This week I attended the 45th Naidex event; an annual disability exhibition that showcases innovations for the future of independent living. The event was held at The NEC in Birmingham and held over 200 stands ranging from wheelchairs, accessible travel, assistive technology, charities, magazines plus much more.
I was attending as an exhibitor for Disability Horizons, where I finally got to meet some of the amazing team from the online magazine after seven years of being a community writer for them. I helped with handing out leaflets and encouraging more people to sign up to our newsletter.
In addition, I got to meet some of the team at AccessAble who I create vlogs for promoting their app.
As well as working on the stand, I went to watch a few seminars:
1. Jane Hatton, EvenBreak – “What Makes Disabled People Such Fantastic Employees?
Jane Hatton has worked in diversity since 1990. She founded Evenbreak in 2011, an award-winning social enterprise run by and for disabled people. This helps employers attract talented disabled people through a specialist online job board. Evenbreak is entirely staffed by disabled people. Jane runs Evenbreak lying down with a laptop suspended above her due to a degenerative spinal condition.
At her seminar, she discussed why employers should be excited about employing disabled people and how should disabled candidates ‘sell’ themselves to employers. The most interesting point that was mentioned was that disabled people are less likely to go off work sick. Having a disability doesn’t mean they are ill. For instance, using a wheelchair, having a prosthetic limb, being blind, deaf or neurodiverse does not cause any medical issues. It just means the employee needs the accessibility, support and assistive technology to complete their job. Also, if disabled employees do have symptoms such as chronic pain or breathing difficulties, they will control those symptoms with medication and equipment which will allow them to continue working. Moreover, employees with a disability are more likely to stay in a job and progress in their career more than non-disabled people.
2. Sean Tibbetts, Cyber Timez in partnership with Computer Room Services – “Cyber Eyez Smart Glasses Change Lives”
Computer Room Services provide assistive technology including electronic Braille displays that connect to mobile phones and computers, plus many other goods and services
Sean Tibbetts, who is the CEO and Co-Founder of Cyber Timez, demonstrated the CyberEyez Smart Glasses; an amazing application that takes advantage of multiple hardware platforms to provide a myriad of functions for people with sight loss. From magnifying computer screens and paper documents to reading text in over 150 languages and even describes facial expressions. The smart glasses are also compatible with Amazon Alexa.
After the talk, I visited their stand to find out more about the device. I explained to them about my poor mobility in my hands meaning I may struggle to operate the buttons. Luckily they have an extra tool to resolve this. There are 5 rings that loop on your fingers and if you push down on each finger, it will control a different function on the smart glasses.
In addition, I visited another stand, OrCam, who has a similar product. I shared our contacts at Disability Horizons to organise a collabaration to give them a review of their product on our magazine. I’m also aiming to contact Cyber Timez to see if they would like me to give them a product review too and maybe do a comparison of each product.
3. Martyn Sibley, Disability Horizons – “Mindset and Habits That Change the World”
Martyn Sibley is the co-founder of Disability Horizons who I finally got to meet for the first time this week. He is also an entrepreneur, writer, presenter and spokesperson in the mainstream media. Despite having SMA, he is etremely adventerous and travels across the world including Australia, America and Europe. Plus he has been scuba diving, flown a plane and went riding in a hot air balloon. Through his blog and published book, his message is about the importance of inclusion for everyone. When nobody is left behind, everyone wins.
In his Naidex speech, Martyn discusses how to remove the environmental, attitudinal and organisational obstacles in the way. He shared his advice on how to create a certain mindset and some new habits that are the key to unlocking people’s potential.
4. Carrie-Ann Lightley, AccessAble – “Accessible Travel: Tips, Tricks and Tech”
Carrie-Ann is the Marketing Manager at AccessAble who offered me to join the AccessAble Champions team. She’s a wheelchair user who loves to travel and a well-respected figure within the tourism industry. Her blog has become a firm favourite with her followers and led her to write for the Guardian, HuffPost and TripAdvisor, as well as many other websites, magazines and industry publications. Carrie-Ann has a unique insight into all areas and aspects of accessible tourism and travel.
In her talk, she explains how travelling as a disabled person can be stressful, worrying and sometimes disastrous. But it can also be exciting, empowering and absolutely amazing. She shares her travel tips which will help other disabled people to get the most out of research and travel planning, She also demonstrated some game-changing technology, including the AccessAble app, that’s helping to support spontaneous, accessible UK holidays, trips and days out.
5. Employability Panel
This particular talk consisted of 4 panelists who explored the advantages, opportunities and challenged the stereotypes of employing disabled people. The panelists included Jane Hatton from EvenBreak, Anna Bird from Scope, Samuel Ridyard from Genius Within CIC & Shani Dhanda from Virgin Media and Diversability.
To be honest, I did not find this seminar to be as helpful as I hoped. The majority of it included the same information that Jane Hatton said in her previous seminar. And the other information I was already aware of. For instance, they were advising to people when it is best to disclose your disability to a potential employer. I have been applying for jobs for the past three years and I have never disclosed my disability on an application unless the application requests it. If I get offered an interview, I will disclose my disability as I will need to make sure reasonable adjustments are available for my interview. For example, wheelchair accessibility to the building/meeting room and written information provided in alternative formats due to my sight loss. I was hoping for more advice on interviewing techniques as I think this is my weakness when securing a job.
6. Paul Bepey, BBC – “Staff Facing Accessibility End to End Operating Model”
This seminar wasn’t what I first expected. I was hoping for advice on how to secure a job at the BBC and what support they can give us in the roles. However this was about what kind of assistive technology is available to current employees at the BBC and how the service is run.
Paul Bepey, who is registered blind, works in the assistive technology department at the BBC. In this department they provide assistive technology to all BBC employees Who require adaptations to carry out their jobs, whether it be in the office or on locations. They provide software including JAWS, Dragon Dictate and Zoomtext. Plus they can provide devices including iPhones and iPads. The most interesting fact from this talk was that the BBC fund some of this support themselves as well as funding from Access to Work. So this is good to know if I ever secure a position at the BBC.
While browsing the stands, I visited the Able Move stand which is a company that created an in-situ transfer seat to aid physical transfers on/off aircraft for physically disabled people and to ensure that safety, dignity and comfort comes first. It was founded by Josh Wintersgill, who has SMA, and was endorsed by easyJet founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou. The travel seat is unique because it can remain within the transfer seat for your entire journey – from home, on aircraft and to the hotel plus you will no longer require extra assistance of equipment from the airport. When I next travel by plane, I’m definitely purchasing this product.
I was lucky enough to bump into fellow blogger and journalist, Simon Sansome, who runs Ability Access. I also spotted Glen Turner from Well Eye Never talking to another member of the Disability Horizons team but unfortunately I did not get a chance to speak to him myself.
Furthermore, I handed my CV out to a few potential employers/companies to see if any jobs or freelance opportunities may be available. I sent copies to Jane Hatton at EvenBreak, Shani Dhanda from Virgin Media, Posability Magazine & Able Magazine.
And finally, the best highlight of the event, and something I never expected would happen…..I met Warwick Davis!
He was at Naidex supporting his charity Little People UK which supports individuals with dwarfism. Plus he was doing a talk called “Always Looking Up” where he shared the barrirs he has faced living with dwarfism and how he tackles them. My reason for meeting him was not just because he is a world famous actor and TV presenter, but also because I’ve been eager to secure an interview with him for Disability Horizons. Initially I thought it would be almost impossible to speak to him directly. I assumed he would be in a VIP section with body guards surrounding him. Surprisingly, he was just hanging around the venue with other team members of Little People UK. I managed to approach him, explain who I am and ask about doing an interview. He was a perfect gentleman and said he was happy to pass me his contact details and have a photo with him. Apparently, he had never heard of our magazine and, even more amazingly, he had never heard of our co-founder, Martyn Sibley, who is an A-lister in the disability world.
Overall, it was an incredible two days at Naidex. It was so lovely meeting the team at Disability Horizons. We secured 150 new subscribers to our newsletter plus many more people collected our leaflets. It was also great meeting the team at AccessAble where I also took part in a bit of filming and photos for their social media channels. I got to discover a wide range of companies, charities and technology firms and listen to the stories and advice from amazing and inspirational people within the disability sectors. To anyone who has not attended Naidex before, I highly recommend it to everyone. Naidex46 will be held on 17th & 18th March 2020.
To find out more about Naidex and how to visit or exhibit next year, visit the Naidex website.
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