I’m Neither a Politician Nor an Academic – So What Value Can I add to the Disability Conversation?

Cds 2017 04 18 20 49 22As you may recall, the reason I was in Ghana in the first place was to speak at the 5th annual AFRINEAD conference on disability.

Sitting in the conference centre at the KWAMA Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, listening to a Star-studded group of dignitaries address the challenges inherent in developing policies, strategies and plans to increase the inclusion of persons with disabilities into society across Africa, I began to seriously rethink the focus of the keynote presentation I would give the following day.

Most of those speaking at the opening ceremony were politicians and academics and, since I’m neither of those, I began to consider what value I could add to the conversation – a message that was uniquely mine and could supplement the work the politicians and academics were doing. While, of course, bearing the theme of the conference – assistive technology- in mind.

And then it struck me – by sharing my own story, my own experiences of how assistive technology has increased what I can accomplish on my own, and also what I’ve learned from talking to HR departments and managers about employment of those with disabilities, I could provide a personal context to highlight the importance of the policies, strategies and plans that were being discussed.

And I’m really glad I did!

Every now and then as a speaker I receive feedback on a fundamental shift that my words and stories have made on a person who was listening to what I was saying; that my message held a particular significance for them as an individual. It’s probably the most powerful reminder of our purpose as speakers… at least, it is for me!

I was granted the gift of such a moment in Ghana. After I spoke one of the delegates approached me and told me my words had redefined his reason for doing the work he does in the field of assisting those with mobility impairments – that my words showed him that he was, in fact, changing people’s lives for the better with what he was doing.

So, apart from the amazing contacts I made at the conference, the wonderful people I met and with whom I shared the experience of travelling to this beautiful country, I’m grateful to the organisers of the AFRINEAD conference for giving me the opportunity of being in the right place, at the right time, to reconnect that delegate with his purpose.

I took an audio recording of my presentation but haven’t had a chance to edit it yet – if it turned out okay I’ll post a link in a future blog so you can listen to what I said.

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