A Sense of Community

Today’s blog centers upon the idea of community. More specifically, how my disability has contributed positively to my relationship with my community and my sense of belonging within it. This is something that my wife Natalie and I often talk about in our presentations on the positive side of disability, and I thought it deserved a turn on the blog.

The fact is that the incredibly visible nature of my disability makes me memorable to others. Now some cynics may say that this is not a good thing and that society should, in this day and age, look past my physical difference. No-one likes to be gawked at after all. But I have a different take on the fact that I am more easily remembered; I think it is a huge asset. The fact that ‘the guy in the wheelchair with the big black service dog’ is known in my neighbourhood and beyond has led to some great community connections. People know me when I come into their stores, people recognize and say hi on the streets and I very much feel ingrained in my community, thanks in large part to my disability.

I have seen this phenomenon so many times in my life. As a teen expat living in the Middle East, the disability was the ultimate icebreaker. In university, my disability made me known and afforded me a cool sense of belonging. Now as an adult, I see it more than ever. Whether it is our favourite restaurants, the butcher or just friendly neighbours, my disability makes me memorable. Indeed, my wife who has grown up in the same neighbourhood her whole life tells me that she has built more community connections in my four years than in the twenty plus years previously. There is something very powerful about that.

What’s that old adage in sales? Being memorable is the best sales technique (or something like that)? What I am learning since founding Disability Positive Consulting is that my success as an entrepreneur is very much connected to the memorable quality that I am afforded by my disability. The basic premise of my business is that disability, and the lessons taught to me by my disability, are an asset in life and business. Nowhere is that more true than in my ability to build community wherever I go. Yeah, I am indeed ‘the guy in the wheelchair with the big black service dog’ and that has gotten me some pretty cool stuff in life.