World Reimagined

Catarina Rivera Is Advocating for Disability Inclusion in the Workplace. Here’s How.

Catarina Rivera
Credit: Nikki Rumph

Catarina Rivera is a public speaker, DEI consultant, content creator, and Founder of Blindish Latina. She also holds a MSEd, MPH, CPACC. Every day, Catarina works with companies to advance workplace disability awareness, inclusion, and accessibility through training and consulting.

At the age of 17, Catarina was diagnosed with progressive vision loss and a hearing disability. Having to self-advocate at such a young age, Catarina learned the power of sharing her story, having conversations surrounding disability, and turning her personal journey into public advocacy. Now, she works each day toward breaking stigmas surrounding disabilities through powerful storytelling and advocacy.  

We asked Catarina about the story behind founding Blindish Latina, how the power of Instagram has helped spread her story far and wide, and the biggest misconceptions others have around entrepreneurship. 

Q: Tell us the story behind your company’s founding: How and why did you start working on Blindish Latina?

A: While I’ve been disabled my whole life, I haven’t always felt pride in my disability identity. About six years ago, I started using a white cane for blindness and had to adjust to being publicly disabled. This turned into an empowering experience for me as I owned my disability and started self-advocating in all situations, which improved my life. Once I reached this place, I wanted to do more with my voice. In 2020, I started an Instagram account called @BlindishLatina as a place where I could share stories and raise awareness. After seeing how my content was resonating with others, I realized I could turn this into a business. That’s when I began creating a personal brand as a public speaker, DEI consultant, and content creator.

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Q: What problem does Blindish Latina solve? 

A: While many companies and organizations have DEI plans, many of them don’t include disability. Oftentimes, companies and organizations don’t understand that disabled people are the largest minority group. According to 2018 data from the CDC, one in four adults in the United States is disabled. Disabled people are in the workforce, plus we’re customers and clients. My business helps companies begin or continue their disability inclusion journeys to create better workplaces for everyone.

Q: What makes Blindish Latina different from other similar companies?

A: I focus on storytelling and sharing in an authentic and relatable way. As a former classroom educator, I know how to design dynamic, interactive, and effective learning experiences. As a disabled Latina woman, I bring a unique intersectional lens to conversations about disability.

Q: In what ways has your upbringing or past experiences contributed to how you operate as an entrepreneur?

A: Because both of my parents worked in finance-related occupations, I received a financial education from a very young age. I observed how they made financial decisions, what they spent their money on, and received valuable advice. This shaped my approach to entrepreneurship, as I was always very conscious of having a clear financial plan. I’ve left full-time work twice in my life to pursue entrepreneurship. Both times, I had reached a savings goal, created a monthly budget, and had a back-up plan in place. This level of preparation helped me approach entrepreneurship from a secure place of confidence and abundance.

Q: Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

A: I always knew I wanted to make an impact on the world and do meaningful work. This is why I’ve always worked in the public sector, first within education and then public health. My mom is a successful entrepreneur and I think I was inspired by her without consciously realizing it. Ultimately, I realized that I liked creating something new and turning big ideas into reality. I also appreciate that entrepreneurship allows me the freedom to create my ideal lifestyle and prioritize balance.

Q: What’s been the most unexpected part of your entrepreneurial journey?

A: The power of social media, particularly Instagram, surprised me. When I launched my business, I had been posting on @BlindishLatina for more than a year. Many of my first clients were members of my Instagram community who were also leaders in their employers’ disability employee resource groups or worked in HR or DEI roles. I understood LinkedIn was a business platform, but I was not expecting Instagram to be such a big part of my business success story.

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Q: What’s the biggest misconception that others have around entrepreneurship?

A: Some people think that entrepreneurs have to create a novel, world-changing idea or create a company that will get sold for a big payday. There’s a dominant narrative of privileged entrepreneurs who quit college or quit their jobs to go “all in” on a compelling idea. But entrepreneurship looks like side hustles and solopreneurs too. You don’t have to scale your business or sell it. You don’t have to quit your job unless you want to. Entrepreneurship encompasses many diverse people and experiences.

Q: We dare you to brag: What achievements are you most proud of?

A: In 2022, I reached my goal of becoming a TEDx speaker! I delivered a talk called “Creating Inclusive Workplaces for All” and I truly achieved my goal of delivering a powerful message that would resonate with the audience. Becoming a TEDx speaker is something I almost waited longer to try to achieve, but I’m proud of myself for going for it fearlessly and intentionally.

Q: What would you tell your younger self if you were to start your entrepreneurial journey all over again?

A: I’ve started four different ventures in my life, and I learned lessons from each one. I would tell my younger self that you don’t truly have a business until you’re paid for what you offer. Many people start a few different businesses before they’re successful. Keep going!

Q: What’s next for you and Blindish Latina?

A: My next goal is to write a book on disability inclusion in the workplace. I am also expanding my team so we can serve a growing list of clients! My company will also be doing a lot of work to advocate for accessible travel, including content creation, brand partnerships, training, and speaking. I love to travel so I’ll be sharing my own story as a disabled traveler, which helps educate nondisabled people that disabled people travel too. Travel should be more accessible for everyone.

Catarina is a member of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary women through thought leadership opportunities, authentic connection, and access. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to their monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and career resources.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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Gesche Haas

Gesche Haas is the Founder/CEO of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary women through visibility opportunities, resource exchange, and collective support.

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