Blind YouTube Star Molly Burke Is Fighting to Make Social Media More Inclusive: 'Really No Excuse'
Molly Burke is teaming up with Schick, whose razor she used to shave her legs for the very first time at age 25
For most young girls, learning to shave their legs is a rite of passage that typically comes in their early teens. But for social media personality Molly Burke, who is blind, it's one that came just two years ago, at age 25.
"Whenever I do something that I've never been able to do before, or I've never tried before and I do it successfully — or honestly, even if I fail — it's always a good feeling knowing that I pushed myself to do something that's maybe out of my comfort zone or that I doubted myself on," Burke, 27, tells PEOPLE. "I felt accomplished. I was like, 'OK, I did this thing that for years I avoided.'"
Though she'd been waxing her body hair since age 11, it was only with the Schick Intuition Sensitive Care 2-in-1 Razor that Burke, who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at age 4 and lost almost all of her sight at 14, was able to successfully shave her legs.
She credits the product's built-in moisturizing bar, as with traditional razors, she'd have to rely on shaving cream, which was often too thick for her to feel her leg hair through.
"Honestly, the reality is, so many that are designed to be accessible end up being better for everybody. Which is why designing with everybody in mind is so important," she says. "Money that you put into designing something for one group of people ends up often being people's bestseller, or their biggest feature."
The accomplishment has also helped grow a new partnership between Burke and Schick, who are teaming up on the "Content for All" initiative that aims to make the company's social media more inclusive and more easily accessible to those with visual impairments.
For Burke, having to adapt to things in ways that were different than her peers is something she's used to; growing up in Oakville, Canada, she says she often drew unwanted attention in class thanks to her brailler writer, her cane and her special teacher.
"I pretty much had to do everything differently, so I was just kind of used to that," she says. "I was very used to sticking out. I was bullied my whole childhood because I was the different kid in class, and bullies love to go for whoever's the most vulnerable."
Though she's since amassed a large following on social media, including 2 million subscribers on YouTube, Burke says there are still so many ways for companies to make their social media more accessible to people like her.
Just like Schick will do when its new initiative launches on Tuesday, Burke emphasizes the use of alt text for photo descriptions, the consideration of color contrast and font selection, and the addition of captions on social media posts. She also recommends adding CamelCase hashtags, which adds a capital letter at the beginning of each word in a multi-word hashtag so that they'll come through as individual words for screen readers.
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"There are so many easy solutions that for big companies with lots of money and lots of resources, there's really no excuse for them to not be utilizing the tools that exist," she says.
Burke, who is also a public speaker based in Los Angeles, adds that she hears stories "every single day" from people on social media who appreciate her efforts to make social media an easier place to navigate for people with visual impairments.
"It's amazing to see how social media has carved a path for us, and you see platforms making changes," she says, noting that TikTok recently added captions. "These are things you need to make happen, and I really believe it's going to happen, because our community has advocated and gotten so far already, that I think it's just a matter of time before everything falls into place."