This year saw me nominated for three awards, Young Digital Leader for Digital Leaders for the second time (Too old for that one again) Positive Role Model for Disability, National Diversity Awards and lastly second year running I made it onto Shaw Trust’s Disability Powerlist 100 and I am extremely proud of this acknowledgement of my work. I want to thank everybody that nominated or voted for me I am truly humbled, it is my intention to remain in the public eye and continue my work raising awareness of digital, accessibility, diversity and inclusion. We all have a unique skill set, something I believe we should be taught to embrace from a very young age, something I wasn’t particularly aware of throughout my education, however it became more clear when my first employer, recognised my skills as positive and that as a result of my condition I was overly aware, in fact very attuned to accessibility, usability, diversity and inclusion particularly within assistive technology. It is no secret that up until being employed by Apple in Reading I had experienced discrimination and rejection throughout my senior school education, my part time job search and then higher education, and as a result anxiety and depression. My hand was forced 4 years ago when University let me down. My choice was either fight to be included on my course or walk away and fight the cause on a bigger scale. It really was the most difficult choice, however, the thought of fighting with tutors and lecturers to access a course I would have excelled in for 3 years was not something I could have dealt with back then. Exclusion had become an every day theme and it had become detrimental to my mental health and for that reason my choice was made. I left and threw myself into running the Molly Watt Trust and my part time job at Apple and began learning exactly how enabling assistive technology really is. Training at Apple is brilliant, it was here that I realised not only how aware I already was about accessibility and usability but how beneficial my unique skills were because ultimately I really was the ‘Needy” end user in many ways. Already my iPhone and MacBook had enabled me to access a plethora of things throughout my fragmented education, it had also inadvertently allowed me to isolate myself but still feel included, that’s a whole new story! Apple was the first big organisation to give me a chance, I had been turned away from several potential employers from age 16 through to 20 years old, watching my hearing sighted friends getting on, earning money working in all the usual places. Until Apple I had experienced more exclusion than most and yes, it does nothing for confidence. It was at Apple that I really found myself. I was a very much respected member of staff, in fact I inadvertently became something of an accessibility champion because of the person I am. Without realising it until then I had become quite a whizz with assistive technology and that coupled with Apple training propelled me into a whole new place. Everything I touched, felt and experienced became all about accessibility, usability and finding the ultimate route to inclusion. Many will remember my blog my-apple-watch-after-5-days it went viral, I think in the main because I was looking at exactly how, what was the newest Apple product at that time, was useful to people with disabilities, how accessible it was and it was from here that I found my stage. I can thank applewatch for finding GN Resound, they were the first to have hearing aids both iphone and applewatch bluetooth connected and who’s game changing smart hearing aids changed my life providing me with access to sound like I had never experienced before, accessing sound in a pure way enabled me to be included in a whole new world of sound as my vision had deteriorated. GN Resound took a real interest in me and my condition. They genuinely wanted me to, as their strap line says “Hear more, Do more, Be more” and their hearing aid technology has done that and more, it gives me great pride to be both ambassador and advocate for their life changing assistive technology. My understanding and complete reliance on assistive technology has resulted in me consulting in this field alongside some amazing organisations including GN Resound, Apple Cupertino, Sigma Solutions, BBC Accessibility, NHS Digital, Government Digital Services, Business Disability Forum, Spotify, ASOS, LinkedIn San Francisco, Pro-QR Netherlands, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, Open Inclusion, Scope the list goes on and on but all in the name of diversity and inclusion. I continue to raise awareness of my condition and to mentor and bring together people living with Usher Syndrome/deafblind and will continue to do all I can to encourage those living with this cruel condition to live their best lives. I didn’t win any of the awards I was nominated for, some amazing competition out there but being involved and being a part of positive change every day, I know ultimately we will all be winners.
The biggest learning curve for me was actually putting the aids on! After a lifetime of ear moulds and stiff tubing it took a few