niche. As she crossed the finish line, she saw two young girls cheering her on. “The look on their faces – so shocked. It connected disability for them differently. They now have another perspective of what people with disabilities can do – what they look like.”
In 2010, she started her company to focus on encouraging people with disabilities to get involved in sports. It has since morphed into an enterprise that helps people with disabilities who are trying to find employment, trains people in disability accommodations within workplaces, and advocates for making health care services more accessible for people with disabilities. “I’m a disabilities advocate but I’m also a cancer survivor,” she says. “When you see me coming, it might be that I’m speaking about cancer; I may be speaking about disability, or I might be speaking about a low-income family that doesn’t have insurance.”
In 2018, she was involved in a universal health campaign undertaken by the WHO and PAHO for World Health Day. Now she’s working with the Ministry of Health, trying to build awareness not only about accessibility but about employment within the health sector so that people with disabilities “have a seat at the table.”
Such employment, she says, is vital to making services work better for people with disabilities. For example, she says, “if you hire an individual who is Deaf or hard of hearing or is wearing a hearing device, they come from a lived experience. They’re able to relate, connect to the patient or client [with a hearing disability]. They’re able to engage in a way that’s more effective.”