As you may know this year has seen the start of a new event for women who want to improve or gain public speaking skills, called Grace The Stage. I have hosted a few of these so far this year and the next one is on April 14th at the Hilton in Manchester
The first of these was in London in January and I had 3 great guest speakers – Carole Fossey, Ruth Driscoll and Yasmin Sheikh. All accomplished speakers and all have come through, and are now coaches at, the Professional Speakers Academy.
Now Yasmin is a disability advocate and has a TED Talk to her name. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. Her talk on the day was of course, fabulous, but what happened after that was both troubling and enlightening.
When we broke for lunch, we decided to go out of the hotel for something to eat. Now I have never been in this situation before. Of course, i mean, I’ve been out to lunch before. But I’ve never actually been trying to find somewhere to eat with someone who is a wheelchair user. Yasmin competently operates her chair with the skill of an Olympic athlete – so what happened next had never even crossed my mind.
We went out into the rowdy streets. It was an Australian Rugby match day and the streets were full of slightly inebriated, face painted, rugby fans. The pavements had few places where a chair could cross, and there was not a single café, restaurant or even sandwich shop – which had wheelchair access.
How crazy is that? There are 1.2 MILLION wheelchair users in the UK. And most people don’t often go for lunch alone – I mean we were a group of 6. So that’s probably 3 – 6 millions lunches or dinners. That’s a big market opportunity all those establishments were ignoring, never mind the whole moral argument.
Something that also really bothered me, more than the stupid lack of thought about physical access, was that people totally ignored Yasmin. No-one made eye contact. I mean, I know that is fairly common in London anyway, but it was disturbingly noticeable.
In the end we gave up and went back to the hotel, where I was horrified to see that in the main restaurant there were steps. Again, no wheelchair access! There were a couple of tables BEFORE the steps, but they were already taken. So, we ended up going round into the attached ‘pub’ area – where the Rugby was on the TV.
And it made me think how many things go un-noticed until they are brought to our attention by others or by experience.
And that doesn’t just apply to ‘external’ things.
The same is true with the limitations we experience internally. And many times our limitations become our limitations sneakily. We are often unaware, of the trigger point for some of our beliefs and behaviours. And it usually takes something or someone external to help us see what is in plain sight for everyone else.
For example, I can do self-hypnosis but I choose to have coaches and mentors. and not just rely on my own skills Heart surgeons and dentists don’t do their own operations. There is only so much you can do on your own and if you have a block – it is very unlikely you can move that block on your own.
The good news is you don’t have to work it out on your own and you don’t have to do it alone. Which is why Marion Bevington and I created the Find Your Why Foundation, and it’s why we mentor women and men who want to make a change in their lives, but find that they are struggling to do that on their own. Go here to find out more about the Foundation or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org