Dean Reynolds has been self-employed as an accessibility consultant for just under a year now and is ready to change the way we think about the world. However, as someone with a life-changing disability he was finding it a bit of a struggle trying to do everything himself.
Suffering from profound hearing loss for most of his life, Dean also has to contend with Meniere’s Disease (an ear condition that can cause sudden attacks of vertigo) and Peripheral Neuropathy which is a type of nerve damage that can cause pain, numbness and weakness. After a friend mentioned the support he could get in his business from This is Me, he contacted Michelle to find out exactly what was involved and so far, and while initially reluctant (as he thought the role of the support worker might be similar to that of a carer) he hasn’t been disappointed!
Dean issues stem mostly from mobility problems, having to walk with a crutch and often use a wheelchair to get around. His profound hearing loss means he has to rely on his hearing aids and his lip-reading ability (not helpful when everyone is wearing a face mask) and suffers with severe fatigue compounded by being in constant pain, all of which have a detrimental effect on his stamina and can make running a business problematic.
Practically, Dean’s limited mobility means that physically attending meetings and training courses can be extremely difficult, especially as many places aren’t as accessible as they could be. His hearing loss affects his ability to listen to conversations in noisy environments with lots of background sounds and as previously mentioned, the necessity of face masks in this coronavirus world only make it more of a challenge. Mentally, the pain and fatigue limit the number of hours he can work which means he needs to be more efficient with the time he does have.
Having a support worker through Access to Work and This is Me has changed the way Dean works drastically. He now has a team in place to help ensure the foundations of the business are there and has support with things like administration, marketing, video production, best practices, research, finance, customer service and business planning (phew, that’s a list!) leaving Dean free to work on the most important bit which is the service itself. They meet regularly through the week to produce marketing videos, develop and maintain admin systems and discuss current and future projects and how to put them into practice.
An immediate benefit of the support team means that Dean has been able to engage two new business clients and is currently providing an accessibility audit on each business. His support worker is assisting him with managing his meetings and providing the admin and finance support for both projects so he can work on the audit itself. In the future, Dean envisages growing the business with an increase in clients and projects, utilising the support team’s skills to ensure efficiency and reliability.
While the global Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way they communicate, Dean and the team have managed to work with each other to make sure that the business still runs smoothly. He already had most of the necessary technology in his home office to allow him to host and take part in Zoom meetings and even though he does prefer meeting in person, keeping in touch with his support workers via video has enabled him to continue to work.
Contacting Michelle and getting to know his support team have given Dean’s business the best possible start and support in place to help it grow. Knowing that there are others there who can help and specifically meet his needs has been a game changer so for anyone out there who’s wondering whether or not it’s worth it, Dean says do it! You never know where you could be in twelve or even six months time!