Is your business actually accessible? (And why that matters…a lot)

Hey!

I’m Clary (she/her), Hello Seven Community Manager & Coach, and guest writer of this special edition newsletter!

Why are you hearing from me, you’re wondering?

Well, July is Disability Pride Month, and I have a lot to say about how all of us, but especially business owners, can create a more accessible world.

Here’s (just a piece of) my story:

When I was 17 years old, I was involved in a car crash that completely changed my life.

Before the crash, I would not hesitate to go ALL IN on all things. For example, I did class projects with SO. MUCH. GLITTER. that my teacher banned glitter from the classroom! (I always liked to show up with a little extra sparkle. ????)

But after the car accident, barriers started to creep up in places that never existed for me before.

I developed chronic pain and discovered I was living with a previously undiagnosed learning disability.

Suddenly, everything took a little extra effort and I found myself falling behind and losing that sparkle I once had.

I felt like I couldn’t keep up with everyone else, and thought I wasn’t able to live up to my full potential — heck, I still feel like that sometimes.

But over the years since then, I have learned to accept and embrace myself for who I am.

Sure — I may need more breaks than the average person or need to alter my working spaces and styles to help ease my pain — but by recognizing and advocating for the accommodations and support that I need at home and at Hello Seven, I’m still able to sparkle.

So, if you’re a business owner, my first question for you is this: are you creating an environment in which ALL your employees can thrive?

AKA, is your business actually accessible?

If you’re not quite sure, keep reading — I’ve got plenty of ideas for you!

Creating an accessible workplace might be easier than you think.

For example, if you’re one of those business owners joyfully reopening your office doors right now and calling everybody back in without a second thought, I urge you to consider accessibility first.

A lot of people are happy and relieved to be back in the office, naturally, but for folks with chronic illnesses and/or disabilities, working from home has been incredibly helpful, because it allows us to set up our space in the way that’s best for us.

So instead of mandating that everyone comes back to the office, put an ask out there to see who would rather come in, and who would rather not.

If your business can function with some folks working from home, simply providing that option could make a huge difference to a lot of your employees.

Be flexible, and understand that not all of your employees have the same needs and life situations.

Realize that many of your employees might not feel “disabled enough” to raise their concerns without you asking first. They may even feel scared they could lose their job if they disclose a disability that’s not obvious to their employers.

Being able to work from home and have a more flexible work environment may have provided some of your employees with the accommodation that they needed, but were afraid to ask for. If you take those accommodations away now, you may be causing harm to your employees without even realizing.

Of course not all employees might have been thriving at home, but we can’t ignore the fact that right now, we have the chance to make lasting change by creating more accessible workplaces for ALL our employees.

Don’t you want to take that chance?

Here’s what I want you to take home from this:

You can’t make assumptions about the abilities and needs of your team members, your future employees, or your customers. 

And if you can’t assume what accommodations people need, then you need to ask, to gather data, and you need to pivot accordingly. That’s just good business.

But you can’t get the information you need without creating a space where people feel brave enough to be themselves and ask for what they need.

Shortly after I started working at Hello Seven, I was feeling really overwhelmed trying to learn all our systems and tools.

I was wary of bringing it up, but in a meeting with our leadership team, I worked up the nerve to let people know that I was struggling. All my intersections — my invisible illness, my learning disability, my Blackness, my queerness, all of it — were just feeling so heavy. I got emotional, and expressed my fear that I was just “too much” to succeed here.

And so Rachel Rodgers (the badass you usually get these emails from), responded with a phrase I will never forget:

“I don’t think having all those intersections makes you too much. I think it’s your superpower, because it allows you to relate to so many different people.”

And it wasn’t just the sentiment. Because I advocated for myself — because I had a space where I felt comfortable enough to raise my hand and tell people what I needed — Hello Seven is able to provide me with the accommodations I need.

After that conversation, I got extra 1:1 time with our Systems Director to help me learn all our digital tools and systems. I have flexibility to take breaks when I have pain-flare ups or need to go to doctor’s appointments. We purchased a digital tool that creates closed captioning on our Zoom calls. I let my team members know that audio communication works much better for me than written communication, and request that they reach out to me on Voxer whenever possible.

All these accommodations, among others, are a huge part of the reason I get to thrive at Hello Seven.

That said, we as a company are not perfect. I as a person — even with all my intersections — still mess up and say the wrong things or make the wrong assumptions sometimes.

But the important thing is that accessibility is a priority for us, just like our other DEI efforts are. The important thing is that we do everything we can to support our team members and our clients, so that ALL of us can thrive at work and in life.

Like Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

So, now that you know better, what will you do next?

xo,
Clary Chambers (she/her) ❤️
Community Manager & Coach at Hello Seven

P.S. Hey hey, it’s Rachel here!

I’m so grateful to Clary for taking the time to write this powerful, informative newsletter, and for all the work she does to ensure our community is accessible and inclusive. And I’m honored that she felt comfortable applying to Hello Seven in the first place, believing that this could be an environment where she could thrive (and sparkle — as she does!).

Before you go, I want to remind you of a quick (but potentially life-changing!!) announcement:

We’re opening the doors to We Should All Be Millionaires: The Club this week for just 48 hours, and we only have 100 spots available this time around. Our waitlist has doubled since last month, so those 100 spots are gonna go real quick.

The Club is a community where folks can be themselves, fully and truly. Our community is filled with people of all abilities, ages, races, genders, and backgrounds.

Despite their diversity, our members all have one thing in common — they want to make more money by building sustainable businesses.

And we’re here to help.

If you want to be the first to know when we open the doors, get on the waitlist here and look out for our emails headed straight to your inbox this week with more details.

xo,
R

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