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This post is going to tackle a few bits of criticism I have had in the past months, but mainly it aims to acknowledge criticism from myself and what I will do to rectify it.

For most of you this will sound strange after the amazing year I have had.

In summary, so far in 2012 I have:

• Launched the first ever ecourse on disability and employment (with a full email guide, 13 video interviews, 6 modules and useful web links). Made totally free by Misfit-Inc.

• Delivered new webinars with other disabled people and industry professionals. Videos are still available to view.

Volunteered abroad in Spain for a social project with disadvantaged social groups

• Been featured in the Guardian with Srin for Disability Horizons magazine

• Attended a European Union training course in Turkey

Visited Tenerife for a working partnership

• Managed to do a SCUBA dive in Tenerife

• Visited the Calvert Trust in Exmoor for abseiling and adrenaline action

So what is the criticism? Well, if you look at the comments on the Guardian article you will have a flavour, and similar sentiments have come in throughout my blogging career. My immediate reaction was sadness and frustration. I put so much thought, time and energy into my disability projects; it was deflating to have such negative feedback. This was made harder because it was disabled people making the criticism. Instead of becoming angry and defensive, I have tried to understand why they felt this way.

After some time I have come to the conclusion that there are three types of reasons:

1) With the world recessions, UK government cuts and threats to disabled peoples rights; projects are being run to defend social care and welfare policy. If someone like me is working, travelling and having fun; it could be viewed that the campaigning argument is weakened or that I am naïve to this.

My view on this is that it has a logic, but it is short-sighted. I would argue that having someone like myself with a government funded wheelchair, hoist, car and social care provision gives the exact case for not cutting these budgets! Clearly if the budgets were cut I could not work, travel or even get out of bed, would cost the state far more in terms of lost income/tax revenue and increased costs from deteriorating health. So, the campaigning to government must continue, and I see my personal story being a small part of this. Alongside my personal story, my projects such as the elearning and the magazine all add further weight to this argument. We all have different roles to play in social change.

2) I can totally see looking back at the last 6 months how crazy life has been. The point of my blog is to show what an everyday person with a disability can achieve. The problem I have noted is not that I do too much, but rather I have made it look a lot easier than it really is. At the ‘Big society – Nexters event’, to help me raise vital funds for my social enterprise, it was stated by a close friend in the audience (Chris Fisher from LCD, who helped me volunteer in Spain) that I hadn’t shared the worries, fears and struggles of going to Spain enough. The risk is that the amazing things I have been able to do, after years of working towards them, look out of reach. The major inferences I have had are – “you must be less disabled than me” or “you know the right people” or “you must be rich”.

My response to this is two-fold.

Firstly I truly believe that anything is possible. My free ebook – The Disability Diamond Theory looks at the ‘inputs’ I had in younger life; the importance of government provision, family understanding and support, inclusion at school and socially with friends. I understand if someone cannot access these things, then life will be more difficult; hence the need for campaigning and ensuring equality in disability provision for all. However, I also think mindset matters a great deal. If a person really wants something bad enough, defines this goal, identifies the barriers in the way and slowly finds solutions; they will get there.

Disclaimer: I am aware this holds true more for a physical disability, and I am in no-way speaking for people with a learning disability, chronic pain or chronic fatigue, and other such conditions.

Secondly, and where my main criticism comes from myself, is in explaining the struggles along the way. I don’t want this blog to turn into a defensive and self justifying rant. For those who know my disability and general situation; you will know how little I can do myself, the fact I haven’t got millions in the bank, that I have worked hard for years to get here and that I worry as much as anyone else.

Going forward I therefore need to outline the issues faced and efforts made, because otherwise the results look too untouchable – and this is not the case at all.

3) Human nature is the third reason. Whether disabled or not, people have reactions to other people in life. If someone is perceived to be doing well, it can be seen to make others look bad and sometimes cause jealousy.

My reaction is I don’t think what I am doing is so great. I am just living my life and have many new goals I am trying to reach. I am not near where I want to be (which is being comfortable financially, having a family, supporting disability issues and seeing more of the world).

However, for those who feel threatened or jealous by me, I have to say something that I hate to – I wont stop being me. I know my work is doing good things, so I guess I have to be less sensitive, and just explain what I do and why better . The best advice I have had is you can’t please everyone!

To conclude, I hope for anyone reading this with a critical view can see my motives and personal development. If you feel my work or general approach has flaws, please do get in touch and help me to improve. We all learn and progress everyday, with help from each other.

Otherwise I am going to press on with growing the impact of the blog, Disability Horizons, the webinars and elearning projects. I also have a new project coming soon that I need your help with (tune in next week) and some more travel plans (my biggest yet).

Have a great weekend and keep it real.
Martyn

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“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Robert F Kennedy, 1966

I remember reading the above quote whilst working at Scope soon after graduating from university. It didn’t resonate immediately, but looking back I can see how both this quote and my time working at Scope had a big effect.

For those who are newer to my world, I want to share something with you. My upbringing wasn’t political, my university life was typically ideological and my working life was full of political friction. This friction was from the political awakening I had that many disabled people are still oppressed. I didn’t want to believe this as it surely couldn’t be true. With many late night talks with my friend Richard Currie I realised that whilst we had worked hard through school, university and social life; we had been relatively lucky, but we still faced discrimination too. Sure, with supportive parents, friends and professionals we had gained the necessary foundations to overcome the physical barriers we faced. On the flip side we struggled for work, social care funding and trying to find accessible transport. One of the hardest things I have had to do was acknowledge this truism and still not lose the positive attitude that had enabled me to get by in such a world.

As you may have heard me mention many times, I am in Spain at the moment. The break from routine, meeting new people and having a more open mind has had me thinking. In the past 3 years I know I have made ripples with my blog, Disability Horizons, the webinars, the ecourse and talks I have given. Personally, I had aimed to leave my job, start a social business and travel more. To realise these personal and professional achievements is great, but I also see that it is only the beginning.

With some space from the grind and pressures in London, I have started to set some goals for myself. I can easily define my personal goals for you:

1)      stay healthy

2)      maintain the loving relationships I have with my family and friends

3)      continue collaborating with great people for social change

4)      pay the bills and have food on the table

5)      continue to explore new places, meet new people and never stop growing as a person

My goals within my work are more complex.

I am very aware that my projects cannot support all disabled people. Some of the feedback from the Guardian article assumed Srin and I were ignorant to other impairments, socio-economic backgrounds, personality types and so forth. The fact is I know that many people are calling out for a positive, pragmatic and practical voice on disability. I just don’t want this to be seen so ‘black and white’ in comparison to the other voices, publications and approaches. We all have the same goals and we all seek to do this in our own ways.

Therefore goal number 1 is to clarify the values within my work, the messages that carry them, improve the channels that deliver them and ensure I am clearer about who will benefit from them.

Most of my work has been online. This has made so much sense because I was able to deliver these projects alongside a day-job, reach many people worldwide for no cost and travel more myself. Since being in Spain I have taught English, run a CV workshop and given talks to local youth groups. I have appreciated the buzz I get from face to face interaction, the benefit of seeing a persons reaction to your words and making amazing progress. Just today I met 6 young lads who dabble with alcohol and drug abuse. To just explain that I am disabled, things are harder and life can suck, but that I have managed to do the EVS project and live in Spain for 2 months; changed their architecture of possibilities (Currie, 2012). I know the word ‘inspiring’ gets cheesy, but it really is a powerful tool in certain circumstances.

Goal number 2 is to learn new tools here at Europe aqui and use them back home. I plan to propose engaging and empowering workshops to councils/NGO’s/charities for both disabled and non-disabled youngsters. I think this can make waves rather than ripples!

You have seen me defending the reasons why my projects are less ‘political’. As someone rightly said the personal is political. In Spain they are having a strike tomorrow against a change in employment law. To see the passion and belief in the activists instilled a spark that had withered after so much graft and pressure the past months. Everything I do is about people. If people suffer injustice it should be spoken against. This is not to say my blog, Disability Horizons and so forth will become political campaigning tools. No. I stand by my words that others do this better. However when for example Srin is left stranded in Sydney without a wheelchair due to incompetent baggage handlers, I think something can be done without losing the general tone of ‘living life to the max’.

Goal number 3 is to collaborate with disability campaigners in recognition that without the right policies, funding and education; the lifestyles disabled people can and want to live cannot be realised.

Despite the knowledge I have gained on disability, it is fair to say I have learnt a lot on social media, communications and general marketing strategies.

Goal number 4 is to collaborate with other organisations and share these techniques to benefit their cause.

Going forward I see my projects showing the world how ‘able’ disabled people are, and showing disabled people (please see generic caveat of who this may not apply to) how much can be achieved.

As I try to deliver the best projects for disability social change, I know I will have decisions to make. In balancing the need for funding, the need for political clout, the need for media coverage and the need for staying true to my origins; it will not be simple.

My personal story will also become less prevalent, and your stories more so. I plan to create the frameworks, platforms, content, learning and sharing from your ideas.

If you have any thoughts on my personal journey, these new life goals and most importantly on the direction of my work please do get in touch. I cannot stress enough that it is you guys who make these ripples count… Kennedy states this so well!

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If you hadn’t already picked up on this; I love supporting disabled people who know they truly can achieve their dreams, but for varying reasons keep hitting external barriers.

I have learnt that with someone who:

  • can listen and understand
  • has hit those barriers themselves
  • thought, strategised, planned and pushed onwards
  • through sheer grit, determination and willpower smashed the barriers down

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!

Since going self employed, running the magazine, delivering webinars and interacting more online, I have met so many cool people. On a few occasions I have offered 30 minutes of my time, for free, to give the above points to disabled people, parents and professionals.

The feedback was that the inspiration, information and targets we set together enabled them to go off and implement the changes they needed to. Since then, things have improved for these guys and they are now progressing by themselves.

This post is to offer the first 10 people who contact me a free 30 minute skype call. I am not looking to sell paid sessions thereafter, or launch a mentoring project. I just want to do this because it makes a huge difference to you guys!

If you think a chat, some new ideas and a few goals will help you, then holla me on martyn@martynsibley.com

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Welcome to a new chapter of my life! It is hardly a shocker to hear as I have been banging on about this for a few weeks. However, today is officially Independence Day! The 4th of July 2011 is the day I begin working full time on changing the world for disabled people and their families. It is also the day I begin life without a regular salary. Let me just talk you through how I am feeling, my plans for this new era and how I need you guys to work with me.

My last day at Scope felt quite emotional. Whilst the decision is right for me now, 5 years is a long time to have a routine, meet amazing people and be part of a great organisation. My manager did a lovely speech, I awkwardly managed a few words, I had a card signed by everyone, some cool presents (concert vouchers, kindle voucher, Alan Sugars book, road tripping USA guide and a globe), and then we ate cake. Straight afterwards I had a meeting for the magazine www.disabilityhorizons.com (more on this great progress another time), attended Arcade Fire in concert Thursday (video coming soon) and my leaving drinks were Friday.

All in all it was a tiring, nostalgic, nice and weary week. Now I am getting my mind over the sad elements, and focused on the future. This future is to work full time on new media projects to shake things up positively for disabled people!

My plans work in 2 areas:

  • to empower disabled people (especially the younger generation) to be more aspirational, and with the right information to achieve their goals.
  • meanwhile, I want to show society that disabled people can and do achieve if we all assist in removing the many everyday barriers in the way.

Online conversations – I will spend more time online engaging and understanding disability issues. By learning from disabled people around the world what their hopes/dreams are and the reasons they may not pursue them, I will create solutions to overcome this. Furthermore with my co-editor Srin we plan to achieve online learning and support through www.disabilityhorizons.com by allowing others to write and share their own experiences too.

The following explanation of my new website pages will assist you in seeing this more clearly.

Blog – where I will continue to share my life experiences and pass on useful information.

About – for a new visitor to understand me, my life, why I want to support other disabled people, my media work and my ‘SunnierDays’ projects.

Philosophy – in every article, video, seminar and project I have a philosophy underpinning it. The 3 parts are to understand your limits, know your goals and the barriers stopping you reaching them, and then grabbing life!

The tribe – I am not wanting, aiming or able to improve life for disabled people alone. It takes lots of individuals to better themselves, to support each other, demand positive change and collectively work towards an improved world for all. Subscribe to the blog and join the tribe, its going to be a cool journey 🙂

Online learning – to read about and sign up for the latest Apps, seminars and future projects please head here.

Give me a shout – to feedback your thoughts, ideas and questions click here. In a multimedia world there are a few channels to contact me on. I can also be booked here for speaking engagements.

The second part of my plans are with ‘SunnierDays’, which is my social enterprise.

Aim one is to pay the mortgage and eat some food next month. However I hope SunnierDays can work with society to remove the barriers blocking some disabled people from living the dream.

To begin with I am packaging up my professional and personal experiences into a series of seminars. With one hour on a range of relevant topics, the seminars are delivered online and free to you (backed by companies, charities or Local Authorities). They are accessible in so many ways (with no need for transport, zero expenditure and beamed into your home). Then, using real life examples and useful tips around education, employment, travel and independent living, the attendee leaves with specified learning outcomes.

Having honed certain skills to find innovative solutions for disabled people through new media, I am keen to share this knowledge. I will achieve this by working with:

  • Organisations setup for disabled people – I will work for a specific period of time to understand an organisation and their service users’ vision, aims and challenges. I will then recommend new media projects that can make a bigger impact for their service users. From growing memberships, increasing the number of ‘active’ service users, creating an online community and upskilling staff, I will leave the organisation with inspiring and useful changes.
  • Everyday organisations – whether in leisure, travel, entertainment and so forth, every business has a disabled customer base. Partnership work will find solutions for a better customer experience with improved customer services. An example would be the use of an i-pad to show a disabled customer a video tour of an area in a museum they cannot otherwise access.

Beyond my new found profession, I have a few personal goals to share on Independence Day. These include:

  • Finding a good work routine – to work sensible hours and find some cool cafes with wireless internet
  • Networking – I hope to meet other workshifters (remote workers) in London and when travelling
  • Productive working – even with an additional 35 hours in my life now, working for myself will never be a 9-5. However I hope to get my energy levels up and more quality time back with friends
  • Exercise – now I have flexible working hours I plan to do more physio, regular swimming and other beneficial exercise
  • Campaigns – beginning with twit polls, we are going to tackle the big issues that bother you. To get your creative juices flowing, how about one day where we take photos of inaccessible locations, hashtag the twitpics and collate a website of the shots? We could call it #nochairsgo?
  • Travel – you all know my love for travel! Once the business is running, I hope to travel, work from my laptop and meet interesting people. I would love to interview disabled people around the world for my blog or a tv documentary. To show my difficulties in accessing South America, Asia and Africa, set against the lack of everyday provision for disabled people who live there would be amazingly insightful.

Watch this space guys! I hope you feel energised and ready to change the world! I am off to blog for the Institute of Fundraising National Convention. What a cool start to a new chapter…