Girl Tribe Gang’s Disability Champion, Kirsty Meredith, explains the significance of December 3rd for disabled women in business and shares the real life examples of six female business owners who live with a disability.
Today is the United Nations “International Day of Persons with Disabilities”. This awareness day first started on 3rd December in 1992. Each year there is a different theme and this year’s theme is “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”.
Having a disability myself, I thought I’d write a post to raise awareness.
Why is disability important to me?
Having Cerebral Palsy since birth has come with its struggles throughout my life e.g. my slurred speech. At times this has affected my confidence. Also, my right side is weaker than my left and of course the under-active thyroid.
However, putting all this aside, I don’t let my Cerebral Palsy stop me. In October I gave a talk on one of my photography projects at my local co-working space in Maidenhead. The talk lasted around 7 minutes followed by a Q&A. Yes I have slurred speech, but that wasn’t going to stop me!
It has come with its challenges, however, this to me adds to my life experience. I think having Cerebral Palsy has made me more determined to never give up. I love a challenge, and I’ve had many since going freelance as a photographer in September of this year.
Some of the challenges have been embracing the scary world of networking and since finding Girl Tribe Gang, I really feel like I have found the right place for me where I can be myself and feel confident and of course #FiercelyBrave. I am not afraid of trying anything once!
Disability is important to me because I believe that you should embrace your disability and not hide behind it. We should support and inspire others with disabilities. I love this year’s theme as I am all for empowering other people, this is exactly why I was so excited to start this [#DeterminationAndDisability] blog series!
Why disability is important to others?
I decided to find out why disability was important to others, so here’s a few quotes from other members of Girl Tribe Gang and women in my network.
Angeline, Bishop’s Stortford Tribe
“My young son has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Although described as a disability, he has many abilities, strengths and desires.
Having a child with a disability has changed me as a person. I look at life through a different angle now, positively praising progress and appreciating what goals are being achieved, rather than what hasn’t or isn’t.
People with disabilities and hidden disabilities work harder than nero-typical people to achieve their goals and I feel it’s important to remember this. I get my drive and inspiration from seeing my son working extremely hard to achieve his targets. After all, some of the skills he owns; organising, sequencing and prioritising are all essential for my business to work effectively – maybe he’ll be my business mentor one day!”
Lissy, Reading Tribe
“Disability is a major hindrance to me in many ways, but my autism is sometimes a great help in keeping me focused and determined. It is a boost to have the ability to be ultra-focused on a much loved subject, and I adore baking, so it’s meant my job as Crumb’s the Word’s Head Baker is one I do with great passion and motivation.”
Rachael, Birmingham Tribe
“Despite losing so much due to my disability, it’s pushed me to go deep within and realise how powerful we are if we trust and believe in our ability to do wonderful things despite adversity. It’s also given me a chance to learn about the importance of acceptance.”
Sarah, Sevenoakes Tribe
“Disability and chronic illness draw attention to your limitations, but at the same time, open up a new, innovative way of doing things and an appreciation for what you do have. It can also make you more empathetic to what other people might be going through, whether their issues are visible or not.”
Lucy Webster, Digital Journalist, BBC Newsnight
“Disability is important to me because it shapes my interaction with the world and therefore is a vital part of my identity. Some of the most important people in my life I have met through disability – whether my disabled colleagues, friends or carers – and it is these relationships which empower me. Disability has given me determination and empathy, and I hope one day the wider world can recognise the contribution disabled people ought to be making, if only we were treated equally.”
Jodie Vickery, Freelance Events Manager
“My disability doesn’t define me – it’s taught me that the only thing that makes me disabled is what I tell myself. I can do anything I want, I may have to take a different route but I can still achieve great things. I’m proud of having mild cerebral palsy as it taught me to be strong when sometimes I feel like giving up. There’s also so many people out there that have it far worse than myself and they are still beating the odds, I’m so grateful to be part of such an inspiring community.”
Who is my inspiration?
I am loving the determination from Lauren Steadman, who is an British Paralympic athlete and is currently taking part of Strictly Come Dancing. Lauren was born missing her lower right arm. She is my inspiration because of all that she has achieved. I love that she is embracing the Girl Tribe Gang motto of #FiercelyBrave.
Why is it important to talk about disability and business?
I think it’s really important to raise awareness and celebrate inclusiveness and equality. I enjoy raising awareness for Cerebral Palsy and talking about my disability openly, this is because lots of people do not always realise what Cerebral Palsy is.
A few years ago I produced a video with my university SU president (at the time) raising awareness, this can be viewed here.
I have also given talks at my previous employment explaining what Cerebral Palsy is and how it affects me. I feel comfortable to talking openly and honestly about my disability but I do understand why others may not be as confident. For those people I’d like to encourage you to not be afraid to talk about your disability, embrace it!
Happy International Day of Persons with Disabilities! Be #FiercelyBrave and spread awareness!