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.

A Cause for Celebration!

Cds MG 7641I could hardly believe my eyes… umm, ears? When the list of the articles I’ve written for this blog told me that this is article 100! I seriously can’t believe I’ve written 100 articles since starting this blog just short of 2 years ago.

Looking back over all I’ve written I can honestly say that this blog has covered my journey over the past 2 years and has highlighted the shift in my purpose, the refining of my message and the work I’m doing as a speaker and a writer… not to mention the joy of the journey of discovery I’ve been taking with my guide dog, Fiji!

It’s also given me a chance to review all that I’ve done since starting the blog and to realize how much has changed in my life and how much I’ve grown. I know I’ve said it before in this blog and particularly in the final chapter of my book, “A Different Way of Seeing” – we are so busy living our lives and doing the things we need to do that we sometimes forget to take note of how much we’ve achieved. Looking back at my articles brought that message home to me once again.

So, as I celebrate the fact of my 100th article I want to encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your own life and review what you’ve achieved – you may well be surprised at how far you’ve travelled in your own journey.

I’m looking forward to my next hundred articles and the next exciting stages of my journey and my life – thank you for sharing them with me by reading my stories. I appreciate your taking the time to see what Fiji and I have been up to, and love the comments and feedback I receive both on the articles themselves and on the versions I post on social media – so thank you!

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