Next month, I’ll be speaking at the Dare Conference in London. It’s a new event, which features some amazing presentations from some incredibly talented people. I’ve spoken at a few events in the past, but never anything as exciting or important as this, so I’m just a little bit scared, particularly as I’ll be presenting on a particularly personal subject.
The conference is being attended by people from all around the world, with representatives from some big organisations. Which makes me both nervous and excited about what I’ll be able to bring to the event during my twenty-five minutes on stage. I’ve been procrastinating and re-drafting this talk for months now, but this month I need to get it all finished up, rehearsed and refined.
So what will I be talking about? My presentation is titled “How disability made me more productive“. Pretty ambiguous, eh? The description gives a little more detail:
I’m a developer and designer with ocular albinism. When I became registered as disabled in 2008, it made me reconsider almost everything about the way I live my life. Admitting to myself that I had a disability was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. But over time it’s also been liberating. By covering up my disability, I was making life more difficult for myself. By being honest and open about my weaknesses, I’ve found the freedom to be more creative, more pragmatic, and to participate more effectively.
I’m very self-conscious of the fact that I don’t want my presentation to be too self-indulgent — it could be all to easy to play the “poor me” card and talk about how difficult life can be. Instead, I intend to talk about the psychological and social aspects of having a disability, and how “being different” can, in fact, be a very good thing. I intend to break down many of the misconceptions of what it means to live with a disability, and to impress upon people how important it is to look at disability as a problem of society itself, not of the individual.
Secondly, I’ll be talking about how I’ve learned to be more open and honest with myself and — more importantly — with others about my weaknesses, and how I learned to turn them into strengths. There are constant challenges to this though, and I want to show how creating a more inclusive environment can help people to be more creative and productive, regardless of ability. We live in a competitive, fast-moving world — sometimes we need to handicap ourselves a little, to create a more level playing field. If we’re racing ahead all the time, and don’t give others the opportunity to catch up, then they might not be able or willing to contribute effectively — in work, or in life in general.
Most importantly of all though, I hope that people will go away from my talk with a slightly different view of the world: a better appreciation of the fact that we’re not all the same, that we all have different strengths and different weaknesses, and that is a very good thing; that by being more adaptive to an individual’s needs and abilities, you can inspire the very best in them. In short: be more inclusive. I don’t think we do enough of that right now. I certainly don’t feel like I live in a very inclusive world, and so I intend to start doing something about it.
It’s coincidental that presenting this talk has coincided with my new role as CTO with an organisation which is setting out to enable people to live a more independent life through the use of technology. If I get time, I’ll also be talking about how we’re starting to look at ways to use emerging technologies in unconventional ways, to allow less-able, elderly and vulnerable people to live a more inclusive and fulfilling life. Some of the things we’re talking about in R&D are getting me very excited.
The Dare Conference is taking place 23rd-25th September, and you can get a whooping £200 off a conference pass by using the discount code SPEAKER13. There’s also a special freelancer rate, which gets you in for just £299+VAT. The organisers have also put together one of those “Convince your boss” wotsits, if you need to persuade the powers that be.