At just four years old, Molly Burke was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa — a degenerative disease that affects the retina of the eye. She was told she would eventually go blind.
Since then, the digital creator and disability advocate has accumulated millions of followers by educating people about blindness and disability. Here’s why we’re big fans of Molly Burke.
1. She Overcame Multiple Obstacles
When Molly Burke was 14 years old, the world went black. “Suddenly, I no longer knew which bottle was the conditioner and which one was the shampoo,” she said in an interview with abilities.ca. “I couldn’t see myself in the mirror to put on my makeup or get dressed. I couldn’t pour a glass of milk.”
On top of this challenging new reality, she was also met with vicious bullying. She told abilities.ca about a traumatic event where her classmates led her out into the woods, smashed her crutches against a tree, took her backpack and left her without any means of finding her way out: “It was devastating. I lost my happiness, my friends and myself when I lost my vision. It was a very dark journey.” Despite these challenges, Burke found her voice and used it to stand up against bullying as a motivational speaker.
In a video for Me to We Speakers Bureau, she said: “I want to be able to take my story and share it with others in the hopes of reaching somebody out there who’s dealing with those things as well, and let them know to stay strong and it does get better.”
2. She Speaks Up About Empowerment, Inclusivity and Equality
On her website, she describes how when people told her that a disabled woman couldn’t be a beauty queen, she not only competed for the title of Miss Teen Canada International but won. With an urge to uplift young women, she gave up her crown to speak on stages around the world about empowerment, inclusivity, and equality.
At one notable event in September 2012, Burke shared her story about blindness and bullying with 20,000 people at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. “Four years ago, no one even wanted to sit near me, and people thought I wasn’t worth anything. Now there were 20,000 people on their feet supporting me. It was a really cool feeling,” she told chatelaine.com.
Throughout her career, she’s spoken alongside notable public figures including Malala, Meghan Markle, Richard Branson, Demi Lovato, Martin Luther King III, and Justin Trudeau.
3. She Uses Social Media as a Force for Good
Trading the stage for a digital screen, Burke created a YouTube channel to connect with a larger audience. Close to two million followers have tuned into Burke’s videos where she discusses her eye appointments, answers questions on blindness and educates others on her seeing eye dog.
4. Molly Burke is Busting Myths and Misconceptions about Disability
Ultimately, Molly Burke wants her followers to learn something about blind people to bust common myths and misconceptions about disability.
“I hope that it’ll decrease how much I deal with it and how much other people deal with it,” Burke told today.com. “I really believe I was born to do this. I was given this life circumstances, and I was given a specific set of skills and talents that I have been able to marry them and do something with it.”
Lead graphic by Malchev/Adobe Stock.