Girl Tribe Gang’s #Determination&Disability series helps to raise awareness of women with disabilities who work for themselves.
Our Disability Champion Kirsty Meredith recently gave a power hour to our Maidenhead and Windsor tribe on ‘How to make your business accessible”.
Kirsty spoke to our Girl Tribe Gang members and guests about her experience as a female business owner with Cerebral Palsy, what she has learnt from interviewing inspiring female business owners with a disability for the #DeterminationAndDisability blog series and gave her top tips on making your business accessible.
A power hour on making your business disability friendly
When I found out that I would have the opportunity of doing my first power hour for Girl Tribe Gang, I jumped for joy! As we celebrated Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on May 16th, I thought the perfect fit would be to focus on ‘How to make your business more accessible’.
My aim was to speak about my experience as a female business owner with Cerebral Palsy and what I have learnt since my freelancing career began back in September 2018.
Halfway through I delivered an interactive session where I put women into groups and formed a discussion on what is currently accessible in the business and what they could improve on.
Speaking in public with Cerebral Palsy – overcoming nerves
Throughout the day leading up to the big night I did feel pretty nervous. I keep reading over my notes and making sure everything sounded how I intended it to. I even spoke with a friend who gave me advice on the phone on how to stay calm and tips for when I’m speaking.
I made sure I wore the killer red dress and my favourite sparkly heels so that I felt really good about myself too.
When I arrived at the venue, I enjoyed greeting our members and guests and started to feel excited. I made sure I had a glass of water by me and throughout the power hour I had to pause a few times for water and to breathe! I warned people of this at the beginning of the power hour and it helped to calm my nerves too.
The other fear I had was people not understanding me, so I spoke slowly and tried to give as much eye contact as possible. I wanted people to connect and laugh with me.
Giving the topic justice and importance
Having such passion for this topic, I wanted to make sure I delivered it with determination and enthusiasm.
Accessibility is important to me as it can have a real effect on my everyday living. Tiredness has always been a huge issue for me with my Cerebral Palsy so I really wanted to deliver and give the topic the justice it deserved.
I believe there are so many ways of making your life easier when you have a disability and especially in business. Unfortunately, not many people know all the hacks.
Every day is a learning curve for me and talking about past experiences is important so that we can learn and be prepared for next time.
As well as speaking about the key topics I made sure I related each one to past experiences so that the audience could connect with me on a personal level. I was (and still am) determined to spread as much awareness as possible and inspire other women to think about their business and how small changes in accessibility could really make a huge difference.
Reception and aftermath
I was overwhelmed by the support prior and during the power hour.I really felt the connection of a supportive tribe and that I was inspiring my tribe to shift their thinking.
I couldn’t believe the amount of positive conversations that sparked during the interactive activity and that little old me was standing up and inspiring other female business owners. People that know me understand how much of a personal achievement that is.
I had so many tribe members approach me and tell me that they had learnt something from me tonight. Everyone was discussing how they took away different ideas to change their business practice e.g. putting a hole in a cake box to make them easier to open and changing their event location, making their brand more inclusive etc.
One of my highlights was that Lissy came to my power hour and I had inspired her to do that. We have met a few times for coffee since her #Determination & Disability feature on the GTG blog, we have formed a lovely friendship and that’s because of Girl Tribe Gang.
Girl Tribe Gang is about inspiring others, telling your own individual story and connecting with other inspiring women that feel the struggle as much as you.
That’s what makes it so special for me.
I feel like I belong, I’ve found my tribe, I’ve found my supportive network and for that I feel powerful.
5 essential must-dos to make your business more accessible
If you’re running your business at home, consider accessibility and where your treatment room is. Can you accommodate for all needs?
If you’re a product business, consider how you are packaging your products and how easy your products are to open e.g. unscrewing jars or handling cup holders.
If you’re running an events business, you can consider the following:
How accessible is the venue? How easy is it to find and navigate too?
Look at what the acoustics are like in the venue e.g. how the chairs and tables are laid out. One thing I really struggle with is standing for too long.
What are the facilities like? Is there disabled toilets and enough space in the venue for wheelchair users to move around comfortably?
Cloak rooms are also really handy, I also like to get rid of as much baggage as possible if I’m at an event all day.
If you’re a service based business, consider where your meeting your clients e.g. avoiding noisy areas. If I’m meeting someone for the first time I like to meet somewhere quiet as background noise can put me off and make it harder for that person to understand me.
Finally, always remember to have open communication and don’t be afraid to ask questions such as “tell me about your disability”. Let the candidate / client describe their disability in their own time and take note of the type of language they prefer to use when they are describing it. Be honest and open as this will lead to a positive relationship in the future.
Get involved with Girl Tribe Gang’s #Determination & Disability series
I am determined to connect with as many of you lovely women as possible. If you are a female business owner with a disability and want to raise awareness please get in touch. I’d love to hear your story and help you in some way through sharing and connecting with you.