Lilac frame with black tag in the bottom left with website details. Text in centre of frame reads: Featuring Mixed Media Artist + Illustrator: Parmeet Arora Bori. 3 images from the calendar are placed around the text.
Meet Parmeet Arora Bori: Mixed Media Artist + Illustrator
February 3, 2022
Lilac frame with black tag to the left. Tag has white text which gives website address and hashtag Where Stories Grow. In the white centre, an image to the left shows a photo of the book cover of A Lion's Mane placed standing up next to a lion plush toy on a windowsill.
World Book Day 2022
March 4, 2022
Show all

Challenging the Stigma of Disability: Meet Nav Dhillon of 1iCollective

Lilac frame with black tag in bottom left corner. Gold logo and white text on tag reads SEEDS of KNOWLEDGE. In white centre, image on left shows Nav Dhillon, founder of 1iCollective with each hand to each side of her face. She has black hair parted in the centre and adorned with a tikka. She wears antique gold bangles on her write wrist and a blush chunni is draped over her left shoulder. grey background.


Over the last 11 years, our readers have contributed to Seva Canada‘s commitment to offering sight to the over one million children around the world living with treatable blindness, by investing in the children’s books we produce. It was always an intentional decision to support sustainable action and to shift the singular narrative around Sikh Panjabi identity, and to rather explore conversations around the intersectionality of our multiple identities.

Our young person is profoundly deaf and night blind. He has a rare genetic condition which means he needs to expend a marathon of energy each day to exist in our ableist world. His experiences push me to learn how important it is to listen to disabled voices and to recognize his humanity in the process. The cultural dis-ease has been evident, making conversations with humans behind organizations like 1iCollective even more relevant and necessary. By listening to disabled voices, we can collectively challenge stigmas and create spaces for stories about disability and mental health to exist with power and agency.

Welcome a warrior of change: Nav Dhillon.


Nav Dhillon of 1iCollective is looking forward, gently holding her face in her hands. She is not wearing a prosthetic eye on her left. She is dressed in a Panjabi outfit in soft gold and blush tones with a tikka on her forehead. Her black hair is parted in the centre and she wears antique gold bangles on her right wrist. Background is dark grey.

©Nav Dhillon, 1iCollective. Shared with permission.

Nav is a technology consultant who has worked in the medical and financial spaces. She has an MBA from Rotman school of management and an BA in Political Science from York University. She likes to travel, watch sports and play with her nieces Sienna and Reyna in her free time. 

Nav also happens to be a trauma survivor who lost her left eye in an accident when she was only twenty-years old. She has remarkably reframed her experience with eye loss to help others in her own community and beyond. Last year, she launched 1iCollective with the purpose to raise awareness of artificial eyes and ocular trauma in hopes of reducing the stigma against it. As a Panjabi woman, she wants to play a part in shattering narratives on prosthetics, beauty standards and mental health.

NAVJOT: Sharing your story has meant being vulnerable. Would you like to share how this journey has/not guided your own healing?

NAV: When I made the bold decision to start speaking publicly about my condition, it was intended to create dialogues about prosthetic eyes and visual disabilities, especially in communities where these topics are stigmatized. In addition to that, I believed that by being vulnerable in front of others would encourage them to embrace their own vulnerability and overcome their fears and shame. What I didn’t expect was the impact this work would have on my own healing journey, especially when it comes to how I feel about myself. This is an after effect that has been rewarding and I am grateful for it.

NAVJOT: As a broader Panjabi community, issues related to mental health, disability and physical differences are often shrouded in silence. How do you think the depth of stigma that exists around these experiences is beginning to shift?

NAV: There has been an incredible shift in what we understand about mental health, trauma and disability and I think this heightened awareness is coming partly from a greater movement towards vulnerability in general. Education, social media and the rise of authenticity as a revered value (both socially and professionally) are propelling people to embrace their unique sense of self and their experiences. Whether it is “coming forward” about sexual orientation or a non-visible health condition, we as a society are celebrating differences and you can see that positively impacting the Panjabi community as well. We now also have public and celebrity representation who are using their voices to break barriers by speaking about taboo topics that have affected so many in our community, including topics of sexual abuse, racism and inequality, these conversations are opening the door for others.


Nav Dhillon - founder of 1iCollective is wearing a black jacket with a black low neck rounded black t-shirt underneath. Her long black hair is loose around her and she is looking forward without her prosthetic eye in place on her left. Dark background.

©Nav Dhillon, 1iCollective. Shared with permission.


NAVJOT: In recent years, many corporations have stepped into the urgency of acknowledging issues of diversity, equity and justice in the workplace. What obstacles are experienced by those who wear a prosthetic eye that an ableist population may not recognize?

NAV: Having single eyed vision can certainly put stress on the functioning eye, especially where there is a substantial amount of computer usage and reading required. If someone with two functional eyes can occasionally feel fatigue and eye strains, you can imagine what the experience is for a person with a visual impairment. It’s important to have an open discussion with your leader about your symptoms so you can integrate constructive boundaries at work. Now when you consider folks who are legally blind in both eyes, a different set of challenges can present themself, such as needing accommodation or adaptive technologies to perform a job/task. Accommodations can vary depending on your needs and many companies now have departments (typically an extension of human resources) to provide support to individuals who require accommodations. To add, there are typically also mental health impacts for those with ocular conditions so it is crucial to take advantage of any counseling or therapy that may be available through employment. Before I began openly sharing my story, I felt an incredible amount of anxiety during presentations. What helped me overcome this was engaging with organizational efforts and initiatives that brought employees together for a specific cause – comprised of colleagues who had visible and non-visible disabilities. This community gave me a sense of belonging and encouraged me to become an advocate.

NAVJOT: How did the trauma of the accident impact your nervous system and overall mental health and what helped you find what you needed?

NAV: I wear a prosthetic eye because my left eye was surgically removed due to disease and blindness. How it became this way was though a horrific accident where I was an innocent bystander, who was hit in the face with a beer bottle at the age of 20. As a result, there was a significant amount of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in my body. I didn’t have the tools or family support to get help when I was younger so unfortunately, my emotions were very numb after the accident. It wasn’t until I turned 30 that I became empowered to process what was compartmentalized in my mind and body. Educating myself about the impacts of trauma have been transformative in my healing and ability to manage and slowly reprogram my nervous system. For instance, there is a part of the brain that is responsible for detecting threat and often- in trauma victims- this area of the brain becomes hypersensitive and that can have a catastrophic impact on someone’s quality of life. For those that would like to understand trauma and the connection between mind and body (e.g. the nervous system) there are two authors I would recommend: Gabor Mate and Bessel Van Der Kolk.


Page spread from Kamal's Kes. Dark sage green background with bare trees. On the left, Kamal appears to have grown claws and horns and is sat on some sandy ground, wearing a white sleeveless top and red shorts. Her long black hair winds onto the next spread, in which Kamal appears to trip over her long hair and begin to fall. Text on the left reads: She yanked, clawed and scratched at her body, but the more she pulled, the faster it grew back.

©Kamal’s Kes written and illustrated by Baljinder Kaur. Saffron Press, 2021.


NAVJOT: 1iCollective is creating space to share stories around physical difference. How do you feel an organization such as 1iCollective impacts the typical standards of beauty many have been conditioned to believe?

NAV: Beauty is a lot more subjective than we are conditioned to believe, however the beauty industry will always try to convince us otherwise. There is a rationale behind beauty standards when you understand the economics behind it but unfortunately it is such a powerful force that isn’t going away. The reach that so many brands have through social media now is incredible and you can’t avoid it. Nonetheless, platforms such as my 1iCollective can help challenge perceptions of beauty by exemplifying that not subscribing to beauty standards can be quite liberating. This is a powerful message I want to deliver to young women who have been conditioned to believe that their self-worth is determined by their physical appearance. We advocates may not have the collective power to change everyone’s perception of beauty, but we can certainly generate conversations about associating self-worth and confidence to physical appearances or traditional “beauty”. The Panjabi community is still behind when it comes to inclusion of diversity in our culture, specifically in the arts and media. I’d love to see Indian owned brands become more inclusive in the future so that the stigmas that exist around beauty can be shattered.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Nav. This conversation needs to continue and it will, if we listen.

To learn more about 1iCollective and to amplify Nav’s work, please visit her website.

To cite this post: 

Navjot Kaur. “Challenging the Stigma of Disability: Meet Nav Dhillon of 1iCollective – Saffron Press.” Saffron Press, 2 Mar. 2022,

Image of Navjot Kaur with thank you message for supporting a small, independent press. There is a green frame around the text with a black tag in the bottom left. Text on black tag shows website address and hashtag #WhereStoriesGrow. Small logo in gold. Navjot is wearing a white top and some of her long black hair is placed over her left shoulder.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *