Business or pleasure?  The challenge to be taken seriously in an ableist world

21st February 2024

I am a disabled person and having cerebral palsy has a huge impact on the way that I live. However, I am fortunate to have complete control of my life. I live on my own and I have 24 hour support from my PA’s.

I recognise that I am privileged: I live comfortably and have a fulfilling life with many good friends and a loving supportive family. I have been encouraged to appreciate what I have and not be afraid to embrace the opportunities that life has offered me.

These opportunities have led me to achieve a doctorate; the highest academic degree level. I worked very hard to achieve my PhD and I have used the insights gained from it, along with my own lived experience of disability, to set myself up as a public speaker and social entrepreneur and to develop my blog ‘We Are All Disabled’ into a thriving Community Interest Company.

I want to use my privilege in a positive way to explore, challenge and change perceptions of disability and to help create an equitable society where disabled people are accepted as unique individuals no matter what our ‘abilities’.

I consider myself to be a hard worker and a high achiever. Yet despite being successful, I find myself having to prove my talents, capabilities and professional skills. I often feel that people think that what I do is more of a ‘hobby’ than a career and not something to be taken seriously.

I am constantly having to challenge people’s perceptions that ‘you are disabled so you don’t need to work’ or ‘how can you work?’. On some occasions when I tell people what I do, they respond by saying ‘at least it keeps you busy’. This can be quite demoralising and means that in some situations I have to work harder than so-called ‘normal’ people to be taken seriously.

The reality is that I want to work. I am a highly motivated person who is passionate about what I do. I am also an expert in my field.

My work involves dedication and commitment. The Disruptor programme has taken over a year to develop and I take full responsibility for delivering high quality sessions to my clients who have invested both their time and money into the programme.

As a fledging business with no proven track record, the initial organisations we worked with had to place their trust in WAAD to be able to deliver an impactful programme. In addition, they had to trust that I, as a disabled person, have the capability to present myself and the programme to a high professional standard.

This is not to say that I feel people doubt my abilities, it’s more that as a high achiever I have very high expectations of myself and hate the thought of letting anyone down.

Yet one of the fascinating things I’ve discovered from doing this work is that it’s not my disability that makes me feel this way – self-doubt, imposter syndrome and fear of failure are common hang-ups amongst almost everyone I’ve met and spoken to and is part of what makes us human.

I am extremely grateful to Home Group, Square One Law, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust, Parkdean Resorts and Gateshead College for giving us the opportunity to work with them and the hugely positive feedback we received reassured me that we have met, and possibly exceeded, their expectations.

I’m delighted that the Disruptor programme is taking off and is being so well received. We have also written and have started to deliver a generic ED & I session; ‘Attitude is Everything’ and next week we are in London to deliver a new workshop which explores the definition and meaning of disability.

Please do get in touch if you’d like any further information on the above.

Our next step is to develop a ‘train the trainer’ programme which will allow us to expand the programme and deliver more workshops in the North East and nationwide.

If you have direct or indirect lived experience of disability and would like to become an associate of WAAD, please get in touch and join us on the next phase of our exciting journey.

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

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