Over my sales career, accessibility has become a subject very close to my heart.
I have been afflicted by several invisible issues that stopped me doing my job to the best of my ability. On the outside, I looked just fine. But adding 5 hip operations in 5 years on top of fibromyalgia meant that on the inside, I was struggling.
Now, in sales, some of your key tools include your personality, your energy, your listening skills, and your smile. Equally, you need to be able to physically travel to your clients and be alert when you get there. Struggling with physical accessibility issues was bad enough, but the constant pain and fatigue gave me brain fog. Imagine your brain is filled with white mist. Retaining information was almost impossible, and learning new tasks needed extra support. For a long time, life revolved around work, eat, sleep and repeat. I literally had only the energy needed to perform those tasks. I knew I could not match the drive I had previously. So I needed help and support to make sure I could stay at the top of my game.
I knew I needed a company that would understand my challenges. They would allow me to manage my time and energy and to give me the tools I needed to process information and learn new skills. This was as ‘simple’ as finding a company that sold the technology that I thought would help me. Then I explained my condition to them, and asked them to make reasonable adjustments by letting me work from home the majority of the time.
I started working with web conferencing tools. I was the best advert they had for letting workers be flexible with where their bodies physically are when they work, unless we had specific meetings to be at. When I worked from home, I could lie flat while working without bothering my coworkers. I could use speech-to-text tools when my hands would not type. When my brain would not compute information, we could record sessions so I could watch them on demand. We could use subtitles so I could process information using more of my senses. I travelled only to clients and used public transport instead of driving so much. I could conserve my energy and wheel out my personality for the big important meetings. We’d meet online for smaller sessions—I still could meet my my clients’ requirements, and using video let us still see each other. I became one of the top performing sales people in my company.
It was just a few small adjustments. But it made my life easier, and my company more profitable at the same time. The fact is, there is not just a moral aspect to helping people who are less able to use ‘normal’ tools and work in a ‘standard’ way. There is a huge business benefit. Because my previous employer allowed me to work in a way that suited my needs, they made millions of pounds.
Because I could work flexibly, I actually worked to manage my conditions. It’s not a magic bullet by any means. But by allowing staff to be honest about the best environment for them and providing staff with the tools they need to process information, to learn, and to thrive, you open up the workplace to a set of dedicated workers. These people have overcome great pain and adversity and just want to be given a chance.
Here in the UK, accessibility regulations were just updated in September. As is increasingly common in countries around the world, websites and apps for public sector entities are required to meet accessibility standards. It’s another example of something that can make such a huge difference to help productive citizens and employees stay productive.
I am passionate about making sure that for every organisation I ‘touch,’ that I have this conversation. What are you doing about accessibility? Whether physical or digital, there ARE solutions and answers out there that can enable your potential superstars. There are many talented individuals that just need a little extra support to shine.
Find out more about video accessibility