Tanya is an award-winning young person that decided to pioneer youth mental health awareness during the pandemic from her bedroom by founding a youth-led peer community Championing Youth Minds, supporting over 800 young people globally. She has struggled with her mental health from a young age after developing long-term disabilities, Fibromyalgia and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, therefore she is passionate about advocating non-visible disabilities. After being undiagnosed for 7 years, and being diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety during this time, Tanya understands and raises awareness about the interconnection between the mind and body.
Navigating mental health support as a young female in the South Asian community has especially been a challenge due to the stigma attached to mental health, she works hard to break down barriers and raise awareness of the cultural sensitivities around such topics. Furthermore, both mental health and disability are less spoken about in the South Asian community and many believe that they are caused by a lack of faith in God and/or the evil eye – Tanya has lived experience of educating her community and dismissing such traditionally held assumptions.
She advocates for mental health education for young people and empowers others to care for their wellbeing and use their voices. As a young person herself, Tanya understands the gap in mainstream education that fails to equip young people with the necessary awareness and skills for them to feel confident and empowered to take care of their mental wellbeing and ask for support. Tanya now works with a range of organisations and charities to aid them in supporting young people across the UK and globally. Tanya is a part of the team that led the largest suicide prevention initiative in the UK called the Baton of Hope UK.
Could you please introduce yourself and share some background about your disability?
I am Tanya Marwaha (she/her) and I am 22 years old. I live with Fibromyalgia (chronic pain), Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (a connective tissue disorder), Depression and Anxiety. I have lived with these since around the age of 12/13 years old.
In what ways does your disability influence your daily life, particularly when it comes to using digital products or services?
My disabilities impact all aspects of my daily life, mainly due to the chronic pain and fatigue that I experience. I try to use technology to automate and support tasks such as typing, transcribing and also use ergonomic equipment to aid the work that I do.
Which digital devices, platforms, applications, or websites do you use regularly, and have they been helpful in addressing accessibility challenges?
I regularly use Grammarly which supports grammar and punctuation when writing. This is really helpful for me as I struggle with brain fog and easily make mistakes; with this I can rectify them without using a lot of cognitive energy. I also use a screen reader and audio to text converter to help with the days my hands are in more pain or I am extremely fatigued, with this I can still type and read in a way that is less tiring.
What specific design features do you find most beneficial in digital interfaces considering your disability?
These are all easy to use and understand, I didn’t find it difficult to get started with these because the design was simplistic and minimalist. I also found that they had minimal text which helped as I knew that information is important rather than having to read through lots of information and figure out what is important.
What advice would you give to product designers, who often struggle to understand the needs of users with disabilities, on enhancing the accessibility of digital products?
I think the best way to understand the needs of users with disabilities is to speak to them, as each person with a disabilities’ experiences and needs are so unique to them.
This article was last updated on December 19, 2023; Originally published on December 11, 2023