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Wednesday Wisdom: Communication The Right Way

July 18, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom, Inspiration and Business Success Strategies for Women Entrepreneurs and Female Business Owners

American women will celebrate the National Suffrage Centennial in 2020. New York State women celebrated their 100th Suffrage Anniversary last year. As I witnessed the speaking topics being delivered in 2017 Centennial events, I noticed a missing presentation topic. The topic was about women in sports and what has or more importantly has not advanced the past 100 years for women athletes. As an athletic enthusiast and supporter of women in sports through our five year old Women’s Athletic Network, 261Fearless.Org and Syracuse University, I wanted to create a presentation on the subject to enlighten women in 2019 and 2020.

Having found myself on medical sabbatical the past three months with plenty of time to think and write, I started the research for a presentation (now deemed project) by interviewing female athletes in all levels and types of sports. One of the women I spoke with was Shawn Cheshire, a blind onetime paralympian cyclist who competed in the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 and lived in Central New York until a few years ago. Shawn has competed at the National and International levels in multiple para-sports, including adaptive rowing, adaptive biathlon, and tandem road para-cycling. She is short of amazing.

As I prepared to interview Shawn over the phone, she taught me a business lesson I wanted to share with you today. I sent her the questions in advance when she said, “I can’t read the questions because they are in an attachment which is not ‘voice over compatible.'” I apologized and told her I never communicated with a blind person before. Seeing-impaired people can read email messages but not attachments unless they are “voice over compatible” so they can hear what the attachment says. I never knew about this technology or the use of it.

Unless we have a physical impairment, accident or medical situation that occurs to us, we don’t consider how communication can work better for others in our community. My mother taught dance to the deaf, so I am aware of sign language and can use it. There are also sign language interpreters for events, meetings and in hospitals.

We all by now understand what physical structures or adaptations we need entering our workplace and in common spaces to accommodate handicap individuals and older clients visiting us. There are numerous handicap laws but yesterday was the first time I contemplated communicating with a seeing-impaired person in 23 years of business. Does that mean a blind woman can’t read this blog post unless I use the proper technology?

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom might motivate you to look outside your own world and see what might be missing to make your business easier to work with if someone has a specific impairment like deafness, blindness or physical handicaps. It took this amazing blind paralympian to simply inform me what I needed to do to communicate with her. The photo of Shawn above is her hiking in the Grand Canyon with her friends!

If you have time these hot days of summer, create a list of ways your business can become more accommodating to customers with special needs so you both can do business together. We don’t want to miss potential clients because we are unaware of what it takes to communicate and work with them better.

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