The term “Leadership” is often thought to be interchangeable with “management”, however, this isn’t always the case. Rafael Sanchez-Bayo, the Editor of Ability Options’ quarterly newsletter TheVoice, penned his thoughts on the importance of leadership and the role it plays in making a difference to the world in the 2022 Winter Edition of the newsletter.

Living with a disability has taught me many things about myself, some I have only recently discovered.
When I was younger, my teachers didn’t think I would be able to navigate the real world, let alone graduate, because I did not represent their definitions and views of what a ‘normal’ student looks like.

When I finished school, I decided to make a change in my life. I found a career path to pursue, excelled in my university studies, and have now established myself professionally. My disability didn’t stop me from leading an independent life, it has made me become more aware of my strengths and able to accept my limitations, making it easier for me to shape my life.

We are often taught about the importance of leadership and the role it plays in making a difference to the world. Leadership is not only about directing businesses, managing a team, or becoming a politician. There are many ways we can become leaders of our own lives. Being a leader doesn’t mean being the top student in our class or the CEO of a company.

For people with disability, working towards independence and sharing our journeys with others creates a network of people who not only support each other, but also find new ways to advocate and improve the lives of people with disability. This is true leadership, aspiring to lift others in their care.

One of the most common disability myths I often hear is that people with disability rely on others to be led. This is not true. People with disability have the capability and responsibility to represent the community just like everyone else.

All they need is appropriate accessibility, so that their potential can shine. Leadership is mutual; the community works together to create accessibility, so that people with disability can fully and equally participate and achieve their full potential.

For example, by installing a wheelchair ramp or investing in adjustments to the workplace, an organisation is demonstrating leadership and will lift people’s lives. In this case, crucial barriers to success are removed, and people with disability can demonstrate their potential and become a role model for the community and other people with disability.

They are leading the way. Leadership can be as small as visiting the local café to have a coffee and chat with the staff and fellow customers. That person has already led the way to alter the perception on disability in the community.

In my case, working as the Editor of TheVoice has opened my mind to new perspectives and helped me to realise and demonstrate my passion for writing. Getting to know my role was not easy at first. For the first few months, I worked hard and stayed focused on building my career and getting my first newsletter published.

When I opened up to Ability Options about my disability, they went above and beyond to support me in my career development and made sure that I am happy in my role and that my contributions are valued. Thanks to the support of both my team and other colleagues, I am thriving in my role and continue to advocate for people with disability and have their voices heard through my writing.

Working in my role at Ability Options has opened the door to different opportunities which have allowed me to carve the beginning of my career in media. One of those opportunities was a chance to work with the ABC in telling my own disability story.

I was able to share my experiences as a person living with disability, as I wanted people to have a better understanding of who I am. Telling my story has been a big step forward for me not only in my career, but also in how I communicate my needs with others. Today, I am not afraid to talk about my disability and share my experiences with other people in the community.

Leadership is for everyone. It is important to remember that people with disability are the leaders of their own lives. They choose where they want to live, what career they want to pursue, and how they want to spend their leisure time. Living independently is both an important and empowering step in any person’s life.

While it is important that you learn how to navigate through each step by yourself, it is good to know that there are people and services to turn to who are ready to support you.

The role of a disability service provider is to support and guide individuals towards achieving their chosen goals, but it is up to the person receiving that support to decide how they reach their goal.

At the end of the day, it is your life, and success leads and enriches you, the people who supported you, and the community as a whole.

You are your own leader. Leadership is mutual.

Do you know someone who could benefit from our services?

Refer them to Ability Options to help them get the support they want and deserve.

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