"I do not believe my lack of success was always down to discrimination but I believe it played a part."
My background is in the fashion industry where I designed for well known brands such as, Ted Baker and Marks and Spencer. My fun work hard, play hard lifestyle changed when I learned I was to experience unexpected sight loss.
I did not know how central vision loss would affect me practically or emotionally, but I made a very conscious decision when diagnosed that this would not mean the end in any way for me. I made a vow to myself that I would live by this.
When my central vision began to deteriorate I left behind; my lifestyle, my friends, my career, my salary and relocated to be near my family. I set myself a short-term goal to become employable again. I set about learning how to access my computer and mobile with assistive technology and to adapt to my new challenges. I found learning new ways of doing things really tough. I already knew how to use a computer, but not being able to see the screen or keyboard and not being able to use a mouse meant learning an entirely different way.
I was really determined and reached my goal quickly. However, I was soon to find out that being employable and being employed was two different things!
I decided not to return to the fashion industry. It is a very visual and competitive industry, but I knew I had lots of transferable skills and could work in other sectors. I had a good track record of gaining interviews and work but found neither forthcoming when I began looking for work as a visually impaired applicant.
I do not believe my lack of success was always down to discrimination but I believe it played a part. I have never been known for my patience and I was not about to wait and feel more and more despondent. I decided to stick a big two fingers up to all those employers out there and employ myself!
Having acquired a disability I realized many of the barriers disabled people face on a day-to-day basis. I felt these were more often than not created by non-disabled people's lack of awareness. I felt a strong legal and social case existed for reducing and removing these barriers. In addition I felt there was a compelling business case; I couldn't understand why it was suddenly more difficult for me to spend my money with organizations.
I set about researching how to set up a business and whether my idea was viable.
The hardest part of setting up Open Eyed, my disability equality consultancy was getting known. I was entering an entirely new field and I had no contacts.
I began being contacted by other disabled people who were also struggling to gain employment or wanted to set up a business. I replied to everyone personally, giving thorough responses but it took up time I needed to spend getting my business profitable. When organizations, as well as individuals, began contacting me I realized an opportunity was presenting itself.
When I had been having tough times adjusting I would always say, "If life deals you lemons Cutler......get out there and make some lemonade!" Making Lemonade was the obvious name for my personal development business that evolved. Making Lemonade now offers individuals and groups coaching and training to disabled people committed to gaining employment, starting a business or developing their leadership potential.
I am now a writer, inspirational speaker, trainer, business adviser and coach. Making Lemonade is totally committed to offering accessible, personal support to disabled people to be the best they can be and achieve their goals and potential.
Things have certainly changed dramatically since my fashion days, but I would now not change a thing. Life is now lemonade all the way!
Follow Steph at making-lemonade.co.uk
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