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This week I have replaced my t-shirts with a smart shirt, a hotel room for Srins sofa and EU Youth trainers with a UK government minister. Back in the UK the weather is cooler and the sun more hidden, but it is certainly no less dull. Having been abroad for over 2 months, this post will bring you up to speed on my work projects and fill you in on my next couple of weeks. Enjoy!

For anyone a little behind, I spent 2 months in Aviles, Spain for the European Voluntary Service (EVS). I will blog on my concluding thoughts on this experience soon. As I was wrapping things up in Spain I was invited to a training seminar called ‘What Next’ in Antalya, Turkey. This seemed ridiculous to arrive home and fly off again 20 hours later, but also it was an opportunity that was too good to miss. The sessions ran Monday-Friday from 9.30am to 7pm, followed by evening activities – plus our free afternoon. The training shared information and provoked discussion on EVS from the 15 delegates from the UK, Iceland, Austria and Turkey. We were either ex volunteers or from EVS organisations. I made great friends, received a lot of personal development, have new ideas on my disability projects and future partnerships to explore.

Since arriving back at 5am Sunday morning I have been staying at mums house. Being away for 2 months, plus with some new news I will explain later, I do not need my London flat at the moment. So I used Airbnb to sublet the place for a while, cover my costs on the mortgage and ensure my cashflow is ok in the early stages of my self employment. This meant I saw my family, friends and old haunts in the place I grew up. I also slogged through my inbox which had been neglected with all the travel, and pondered my work projects for the next months.

As it stands I am having more hits than ever on this blog (thank you guys!), Disability Horizons is going from strength to strength after the Guardian article, the webinars have been continued from Spain, the employment ecourse has had many registrants and I am already working on a new project for you this summer.

Overall the technology support from Misfit-Inc continues to be awesome, the content coming from you in the community is class, the reach is growing and sustainable funding is the last piece of the puzzle. Therefore raising awareness of my work and seeking funders has been a recent priority of mine. You may have noticed on twitter/facebook 3 considerable occurrences:

1) The big society network accepted me onto their social enterprise program called ‘Nexters’ before Christmas. This means that they will support me with advice, introductions to other people and raising the profile of my work. Next Monday they are hosting an event to achieve exactly these points. If you are interested in attending please click here http://aneveningwithmartynsibley.eventbrite.com/

2) The Nexters also made an introduction to the Government Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller. This is the meeting that brought me to London today. You all know I am fully aware of the campaigning work against the government, indeed I have demonstrated myself with the ‘hardest hit’ march. I mentioned my awareness of how others have not received the support I have, and this has a profoundly negative impact! However my reasons for being there were to discuss online media as a service provider of information to disabled people. The minister asked questions about my personal experiences and on my views of general government provision. She was particularly interested in ‘access to work’ and how to improve this service. I am going to get back to her soon with any ideas I have on this. It would be great to help in such an area. Whizz kidz informed that many of the people they work with hadn’t heard of this, showing the need to promote it. For me ‘access to work’ underpins my own ability to work. I’m excited to explore this and maybe other projects in the future.

3) The Nexters also informed me of UnLtd who give grants to social entrepreneurs. I applied and before Spain was approved for £4,000 towards my technology costs. I was also offered other support and requested a business mentor. This is to help me think strategically with the future, forecast the Sunnier Days’ cashflow and gain general advice from someone with experience. Straight after meeting the minister, I met Don, my new mentor 🙂 He is also a Tottenham fan, has been a CEO, worked in finance and marketing roles, has some great ideas and wants to support my work goals. We talked for over an hour in a cafe and will meet soon with more specific ideas for writing a business plan.

So tonight I am also planning the next 6 months for Disability Horizons with Srin and Liz. We have some great articles, writers and partnerships already lined up. Watch this space after tonights get together. Tomorrow I am being interviewed for Whizz-kids summer training courses, where they will be played at the sessions. Then Thursday I am taking part in their ambassador Q&A session, held online. Then its back to mums, writing the final report for my EVS, planning the next months workwise, back to London Monday for the Nexters event, and hopefully some food and sleep.

It’s very busy, sometimes stressful, sometimes hard to please everyone, but its giving me some stories for the grandkids I can tell you.

My final news is that I am off travelling again next week. After interviewing the manager at Lero in Tenerife last year on my holiday, they have contracted me in to help with their online marketing. Therefore next Thursday I will be working in Tenerife for 10 days. I will of course continue the blogging, magazine, webinars and so forth. This is the beauty of running an online enterprise – change the world and feel stronger from the sun. I don’t think this will last forever, so forgive me in making the most of an exciting few months.

If you have any questions on my travels, my work, or my disability please feel free to contact me. Thanks again for following me and supporting these world changing disability projects! Things are really shaping up with our innovative community.

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Whenever I am writing a blog post or a Disability Horizons article I contemplate which topic it will end up covering. The truth is each of them will span multiple aspects of life. In this piece I want to explain the work I have been doing on webinars. More specifically I want to explain what they are, how they are becoming a useful tool for disabled people, and how they enable me to live a healthier lifestyle.

I first came across a webinar when my friends AJ and Melissa from Misfit Inc mentioned them. The concept is that you use the format of a seminar (speakers, presentations and audience participation) but over the internet. So I attended one of Misfit Inc’s webinars held for the Institute of Fundraising in the UK. After asking nicely, they agreed to train me up on how to use the webinar software, use social media to market them, display PowerPoint slides, record the whole session, add audience polls and a question and answer sessions.

My brain began buzzing. It was absolutely perfect for disseminating information around disability. I already knew the demand for inspiring, helpful and practical content from blogging. So I decided to run a series of 5 sessions around disability:

  • The early years, aimed more for parents
  • The teen years, for parents and disabled teenagers
  • Independent Living Part 1 (housing, employment and equipment)
  • Independent Living Part 2 (social care packages)
  • Leisure and Travel

Between August and November 2011 I ran this series 3 times; once for my personal blog audience, once after being commissioned by disability charity Scope, and a third time for the London Borough of Hackney Council. I had 100 attendees overall and I received great feedback on my evaluation questionnaire from users and also from the organisations involved.

Despite the success of these, I am ever the perfectionist. So I set about how to improve the content, marketing and impact. I knew the content could be improved by moving away from my personal story, bringing in other people to share personal or professional experiences, and by making the experience more interactive. I knew I could improve the marketing by sharing the success of the first webinars, by explaining how simple the technology is and just from being more confident in this medium of support for disabled people. Finally the impact of this project is clear to see. If enough people sign up I have no expenses (no travel and free attendance) and gain new knowledge to improve issues around being disabled, I’d say that the project is therefore defined as awesome!

I have since planned out 6 months of webinars. They cover more specific topics such as volunteering, relationships, travel, social care, housing and so forth. You can see the dates and how to sign up on www.martynsibley.com/webinars.

The first session on volunteering had 3 guest speakers. We had a couple of technical glitches relating to the speakers’ internet speeds, but I have already found a solution if this happens again. In the video below you can see how much helpful information was disseminated to the 20 people who enjoyed the live session. You can also hear the momentary panic I had with the glitches, but how I overcame this as best as possible.

February’s webinar is on the topic of relationships; a topic many disabled people find difficult because of its taboo nature. I have great pleasure in chairing this session with guest speakers Kirsty Liddiard (who studied a PhD at Warwick university on this topic area and is presenting her findings), and Melanie Halacre (a relationship councillor specialising in disability). You can register and attend for free on my website.

Having shared a massive part of my recent work (I say work, but it is so enjoyable it doesn’t quite fit), I want to explain how this enables my ideal work-life balance. When I was employed, working in an office, expected to go in Monday – Friday, 9 – 5, I had some difficult times, especially in the winter. With my disability, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, I have no pain or fatigue, I just cannot move much at all. With my care, wheelchair, equipment and so forth I live an active life. However if I get a cold and it goes on my chest, it is rather concerning. I cannot cough much and so pneumonia becomes a likely outcome. With rest, antibiotics and warmth I fair better. Therefore you can see why self-employment, staying warm, managing my own workload and even working in hotter climates has an appeal.

With my business established, new webinars being rolled out (eventually with sponsorship to make them sustainable and free for attendees), my new e-course being launched soon and some partnership project work, I am getting where I want to be. Having a tool such as a webinar doesn’t just benefit disabled attendees, it benefits a disabled person organising, chairing and running them, i.e. me.

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In my last post I talked you through how important rest and reflection had been for me during the festive season. I definitely feel stronger for having switched off for a couple of weeks. Despite the broken wheelchair, the faulty car, the defective laptop, the change in Personal Assistants, and a lingering cold; my work thoughts have been invigorated. This post will talk you through exactly what my vision is and the plans I have to deliver it. You cool peeps had better pay attention too as you all need to play your own part in changing the world for disabled people (whether you are disabled or not).

Webinars

You may remember my tweeting about webinars last year? Since leaving my day job at Scope I ran 15 webinars for 3 separate audiences:

They were very successful! Over 100 people attended altogether, their feedback was positive and therefore I am planning to continue running these sessions. Some of the difficulties I had included reaching enough people, explaining how simple the technology is (the word ‘webinar’ seemed to turn some people off) and knowing exactly what information was needed.

Thanks to you guys, my understanding of using webinars to disseminate information and create discussions has been improved. Therefore, in 2012 I am going to run 1 FREE session per month. Each session (covering topics such as volunteering, relationships, travel, social care, housing, employment, etc) will give you:

  • useful information;
  • the chance to challenge your own perceptions;
  • and a platform to share your experiences.

You will hear from experts and disabled people. They know about the barriers in the way and have worked hard to overcome them. Now they are able to honestly say “disability does not mean no ability”.

To read more about the monthly webinars, click here, and to register for the next webinar on volunteering, click here.

Spaces are limited so get involved now 🙂

Disability Horizons

I am sure you have already seen www.disabilityhorizons.com, but if you haven’t then where have you been? My good friend Srin Madipalli and I felt so compelled to show the world what can be done with the right mindset and information, we started an online magazine!

Inspired by our world travel and love of adventure, we set-off to find other like-minded people who were keen to write about their amazing adventures too. Since April 2011, with minimal budget, we have:

  • had a website redesign from the awesome guys at Misfit-Inc
  • worked with over 50 writers and organisations
  • been read in over 60 countries
  • grown our readership by 40% each month
  • ran meetups in New York and London
  • shown the world that disabled people can, and do, kick-ass!

Please continue to support the magazine by either reading our articles, writing for us if you feel inspired and sharing the articles with your networks. Also make sure you push your limits in 2012!

Working with external organisations

Beyond working with Scope and Hackney council, I have enjoyed partnering up with many charities, councils, Disabled People’s Organisations (DPO’s), social organisations, media outlets and companies.

My priority is delivering great webinars, magazine and social media content to you. However, I am also looking forward to delivering new:

  • Interesting talks at key events
  • Training workshops
  • Material for TV, radio, newspaper and other publications
  • Projects on using social media, new media, marketing and disability awareness

If this is something that may help you and your organisation, please contact me here

The big one

I am about to launch the largest project of my life. It will give the most inspirational, comprehensive and fundamental information to you. Be sure to read my blog for the launch of this over the next couple of weeks.

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I have recently had some friendly contact from you guys asking why I haven’t written any overarching or political articles of late. I cannot express how busy I have been with the daily grind of self employment: keeping on top of emails, rolling out #disabilitywebinars with Hackney Council and Scope (now both live for their audiences), delivering the webinar series for http://martynsibley.com/, interviewing an amazing variety of disabled people for http://disabilityhorizons.com/ and prospecting new contracts for later in the year. I can assure you this is all said in the most positive of ways and actually is not the reason for my lack of ‘real’ writing.

Alongside all of the nuts and bolts of running my social enterprise, I have just finished writing a book! It outlines a new theory I have created on how disabled people can excel in life. It uses personal experiences alongside professional knowledge. It is currently in the design stages and I plan to launch “The Disability Diamond Theory” ebook next week. The even cooler thing is it will be free to download. Stay tuned in for more information. My usual article standards will be resumed thereafter 😉

You will hopefully have noticed that my recent posts have been lighter but just as engaging. To quickly update you on recent news:

  • The twitpoll results are in and you have sent me to (drum roll please) – Edinburgh! http://martynsibley.com/where-will-you-send-me. So I am in the middle of setting up meetings to collaborate with Disabled People’s Organisation in the city, beginning logistical arrangements and I will keep you posted. Of course, a video blog of my exploration north of the border will ensue.
  • The wheelchair WiFi hotspot project has stalled slightly http://martynsibley.com/wheelchair-wifi-hotspot. I need to purchase a dongle and data package for the cool device sponsored to me. Being so early days with my social enterprise I cannot afford this cost and so I am seeking a sponsor for this element of the project. Please get in touch if you can help.
  • If you haven’t already done so, feel free to watch a recent talk I delivered on ‘disability and technology’ and also the video of my birthday trip to Bournemouth http://martynsibley.com/category/video

I am off to prepare for the book launch, tidy my inbox up and chill out over the weekend. I have a friend visiting tomorrow and we will probably head to Camden for a catch up and a drink. I wish you all a great weekend!

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I have little energy to write a massive post, but this week needs marking! Having recovered from the nostalgia of leaving Scope and the hangover too, Monday was my Independence Day http://martynsibley.com/independence-day

It started by my being one of the official bloggers for the Institute of Fundraisings National Convention http://nationalconventionblog.posterous.com/. Having given up the place I had from Scope to meet fundraisers, learn new ideas, skills and be inspired, it was cool to have a 3 day pass after all. Please see the videos I made for the convention http://martynsibley.com/category/videos

I also met with Hackney council to move the webinar series I am running for them onwards. I met Max Burt about his project to revolutionise access for disabled people. I met with a production company about some potential tv presenting, attended a channel 4 networking evening and interviewed London Transport at Kings cross. I am sure I will have more to share on these projects in time.

So I can honestly say it has been a mad, hectic and amazing first week. Next week I plan to write my marketing plan and make some phone calls about sponsoring my webinars http://martynsibley.com/online-resources

Until then I am hanging with my good friends AJ and Melissa, getting drunk and enjoying my first weekend self employed too. I hope you all had a good week, are enjoying your weekend and are ready to help smash some more amazing ideas out of the park with me.

I will leave you with a little project I started a while back, enjoy – My step brothers band silent house party and I wrote this song!  http://martynsibley.tumblr.com/ hear more of them here http://www.myspace.com/silenthouseparty