"Starting a business isn’t easy, it’s even more difficult when you are disabled, be prepared to do a lot of background research and thinking out of the box but ultimately remember that you are entitled to be here and know your worth"
Founder, Blind Girl Adventures
CEO Jacquline Winstanely caught up with Sassy Wyatt to find out what makes her an inspiring and Inclusive Entrepreneur. Sassy is a member of the Inclusive Entrepreneur community
Sassy, you are An Inclusive Entrepreneur, a member of our Inclusive Entrepreneurship Community. It would really help me if you could set the scene so our visitors understand not only the concept but the person behind your brand.
"I was not born with my disability. At the age of seven I broke my arm which subsequently became a catalyst to my diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Arthritis is an autoimmune condition where the body essentially attacks itself. I spent the rest of my childhood as an ambulatory wheelchair user and thanks to modern medicine my pain reduced and I became more mobile. By the age of 14 my arthritis had started to attack my eyes and I was registered blind just a few months before my 16th birthday. Blindness is a spectrum and 93% of blind people can still see something. I was one of them, I went to College for the Blind to do my A-levels and learn secondary skills such as reading and writing braille and orientation and mobility lessons.
In 2013 I was in my second year of university when my remaining vision reduced to nothing for the second time that year. I tried to pursue my higher education however my Uni did not support me in this transition, as a totally blind student, and I eventually left without gaining a degree.
I knew life went on after sight loss but searching and applying for jobs when it has not been made accessible to you is far more difficult than you would expect."
What led you to Entrepreneurship?
"I started my blog ‘Blind Girl Adventures’ back in 2015 to challenge perceptions through education and humour empowering others to be more disability confident. This expanded into working with brands and businesses to showcase their products which ultimately let me down the route of talking about accessibility and inclusion with a priority towards blindness.
I now work heavily in the travel industry sharing my point of view of what it’s like travelling with blindness and how I want to change the landscape of accessible tourism.
This further led me down the path of working closely with businesses as a consultant on the importance of the spending power of disabled consumers (the purple pound), how disability awareness training can showcase the barriers disabled people face when accessing an establishment or online store and consequently what small but significant changes can be made to ensure they become more inclusive."
Why did you choose to go down this route?
"I’m passionate about accessibility and inclusion for all, I spend the majority of my day advocating for myself so it seemed sensible to upscale my audience and speak to people that can help make the necessary changes."
How did you embark on the Entrepreneurial journey?
"As you can probably tell from my story, I fell into it: I want the world to be made a more accessible place for all and not just from an infrastructure point of view but from attitudinal; in the way we raise the next generation to be open and accepting, alongside the incorporation of today’s society in the here and now."
Did you feel that this was tougher for you than for people without disabilities?
"Absolutely, I couldn’t even create my own website without the help of my husband because building a website is first and foremost a very visual task. Where the need to know how to code, or drag and drop, I’m certainly not intelligent enough for coding! When the website itself was up and running, it was then realising that social media and networking via social media could be almost impossible. Thankfully the Internet has become far more accessible than what it used to be, but the main platforms all have accessibility issues, so there is no fully accessible social networking site yet."
Please outline the how, where and what about your business and the value it brings as an Inclusive Enterprise.
"Working closely with brands and businesses as a consultant on the importance of the spending power of disabled consumers (the purple pound).
I give disability awareness training and seminars showcasing the barriers disabled people face when accessing an establishment or online store and consequently what small but significant changes can be made to ensure they become more inclusive both online and offline."
Why this particular business and brand?
"As a blind woman I spend a lot of my time asking members of the public for support- finding the entrance to a new coffee shop. Asking a worker to assist me with my food shopping. Needing someone sighted to go make up shopping with me because none of the products are distinguishable from its neighbours and ultimately everything ‘looking’ the same. And further being unable to online shop for my favourite beauty, skincare or fashion retailers because their websites are not accessible with screen reading software.
I found myself educating the public on a daily basis, and continuously explaining to brands and businesses the importance of staff feeling comfortable around disabled people, as well as disabled people such as myself being able to access their products and services in person or online independently.
If I am personally facing all these barriers to access and I am a confident, outgoing and assertive disabled person, what about the millions of people that are not like me and find it difficult to ask for help at all?
I realise there was a need for sharing my lived experiences in the hopes of making the world a more accessible place; not just for me but my disabled peers.
Blind Girl Adventures is a culmination of my love of travel, creating online content to show that disabled people live interesting, fun and successful lives too, and that every day can be a new adventure."
What successes have you had along the way that you are particularly proud of?
"Being able to sit on stage in front of hundreds of people and discuss the importance of advertising, travel, beauty and social media. Each topic may be different but the intersectionality between disability, inclusion and these ever-expanding industries mean that it’s more important than ever to see yourself represented in brand campaigns as well as being their target market."
Mention some of the obstacles you had to face and overcome to get to where you are today.
"My biggest obstacle that I face is getting a seat at the table, being paid my worth and finally helping brands see the importance of disability inclusion, it’s not just a tick box exercise or one-off campaign, it has to be built into the infrastructure of the company/brand and it’s not just the right thing to do but makes great business sense also."
What assistance have you had along the way, and how has that helped you get where you are today?
"I’ve had to heavily rely on my husband and friends to help me create content online or put together a portfolio because the systems that are currently in place or not accessible to all.
I’ve only recently found out about Access to Work but I’m now in limbo because the governments best kept secret seems to be penalising disabled people wanting to be in gainful employment, or in my case employing support workers to help me with the inaccessible parts of my business."
As an entrepreneur, what would you advise other disabled people who are also considering embarking on a similar journey?
"Starting a business isn’t easy, it’s even more difficult when you are disabled, be prepared to do a lot of background research and thinking out of the box but ultimately remember that you are entitled to be here and know your worth."