Embracing Accessibility: My Personal Journey | The Financial Technologist

5 Minutes

Accessibility isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a fundamental concept that can transform lives. My...

Accessibility isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a fundamental concept that can transform lives. My life is testament to its power. Hi, I’m Kris Foster, and I was born with Down syndrome and autism. Today, I want to share with you my deeply personal journey of how my company made significant and cost-effective adjustments to accommodate my unique needs in the workplace. It’s a story of inclusivity, understanding, and the incredible impact of reasonable adjustments. Understanding Accessibility Before we dive into my personal experience, let’s first understand what accessibility means to me. Accessibility goes beyond ramps and elevators; it’s about designing a world where everyone can participate fully, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. It’s fundamental about breaking down barriers and ensuring equal access to opportunities for all. Meet Kris Foster: My Story Now, let me take a moment to introduce myself. I’m Kris Foster, and my life is a fusion of Down syndrome and autism. These aspects are not limitations; they are facets of my identity that shape who I am. But they also present unique challenges, particularly in a bustling workplace. Reasonable Adjustments That Changed Everything Imagine starting your workday at around 7 in the morning, finishing up at 3 in the afternoon. These hours aren’t arbitrary; they are carefully chosen to accommodate my sensory sensitivities, which can be triggered by noise, smells, and crowded spaces. These triggers can significantly affect my mental health. The 7am start time isn’t just about work; it’s about the hustle and bustle of getting from home to work and back. My journey from home to work and vice versa is a key part of my day. The sensory bombardment of crowded trains, bustling stations, and the general chaos of rush hour used to leave me feeling overwhelmed and anxious. But my workplace made a significant difference by providing accommodations that allowed me to navigate these challenges. The Power of Allyship: A Personal Perspective When I started with the company, I was wary of being seen as just a token hire. I wanted to be valued for my skills and contributions rather than my disabilities. It was during an open and honest conversation with HR that my perspective began to shift. I’ll never forget the words from HR that moved me deeply: “Kris, we will get it wrong, and you will get it wrong, but if we work together, we will get it right.” The word “together” resonated with me. It signalled a fundamental shift towards collaboration and understanding. A Fun and Exciting Turn of Events In March this year, I had an incredible opportunity to share my story with a wider audience. I spoke about how Thredd found me and how together, we can bring real change to the world of fintech. This was an amazing chance for me to be seen and heard, to urge more organisations to step into my world, and to bring more people with disabilities into the industry. What made it even more special was the impact it had on the audience. I had individuals come up to me, sharing their personal stories of having a child with a disability or a family member. They explained how my journey had shaped their thoughts and aspirations. It was mind-blowing to realize that my story was making a difference, not just in my life but in the lives of others. I’ve met some incredible individuals along this unique journey, rooted for my success, and offered valuable advice. Money 2020 reached out to me, asking if I would share my story, this journey of hope, with a broader audience. I had the incredible opportunity to speak not once but twice. First, in the RiseUp and Amplify room, where we delved a little more personally into disability and what “good” should look like. And then, on a main stage, where I shared the support I’ve received from my company and those in the industry. They’ve been incredibly supportive and genuinely want me to succeed. My Baby, Openbook But my journey doesn’t stop at the workplace. I’ve embarked on an incredible project that’s close to my heart - Openbook. Openbook is a platform where we educate those who may not understand those with disabilities. We share incredible stories that inspire hope and build communities. We’ve hosted over 150 live events featuring a diverse range of individuals, from actors to Paralympians to the creative director of Nike. These stories aren’t just stories; they’re beacons of hope. They show that disability does not discriminate; it affects every race, religion, sex, and age. One highlight from last year was our collaboration with Footpatrol, part of JD Sports. It was a groundbreaking event where we invited non-disabled people into our world. It was a monumental moment for me, demonstrating that my abilities and differences are significant and valuable in our society. What Allyship Means to Me What I adore about allyship is that it’s a bridge between worlds. It’s a pact between those who face unique challenges and those who want to support them. It’s a commitment to walk together, learn together, and grow together. Allyship isn’t about having all the answers; it’s about having the compassion and willingness to listen, learn, and adapt. To me, allyship embodies the spirit of unity and progress. It’s a powerful force for change that extends beyond the workplace into all aspects of life. It’s about recognizing that we are stronger together, that our differences make us richer, and that together, we can create a world where everyone has the opportunity to shine. At its core, allyship is about empathy, advocacy, commitment, humility, education, action, and accountability. It’s a bond forged through compassion and shared goals—a promise to build a world where everyone’s potential can be realized, regardless of their background or circumstances. A Deeper Look Ahead In this article, Kris Foster delves even deeper into my journey and how these adjustments, allyship, accessibility, and Openbook have transformed my professional life. We’ll explore the broader impact of these principles on individuals, workplaces, and society as a whole. Together, we’ll celebrate the power of understanding, inclusivity, and the unwavering support of allies. Read more articles like this in The Financial Technologist. Download your free copy here.
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