Networking is different for disability leaders

Disability Leaders face some distinct barriers to networking

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By Christina Ryan – DLI CEO

 

Networking is a key element of leadership work and produces many of the opportunities that we all want to take up, so it’s a vital skill and ability for all of us to be engaged in.

 

Many leadership opportunities arise because someone knows someone and the network circles around to you. If you aren’t part of those networks then you are significantly disadvantaged.

 

Networking can be different for people with disabilities and the DLI 2016 survey of leaders illustrated a number of barriers to networking that we face, for example:

 

– the costs associated with attending

– the extra hours and energy needed – many events happen after hours

– being in the mainstream / prejudice

– crowds, noise.

 

These are just some of the issues raised as barriers to being in the room and being able to network effectively.

 

There are now a number of apps that scan business cards to assist leaders who need alternative formats or who can’t carry cards, but not all are suitable for the needs of leaders with disabilities, so don’t assume technology solves everything.

 

The cost of networking is a distinct barrier that is very difficult to overcome. If you can’t afford to be in the room, regularly, then you won’t get to meet the people that you need to meet. People quickly forget someone that isn’t seen often, and that means they forget that you might be a suitable candidate for something. While online social networking does assist in some ways, it simply doesn’t replace being in the room and meeting people.

 

Above all, networking is something you get better at with practice. So, barriers experienced by leaders with disabilities must be addressed so that we can get the practice, and through that get the opportunities that networking provides.

Christina Ryan is the Founder of the Disability Leadership Institute, a specialist leadership and coaching consultant, and a 2017 Westpac Social Change Scholar

Disability Leaders in the Mainstream

Being in the room is vital for disability leaders

By Christina Ryan – DLI CEO

 

The 2016 survey of disability leaders found that most leaders with disabilities are operating in disability specific places not in the mainstream.

 

What’s behind this? Is the mainstream unwelcoming, or perhaps it’s not interested in disability. Maybe it’s just inaccessible. Is it easier to get employment in disability specific fields? Whatever the reason, the few leaders who do work in the mainstream said that they feel very isolated and are constantly battling to be respected and included.

 

Working in the mainstream confronts all the prejudices and access barriers that people with disabilities face every day. It forces people to accept you, but to also consider how disability is relevant to whatever the mainstream area is. You are also more likely to be an expert or specialist in your field, so people will need to adjust how they respond to you. Being the only person with disability in a room can be exhausting, but it is also the place where change happens.

 

Leaders working in the mainstream have told the Disability Leadership Institute many stories including:

 

– being treated like the work experience kid

– having your disability being the only topic of conversation

– getting stuck in a crowded room and unable to move

– general inaccessibility preventing meaningful participation

– doubting your non-disability expertise

 

These are just some examples of the barriers faced by leaders working in the mainstream. It can take a strong stomach and real persistence to continue to operate in such environments, but the outcomes are valuable and often make real change for our community.

 

Our next webinar, Mainstreaming – being in the room, is looking at how to work in the mainstream effectively and with confidence. We’ll examine how you can get the most out of being the only person with disability in the room and how to use your presence to get strong disability outcomes.

 

The webinar will cover:

– Being in the room.

– Key principles to being in the mainstream

– How to communicate

– What to communicate

– Why are you in the room?

– Making sure you stay in the room.

– Using your presence to increase the representation of people with disabilities

 

Christina Ryan is the founder of the Disability Leadership Institute and a 2017 Westpac Social Change Scholar.