Stephanie Murray’s mother told her that she was worried she raised Stephanie and her sister, Sterling, to be too nice. Too accommodating. Because in this world, too often the mean and abrasive and greedy people win, but that’s not the future Stephanie or her sister or her mother want — so why should she be raised any other way than she was?
She shouldn’t. She was raised with empathy, and it shows through how she processes the world around her.
Her idea: Create an app that brings alt-text IRL, making the physical world more accessible for all people. This idea didn’t come from she or anyone in her family being blind, it came from her sense of empathy because, as she explained, “I’ve always had a passion just for making life easier for people who may not look like me or may not think like me.”
Good thing her mother raised her the way she did.
— Remi Riordan
Watch Regenerative Futures’ video profile here.
Regenerative Futures: How are you feeling right now?
Stephanie Murray: My mood fluctuates between hopeful and anxious. I’m optimistic that this forceful pause for our society will lead to changes that can make life better for my generation and generations to come. I’m anxious, primarily for selfish reasons, but also because I’m naturally anxious — I have high functioning anxiety. But I’m kind of just concerned about life and what it has in store for me. I see every day as a new opportunity with untapped potential, and sometimes, it makes me feel as if I’m a shaken-up soda can.
RF: What’s a secret your search history can tell us about you?
SM: I have a very dark side, like… I’m super into true crime. I went through a period where I was obsessed with getting to the truth of the Black Dahlia case and George Hodel, so I’m sure my search history put me on some kind of government watch list. And I google a lot of things I should already know. I also have a problem managing money and credit card/student loan debt, and online shopping, but I have immaculate style and taste, so all that debt may not be too bad.
RF: What are you reading/learning about at the moment?
SM: Does Truila count? I’m in the process of finding a new apartment in the middle of a pandemic so navigating that process has been extremely difficult.
RF: Who is your favorite human and why?
SM: I’ll go with a safe choice, so none of my friends and family get upset. My uncle John. He’s deceased, but he was like a second father to me. As a kid, he was this super badass biker uncle. And he had a house in Florida, off a river that pirates used to hide their ships in, so what kid wouldn’t think he was super cool? My family always met him in Savannah, GA, for Christmas, and I ended up [attending] college in Savannah for four years. So even from the grave, he has the most significant sway on my life decisions.
RF: Which key moment inspired you to start your project?
SM: Because of COVID, most of my meals come through a drive-thru. When I was in line at Culver’s with my mom and sister, I had difficulty reading the menu and had to use my phone and the drive-thru menu to order a Concrete, a frozen custard. At that moment, I did feel a slight wave of panic because something that used to be so easy and back-of-mind became so difficult. I immediately thought about how daunting of a task it must be for someone who is hearing or visually impaired.
RF: In two years time, what would your project’s success look like?
SM: Leading the way for other forms of commerce to become fully inclusive. Most people who design the systems that “rule” our world are able-bodied — which is a problem in itself. And the concept of “accessibility for all” only gains awareness when a lawsuit or a Supreme Court ruling surfaces. I would like to see my project create awareness and spark the interest of designers, strategists, and problem solvers and motivate them to develop systems that aid everyone in their day-to-day operations.
RF: If you could focus a large percentage of government funding on one industry or project for the next five to ten years, which would you choose and why?
SM: It sounds frivolous considering the fight most of us are fighting for is a lot larger than this. I’d like to see the government and other entities funding technology and industrial hemp cultivation. Without getting too much into politics, before 1937, marijuana was legal in this country. For various reasons, hemp and marijuana were outlawed and have since been a form of systemic profiling and legal disadvantages for many people, especially Black and brown folk. And hemp is an excellent alternative to conventional cotton, which has a long history of inhumane cultivation and harvesting that has left a lasting impact on our society and environment.
Besides, hemp and marijuana never hurt anyone.
RF: What are the best and the worst things about the education system in your country?
SM: Best: it has room for improvement.
Worst: I could go on for years about it. As a “product” of conservative public education myself, I can safely say Google, the History Channel, and my elders taught me more about the world than any classroom.
RF: Do you have a message for anyone your age living in the year 2060?
SM: It’s not necessarily a message but a question: Did my generation do a decent job of saving the world from the dumpster fire of the year 2020?
RF: What inspires or frightens you most about the future?
SM: The unknown inspires and frightens me. I used to plan everything out and try to have total control of my life and sometimes others’ [lives as well]. When life had different, and arguably better, plans in store, I realized the future is something we can’t plan or predict. We have to go with our gut, do what seems right, and hope for the best. And if that doesn’t work out, trash it and start over. That’s the beauty in tomorrow: It’s a blank canvas, and our paint supply is unlimited.
To learn more about Regenerative List finalist Stephanie Murray, click here.