Guest Blogger: Steph Cutler
In a recent media interview I was asked what equality meant to me. This question was phrased so as to seek a personal response as opposed to a generic definition of equality.
At the same time I was invited to be a guest blogger for ‘changing cultures’. I was in contemplative mode so began by thinking about what changing cultures meant to me.
I found myself firstly thinking about how I would have responded to these questions as a non-disabled person. I then went on to think about my current response as a disabled person. This year is my tenth year of living with sight loss. Prior to acquiring unexpected sight loss I was a fashion designer, working hard and playing hard in a competitive industry.
Being totally honest, ‘equality’ and ’changing cultures’ were words and sentiments that meant little to me back then. They weren’t part of my thinking or vocabulary personally or professionally. Living with an acquired impairment gave me a different perspective on life and I now consider both to be important to me. In adapting to my sight loss I learnt massive amounts about myself, about other people and about business.
I now think both equality and changing cultures are about looking outside yourself and being prepared to see what might not be in your usual spectrum. They are about seeing beyond what you first think you see and thinking creatively. Looking back, I had a creative job in a creative industry but I did not think particularly creatively. Due to the pressure of the role, it wasn’t unusual for me to deliver what I knew was good and would satisfy the brief. Time wasn’t spent considering difference or diversity or the way we worked and looking back I think that was to the detriment of the organisations I worked for.
My personal experiences of the last ten years have taught me what it is to think creatively. These experiences led me to set up ‘Making Lemonade’, my personal development training and coaching business.
If you want to get on with life and you are unable to see fully, you have no choice but to think outside the box. Usual ways of reading, getting from A to B and accessing technology are difficult or impossible. I say ‘usual’ ways because if you seek alternative ways, solutions present themselves. These alternative ways are rarely easy in the first instance, but because everyday tasks require creative thinking I have found that they become second nature.
I became a great problem solver and adept at questioning myself and situations. There have been numerous occasions when I am working on a project or with a client and I request that something can be done slightly differently for a reason relating to my sight loss. So often, the result is that the people say what a better, quicker or more efficient way my way is, and use it going forward.
I strongly believe that my sight loss has given me new skills and has heightened my existing skills. These are invaluable to me in running my business and when delivering training and coaching to my clients.
For me, changing cultures means considering different approaches and taking into account the best approaches for others. It’s about thinking about how you can say ‘yes’ before you say ‘no’. All of which inevitably requires creative thinking.
Equality is about others giving me an equal opportunity to play my part and share my skills.
I found seeking employment as a visually impaired applicant disproportionately difficult to seeking work as a sighted applicant. So much so, that I decided my solution was to employ myself. I was part of an untapped talent pool which I know still exists through the disabled people I now support into employment. My response to this is simple……what a waste.
Equality is currently moving in the right direction, but not at Steph-style speed. I think changing cultures and equality are linked as one has the power to aid the advancement of the other.
Steph Cutler is a speaker, trainer and coach. http://making-lemonade.co.uk/the-lemonade-way/