Zarifa Roberson, 30, is outspoken, resourceful and independent. She also has been physically handicapped by the disease arthrogryposis multiplex congentia, which affects the body’s joints and their movement.
However, in 2004 she launched and founded Individuals with Disabilities Express About Life, a magazine that caters to urban youth and young adults who suffer with different handicaps and disabilities. The magazine recently re-launched in January 2010, after taking a four-year hiatus while Roberson completed her graduate degree in rehabilitation counseling.
In 2010, i.d.e.a.l. partnered with the Baltimore League for Disabilities after Roberson’s professor at Coppin State University, Janet Spry, suggested she use them as a resource venue. Roberson brought her older magazine issues to The Baltimore League for Disabilities and the organization was impressed with her coverage of people with disabilities like Amanda “from America’s Next Top Model” and DJ Supalee. The league signed on to print 1,000 free copies of her magazine until she established a strong following and advertising base.
Since i.d.e.a.l.’s re-launch in 2010, two new sections have been added to the magazine, “Voicing Your Opinion” and “Krip Hop.” “Voicing You Opinion” is an editorial section spearheaded by writer Morgan Amos designed to give people with disabilities advice about the programs and opportunities available to them.
Roberson said her goal is to “provide people with the right resources… A lot of people don’t know about DORS or RSA which can help you find jobs or help fund college tuition.”
Krip Hop is an initiative started by Leroy Moore, a staff writer at i.d.e.a.l. Though Krip Hop has more of a following on the West Coast, Moore’s goal is to highlight hip-hop artists and entertainers with disabilities. This section gives exposure to entertainers with disabilities who are not readily accepted in the music and entertainment industries.
Roberson, who says she will be the next Oprah, has a clear vision for the project.
“I want i.d.e.a.l. to be a mix between ESSENCE and Cosmopolitan magazine.”
To help with this venture, i.d.e.a.l. has added a model profile section to the magazine that highlights models with disabilities and gives them added exposure in the fashion business. Additionally, Roberson, who is openly bisexual, said a dating column will be featured in the summer edition.
“There is a stigma that people with disabilities aren’t self-sufficient and want someone to take care of them, this is untrue.”
The next issue of i.d.e.a.l. will be available on July 16. For more information, visit itsanidealworld.com.