Kevin Penny BComm’00
Kevin Penny BComm’00
“I hope to change peoples’ attitudes towards those with disabilities because that is one of the biggest barriers. Our goal is to change peoples’ attitudes one video or post at a time. If it changes someone’s outlook, then we’ve accomplished what we set out to do.”
What inspired you to start the Accessible Adventurers Youtube vlog and Instagram channel?
It started with Instagram. My partner, Dee, and myself love to travel and when we do, we like to document it. We would snap a photo and share it on Instagram and followers and likes started to slowly grow. In June 2019, we decided to start a YouTube vlog, which was inspired by other channels of interabled couples. We thought that maybe people would be interested in following us in real time. We do a weekly video from start to finish. From the idea to recording the video to editing and uploading it. Dee does all the editing and she’s self-taught. It takes about 10 hours a week and we have over 70 videos now on a variety of topics. Since the pandemic, travel is not as easy so we showcase local staycations.
What is the next adventure you plan to go on? Where would you like to travel after the pandemic?
We have a spreadsheet of ideas and go back and forth on where we would like to go. Probably our first getaway will be in the winter time, maybe January 2021. Or maybe on an all-inclusive trip to Mexico or Europe or both. Dee is from England so we’d also like to explore Europe by train maybe in May or June.
Do you consider yourself as an advocate for accessibility and inclusion? Are there any other ways you’re involved in advocating for equal access?
As a person with a disability, I’ve always been involved with accessibility. I was involved with accessibility while I studied at Saint Mary’s. Since working full-time, I’ve stepped away from that a bit. I’m also a sailor and heavily involved in the disabled sailing community. Through that and other recreation, I try to promote equal access. Through our social media channels Nova Scotia Parks, National Parks, and Peggy’s Cove has contacted us and consulting us on accessibility and our love of exploring.
Why did you choose to study at Saint Mary’s University? What drew you to the commerce program?
I chose it for a very good reason. Back in 1995, Saint Mary’s was the only university that had a dedicated accessibility office. Being from Hantsport, half of my high school graduating class went to Acadia, but I wanted to venture off and be more independent. I had an interest in business and Saint Mary’s had the best program in business. The accessibility at the university was top notch as was housing, residences and facilitates. It was a very supportive environment.
Could you tell us about your career path after Saint Mary’s and about your current position?
I graduated from Saint Mary’s in 2000 with a management degree in small business management. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. However, after graduating it was hard to get money for new business ventures. Banks weren’t lending money. It took me two years to find employment and I ended up almost working at a call centre. In order to set up technology to work at the call centre, I had to reach out to a government department to help me with my set-up and they mentioned that they had a summer internship available in a program for students with disabilities. I accepted and it was supposed to be a four-month summer internship. Now, 19 years later, I’m still working in that department. I’m the Equipment Grants Coordinator and I oversee grants for students with disabilities. I love that I can use my personal experience with technology, equipment, and disability work to help students. It was serendipity that I ended up in this role. I’ve worked with Saint Mary’s on projects and my sister works at the Fred Smithers Centre of Support for Students with Disabilities.
What would you say to a student who feels like their disability is holding them back from achieving something on their bucket list?
For me, my advantage in regards to travelling and exploring is that I started early on after my injury. I had the support to do it and the drive. I think people are fearful about doing something different and maybe scared that something may happen. There’s a little bit of risk involved, but you have to get outside of your comfort zone. I’ve travelled to over 35 countries. I started early and have been able to explore different cultures and learned a lot about myself and other people in the process. In my situation, here in Canada, I’m very privileged as not everyone has the same opportunities. You can plan, research and make it happen. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy or extravagant. I say go for it, try it. Just do it!
Is there anything else you’d like to add, that we haven’t asked about?
The reason for my success was that I had access to the support I needed, including housing, education, recreation opportunities and more. If all of that wasn’t in place, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve and experienced what I have. Through our social media channels, I hope to change peoples’ attitudes towards those with disabilities because that is one of the biggest barriers. Our goal is to change peoples’ attitudes one video or post at a time. If it changes someone’s outlook, then we’ve accomplished what we set out to do.