What brings you to this site and how can we build a truly inclusive global community together?
Our hope and aim is to create something new bringing together not just people with disability, but all who believe they have something to share & contribute to making a difference in helping others to make a living.
The expressions included in this post come from a spiritual place that brought the original members together, and no person could make these journeys without finding out a little something about themselves and life in general.
While there may be some who would see the post as too long, to me it shares exactly the right tone and message of community and sharing we offer. You are about to read intimate human stories of risk, resilience, and vulnerability which I am honored to put before you.
Linda M: What brings me here? First, I think, is passion. I am exhausted with all the initiatives and talking - and so little action. It's fine to talk about "improvements" and "solutions" - but nobody knows how to do follow through except those who have some insight through personal experience. We have all been here - willing and able to be engaged and consulted - but nobody has asked us.
Secondly, I really believe that we can make a difference now. So often, isolation was imposed - due to personal circumstances. Now we have the tools and the voice to make a difference. We have an opportunity to demonstrate what can be done when our diverse abilities are fully employed.
Lastly, I believe that generally we are an open -minded bunch. As such, it has the potential to gain the trust of its members and to be a positive force for good. There is an element of patience - as each person makes allowances for the difficulties faced by a peer in a slightly different situation.
So what brings me here? The desire to improve the lives of people. The hope of accentuating the positive abilities we possess.. The pride in what each of us has - A LIFE LESS ORDINARY. With each small brick, we are starting to build. Who can stop us? Even if we fail, we will at least have tried.
Rob: The notion of being part of, not a part from, the community is important. Being thought of as have something valuable enough to contribute is important. Sharing our time, talents, and gifts in a cause that has meaning & purpose is important.
Laughing about the ironies of travelling through this life's experience, feeling and knowing you are connected to others and are not alone reduces the isolation and loneliness of our daily existence. We become part of each other's lives in ways that have immeasurable value and importance.
The Global Network for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities is to me, what self-help should be about... we are helping ourselves and being part of helping others to do the same. We are the value-added dynamic in creating a system of doing and acting, not waiting for government, charitable or corporate permission/support. We are the risk takers who understand that it is our responsibilities to make things happen, not wait them to happen.
Alan: In my area of work I have become very aware of the highly fragmented level of information that exists across the world in respect to accessible travel.
In my own small way I have been working against the tide to harmonise access to information that eases the flow of communications between retailers and providers of accessible travel services and after 5 years I can tell you the tide is somewhere akin to a tsunami.
Through this group I finally see some proactivity in a world of relative inactivity (I define this as lots of words, reports and best intentions but relatively few real outcomes on an international or global scale) and offer any information I have that may assist other members and beyond to access the world of accessible travel in its widest sense and be able to seek assistance from fellow professionals in the knowledge that when in need I have colleagues to turn to for support and guidance.
Cat: It is important to realize that many PwD's have had a less than stellar education, educational experiences and are barely existing with limited income. I was fortunate enough to have gained /earned the requisite skills needed for University when I was in my 30's. I had many obstacles in my way!
As adults, PwD's are often put into a position of catching up socially, educationally and financially! Being heard is only one aspect of our "needs". With company's like WAV-E-TRAINING, PwD's are given a hand-up not a hand-out, with real, in-demand training, using assistive technologies....but these are still services that must be brought to PwD's.Without them, we place societies most vulnerable back on the fringes.
Lately, I have met many PwD's that are comfortable NOT moving forward with their lives. It is very tough to convince some PwD’s that they can live a better life! Their complacency may stem from lack of self-esteem and/or the realization that government coffers will be lost if they try to move ahead.
To advance an inclusive society, where we can have full and equal participation requires equal opportunities - FIRST as children and then by providing an equal playing field for adults living with disabilities. It requires acceptance, action and accessibility! The younger the better.
Unfortunately Governments stand in our way - we must wait for them to make a decision to provide sustainable benefits WHILE PwD's train and for the duration while PwD's become accustomed to a life of work and healthy contribution. Denying their benefits while they train holds PwD's back!
Tami: Linda F. is also ideal. She is so full of energy and has such a positive outlook on things and belief in people you can't help but to catch it.
As a PWD I first encountered Linda on Linked-in and we soon after entered into a coaching relationship. I was struggling with coming to terms with my newly acquired disability and was having trouble finding work.
With Linda's help I soon came to believe in my skills that had always been present and how it was necessary to communicate to any potential employers that I had learned to adapt with my disability and was a different person who could offer them the best services they had ever had in their agency.
Unfortunately, I didn't get that job but I can honestly say it was their loss. Linda and I are still in a coaching relationship as well as a friendship and I am not afraid to "get out there" and approach others about work. Coaching with someone with whom you work well is an ideal solution to anyone who is "stuck" in their job hunting or dealing with their disability. It has even helped me to come to terms with all the shortcomings in our country about how PwDs are overlooked or looked down upon. It doesn't resolve it for me but it does give me the courage to stand up for myself (so to speak).
Simon: My aspirations at a personal level can be set in two - at a micro level I want to be successful in my entrepreneurial activities as this keeps the wolf from the door and enables me to offer a better quality of life for my family.
In macro terms this group offers the potential to collaborate in a dynamic way and offer mutual support, encouragement and share expertise with other disabled people looking to start out or progress in their business ventures.
Our journey can free us to achieve the 3e's in Fr3edom:
Enable confidence, skills & learning
Empower opportunity choice and control
Enrich work, family & community lives
Linda M: It has struck me that there are many stories to tell - much experience gained - tricks and coping methods learned.
The Police trained me as a Disability advisor. That was fairly simple. They, in turn, wanted trained in disability. Ah....... How do you teach such things?
For starters, you don't know what they don't know. Is it possible to make the information you give them stick...... So, we also need to enable confidence, skills and learning in our able bodied peers.
Not everyone has a physical problem - but almost everyone knows someone who has. If the "ordinary person" had confidence and skills, to what extent would people with disabilities gain? I once asked a tetraplegic if he would ask someone to help him if he were alone in a public place. "Good gracious, no!" he replied. "They might give the wrong kind of help."
I thought that this expressed it very well. As someone with epilepsy, I am very aware that what I cause is fear. I do not intend to. People simply don't know how to react. It looks terrifying. Yet, until we have confidence and understanding in those unaffected, will we ever be able to embrace the 3e's in Fr3edom?
Simon: What unites us is that by taking action together we are stronger, louder and far more empowered to make change for the better and in doing so we support others that follow our lead.
The road to our fr3edom then is by taking the hand of the friend next to you and guiding, and be guided to the Promised Land - that’s the place nobody ever promised to us! but when we get there we aint budging! No religious message intended I just got a bit lyrical!!
Colin: I'm an Aussie designer and entrepreneur, who has been a quad using a wheelchair for 33 years, since a hang gliding accident. With no insurance, and an active brain, I needed to build myself a job. I also continued my University gaining a Post Grad Dip in Ergonomics (Human Factors Engineering). I'd go mad without something to occupy myself.
PwDs need to be seen doing real, challenging jobs to regain their sense of self-esteem. I'm active in International Disabled Sailing, as I feel that organizations’ for the disabled need people in their executive roles with disabilities, not merely rely on well meaning volunteers. We can only claim equal rights if we take equal responsibilities!
Designing for PwDs is not easy as we are all different, with varying needs and abilities. Knowledge of design and disabilities as well as asking consumers are important factors to achieving an optimal solution. I've worked full time for employers much of my life but have always had my own business.
After I was made redundant (on purpose) I have been busy commercialising my designs and selling some goods online etc. I'm kind of retired, but too busy working to feel retired! Still got lots to do. When I stop being busy, I'll be dead!
Trish: My passion in life is to empower and advocate for PwD through coaching, mentoring, consulting and facilitating. I am a woman with a disability but I am NOT a disabled woman! Hear me roar! <grin>
My journey has taken me from being discriminated against and harassed as a result of my disability (by an employer), through the Human Rights Complaint process to full personal empowerment as a direct result of standing up for myself and being vindicated. That feeling of validation is glorious and is the polar opposite to the feeling of being judged and marginalized as a result of life with a disability.
Because I've been at both ends of the spectrum I know that anything is possible as long as you believe in yourself. I'm here because I want to be part of building something that will help others to see that a better life is possible, even probable with the right attitude and supports.
Self-employment has been my salvation in terms of enabling me to harness my abilities while accommodating my disabilities, even leveraging them to position me as an expert in my field. I look forward to any opportunity I may have to contribute to the success of this organization!
Jennifer: I know what it is like out there for people with disabilities. I know I can use my personal experience and make a difference for them. There is always hope. Never give up
Please take the time to visit www.entrepreneurswithdisabilities.org and join us, ask questions, make comments on why you are here, and share the hope with others.