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Disability Speaker

Do You Want Customers With Disabilities?

What follows is a tale of two businesses.  Both experiences occurred on the same day.  Both were given a fair shot at my business.  One succeeded greatly, and the other failed miserably.

Customers With Disabilities: Epic Failure

The cleaning of my teeth was finally finished when the dentist entered the room.  This was my first visit to this dentist, and while I’m not going to shame them by mentioning his name or the name of his practice, I will say that he has glowing reviews on several public opinion sites.  The dentist came in and within ten seconds of meeting him, he said the following:

When I saw you come in, I told the hygienist that you likely had poor dental hygiene, and if that was the case, you’d need to see me every two to three months instead of the regular six months.  It turns out you have great dental hygiene, but if that changes because you can’t brush your teeth or no one will help you, you’ll need to come back more often.

There are so many things wrong with his statement that I didn’t even respond until I returned home and called his office.  First, his snap judgement of me was dead wrong.  He assumed that I was unable to brush my teeth before he even talked to me.  This assumption led to several insulting remarks.  Second, the fact that he would tell me about his incorrect first impression is unbelievable.  Making a snap judgement is bad enough, but now you are going to insult me by telling me you assumed I wasn’t capable of caring for myself?  If you guessed wrong, keep it to yourself!  Finally, he wouldn’t let go of his initial assessment.  He guessed wrong, told me he guessed wrong, and then proceeded to try and validate his assessment by assuming that my disability would further limit me in the future.  While that is a possibility, there is no current evidence of that occurring.  He so badly needed his hypothesis to be right, so he further assumed problems that may or may not happen.  The dentist failed in so many ways, that I cancelled a future appointment with him, and will never go back.

(Epilogue: I found a FANTASTIC dentist after searching for a bit, and am very happy to refer anyone to Just for Grins in Keller, TX.  They are awesome!)

Customers With Disabilities: Wonderful Success

Customers With Disabilities DoorwayOn that very same day, I went to a branch of my bank to which I rarely go.  I was by myself, which meant no drive thru banking for me.  I gathered up my deposit info and rolled out of my van and up to the door of the bank.  Usually, when I approach a business that does not have a door opening button, I get to sit and wait until someone sees me and opens the door.  It can be a little humiliating, and that humiliation grows the longer I have to wait.  So, imagine my surprise when the door swung open just as I approached.  A man whom I’d never met before opened both sets of doors and greeted me kindly.  He introduced himself as Al, the bank manager!  He took my deposits to the back and processed them himself, so that I did not have to wait in line nor did I have to reach up to the tall counter where the tellers are located.  Upon leaving, he gave me his business card and said to call him any time I was coming up, and he would come open the doors.  I’ve already tested his promise on another occasion, and he was true to his word.  He’s the bank manager, yet he has time to open the door for me.  Greatness.

Which One Wanted My Business?

The answer is obvious.  The bank manager desires for me to continue banking with his branch and he shows me that desire by treating me so well.  The dentist was arrogant and rude, and he desperately needs MY Disability Awareness training seminar.  By the way he treated me, he showed me that he did not want me there.  I don’t remain in places where I’m not wanted.

So, the question goes to you.  Do you want my business?  Do you want customers with disabilities?  Then show them you want them.  Begin brainstorming ways to make your customers with special needs feel wanted.  Make your location more accessible, but more importantly, have an accessible attitude.  There is an entire untapped market of people with special needs, and this market will reward your efforts by remaining loyal to your accessible business.

Do you want customers with disabilities?  Then build an accessible business both physically and mentally.  Simple as that.

Tour de Nebraska – Part Two

After a wonderful weekend in Omaha, we drove over to Kearney, NE, on Monday for our next stop, the University of Nebraska at Kearney.  While I did have a few flashbacks to dorm life in the guest dorm room we stayed in, I loved being a few minutes away from all of the events on campus.  We ate dinner with the students from Collegians for Integration and Accessibility, and had a wonderful time getting to know them.  Several of the girls became Hannah’s (my two year old) best friend while we there.  We felt like family even though we’d only been there for a few hours.

Disabilities Panel at University of Nebraska - KearneyOn Tuesday, it was time to get to work.  I was invited to be on a panel for students with disabilities, even though it has several years since I was a student.  I really enjoyed being on the panel and hearing perspectives from other panel members on what life was like living with their particular disability.  I was not even aware of some of the disabilities shared on that panel, and found the afternoon very educational for all involved.  I especially appreciated the positive attitude found in the entire room.  So often, when disabilities are discussed in any setting, it can be a very negative and/or condescending experience.  This was not the case at UNK, and I am glad to have been a part of such an educational experience.

Tuesday evening, I got the chance to tell my story and answer some questions from the students.  We had a blast together, and I truly hope that my story made a difference and gave the students in attendance some things to think about.  For many that were there, I hope that my message of a joy-filled life was either a boost or a reminder to do what they were already doing so well.

I appreciate the acceptance and friendships that were formed in the short time we were on campus, and I hope to be back to speak again and meet a whole new set of students in a few years!

Disability Awareness at Harper College

Just over a week ago, I was asked to speak to students and faculty at Harper College just outside of Chicago, IL, on disability awareness. I told my story of growing up in a body with no arms, and gave the attendees a few tips on interacting with people in wheelchairs along with a few ideas on how to live a happy life. The space they had me in is called a “black box” theater which provided a very intimate setting. After I spoke, we had a great Q&A time in which the students and faculty asked me questions that ranged from from how I met my wife to how I became a disability awareness speaker.

The group was fantastic, and even though it was a very short trip, I really enjoyed getting to be at Harper College for a few hours. I love the opportunity to teach others about my experiences in what the world sees as a “handicapped body.”. Many times, appearences can be very deceiving. All in all, judging from their reactions, the attendees at Harper College were entertained and enlightened.

FUSE Foundation Retreat – A Whole Lotta Stories

Fuse Foundation Retreat - Chet McDoniel speaks on happinessThis past weekend, Joni and I drove up to Wichita, KS, as I had been invited to speak at the FUSE Foundation’s Retreat. The FUSE Foundation was established in 2008 to provide opportunities for social networking, recreation and education for young adults with neuromuscular disease. The “campers” had spent Friday and Saturday having a wonderful time getting to know each other, playing fun games, and I even found out about some midnight karaoke.

I was asked to come in for their final morning together on Sunday and tell them about my story. I realized as I was speaking that many of these young adults had been through more difficult times than I had, and that I could very well learn some lessons from them rather than the other way around. I told my story as I usually do, told them about the love of Jesus that goes so much deeper than the way we look, and then I opened the floor up to questions as I often do. Well, I was not prepared for what came next!

The group there had the funniest questions and stories to tell me that I had ever heard. Whether it be from friends trying to sneak one girl, who is in a wheelchair, past a security camera by simply having her wear a ski mask, (“Yeah, that’ll hide my wheelchair,” she said) or making up why we are handicapped when someone asks us a rude question (One guy there said he had gotten someone else to believe he had fallen off of the Empire State Building), these stories were hilarious. They had me laughing so hard, I almost couldn’t breathe.

I so enjoyed being with the FUSE Foundation group as I learned so much about being happy in the face of struggles. These young adults are the light of the world, and I thank them for their smiles last Sunday morning as I spoke. You all are awesome!!!

Fuse Foundation Retreat Group Picture with Chet McDoniel

Lebanon, TN – 04/17/09 – CIA Day – Morning Speaker

CIA Day - Morning Speaker
9:15am - All Ages
5400 Coles Ferry Pike
Lebanon, TN, USA 37087
Other Info
From FCS website:
CIA DAY (Commanders in Action) is another incredible opportunity the students are given each spring to serve others who are different from them. For this annual service day, special-needs students from all over Wilson County are brought to FCS to spend a day with our students.

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