Disability and identity in business

Writing about disability is not easy for me, because it easily gets very personal. I recently watched America Ferreras TedTalk on identity and realized that this is also something I have experienced as a disabled person. Like her, I want to be recognized as a professional, not a member of a minority. I remember vividly how I was working as a customer service job and an old lady came in and said to me: “it is nice that someone has found a job for you too.”, as if I would be there as a charity. I was so shocked that I couldn’t even find the words to reply. As to America, my physical appearance is perceived as an obstacle.

First of all, there are not a lot of disabled people in sales. Sales is traditionally very mobile and that’s why I always had this conception that, but because I am in a wheelchair, it will be very hard for me to do field sales and meet customers face to face. I have good phone and communication skills, and I actively polish my social selling skills (I am doing my bachelors thesis on it as well) to become the best inside sales rep there is. I have years of experience from cold calling and I study channel sales at the moment.

At Innovation Summit Helsinki

But since that, I have been fairs and customer meetings and realized that I really like meeting customers and talking to them. Consumer customers I met at the fair were actually very interested and impressed seeing a wheelchair user working at a fair. I have also attended some customer meetings and even held a few of my own at the office. Schneider has been very supportive of my needs and I get to travel to trainings abroad, just like everybody else. So maybe the biggest obstacle after all is my own view of myself. Anything is possible, and I need to take a more active role pushing the change. Then again, I am a realist, and there are some real obstacles like stairs between me and my clients, but maybe if people are reminded of the fact that there really are disabled people in the business world, as sales reps, as customers and most importantly as employees, these physical barriers will one day be just a bad memory.

Author: Ida Männistö

An tech enthusiast working at a global energy automation company. Blogs about work and tea.

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