New posting! Today we are showcasing Jolene MacDonald, a business owner, advocate & graphic designer from Wellesley, Ontario. Check out what she shared with us.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your disability.
A: I was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, hyper mobility type just over a year ago. For 5 years or so, doctors thought I had fibromyalgia. I was finally able to get into Mount Sinai where I received this diagnosis and met with many doctors after fighting the system locally. Ehlers Danlos (EDS) has 14 sub-types however mine is one of less severe types, thankfully. On top of EDS, I also have several autoimmune issues, which are likely from EDS. The biggest part that affects me is the widespread chronic pain and fatigue, this also includes brain fog and intermittent memory lapses and issues with concentration. Muscle issues, and joint subluxations/dislocations are the most prevalent. If you’d like to learn more, click here!
Q: What is your business and how it started?
A: My business is called Accessibrand, which simply put means accessible branding. I’ve been a graphic designer for over 20 years, but until 2 years ago was a co-founder in a larger agency with a partner. Our industry is very stressful, and I also have 3 children, 2 with health issues, so eventually I just couldn’t stand the pain and fatigue anymore and the added responsibilities and chose to step back and work from home. It was important to focus on myself and my family. Accessibrand started years ago in my mind, while still owning my other business. My youngest daughter has a rare form of dwarfism, and seeing the challenges with people of small stature inspired me to seek out more information on accessibility in design. Never did I think, I would also be a part of the accessibility needs personally. Working from home, as a freelancer designer and focusing on accessibility has allowed me to still do what I love but to be able to rest when needed and be 100% available to my family. Now I can still do graphic design, which I love and combine it with advocating for accessibility, it’s been a win win.
Q: Being someone with a disability influenced the way you manage your business?
A: It’s changed everything in my life and my business. It’s changed how I view everyday needs. I was once a full tilt, go go go type of person. Now some days it’s a challenge to get a small to do list done. My clients are aware up front of how some days are, but they value my skills and experience and understand where I’m at. Clients that don’t value me and only see negatives are not a fit for me. I’m still as productive as I was before in many ways, but in a totally different capacity and format. My skills and capabilities are just as important as the next person, my schedule is just not the same as typical ones. What I now offer is exceptional insight into disabilities and accessibility.
Q: Do you think the business community still has misconceptions towards those with disabilities?
A: Absolutely! Especially in my case, where 80% of the time mine is invisible. People that are differently abled offer the same value to any organization and sometimes are more valuable based on how they’ve refined their skill sets. Whether is be remote work or in office, those with disabilities are no different than those that aren’t. It’s educating employers and the public on seeing past labels.
Q: Would you have any advice to someone that is disabled and is struggling to find a job or to build a business?
A: Try not to get discouraged as much as you can. Even for myself, some days are hard. I’m not who I once was, but I still have just as much to offer. Find your passion(s), spend time doing what makes you happy. Look at your disability as an advantage over others. Perhaps there’s something out their based on your experience that someone needs help with and you can offer that perspective. Get involved with social good organizations and non profits, volunteer. You are valuable and capable and needed.
"Accessibility should not be done after, it should be part of the process. Accessible branding is for everyone."
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Tee Talent Inc is a social enterprise that was founded to promote the talent of professionals with disabilities. We offer custom t-shirts, promotional products, graphic design services and public speaking services. Learn more about us.