Back in high school, public speaking was definitely not on my list of top career choices. It ranked way down near the bottom with neurosurgery. Likewise, my top career options were also rather limited.
As you may know, I have cerebral palsy, which, for the most part, affects my balance, muscle coordination and speech. Back when I was searching for employment opportunities, entry level office positions – my only glimmer of possibility – required a minimum typing speed and the ability to answer the telephone. However, my left thumb – the only digit I can use for typing – did not meet expectations, and my unique Glenda-ish did not make the phone my best friend. I was disqualified from most positions before the conversation even got to my abilities, talents and interests.
I persevered and some time after completing my Bachelor of Arts degree from Simon Fraser University, I did land a part-time job at my alma mater, making the existing career mentor program accessible to students and alum with disabilities; a job I loved. When the project funding ended, so did my job.
After much searching, I could not find another employer willing to give me an opportunity to prove what I was capable of offering as an employee. Self-employment was my only option.
I competently completed any work opportunity that came my way: writing a literature review for a homelessness project, editing sermons for a pastor’s book, writing articles for various websites, maintaining a website for a non-profit arts organization. To me, those were survival jobs – equivalent to pumping gas and waiting tables – they put some food on the table, but not much more.
Gradually I built a solid reputation as a web accessibility consultant; making websites accessible to people with all kinds of disabilities. Web accessibility was an understandable career path for me and there is still much left to be done in the field but, after fourteen years, I felt so burnt out that if I had to explain the need for text descriptions of images one more time, I would stab my eyes out with a yellow HB pencil.
Advances in technology – namely, the iPad and the text-to-speech app Proloquo4Text – have enabled me to take my career in a bold new direction; one that was impossible, inconceivable back in high school. That of being a well-paid, internationally-known motivational speaker to inspire people who are silently screaming “There’s more to me!” and, yet, they are standing in their own way from moving forward.
In August, I traveled to Toronto for the honour and privilege of delivering the ISAAC 2016 Consumer Lecture as a plenary session at the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) Conference. I delivered Finding Your True Dream, The North Star for Your Life’s Journey – which has since become my signature talk – to approximately 600-800 people.
Here is a brief clip:
Being up there on the stage, sharing my story and the five elements of a dream, felt so right. This is what I am meant to do, where I am meant to be, at this point in my life. It is a destiny I fully accept and embrace, and an irony I savour as absolutely delicious.
Sometimes finding employment means daring to follow a dream, no matter what!
For more information about my signature talk Finding Your True Dream, The North Star for Your Life’s Journey, please download my speaker onesheet. Feel free to share with anyone you know who is looking for speakers for conferences or events. Thanks kindly.If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.