Akasia Perran is a Marketing Cloud Consultant at Revolent, holding three Salesforce certifications. Having been declared legally blind six years ago, Akasia is a passionate advocate of advancing accessibility in tech.  Recently, Akasia shared her personal experience with us and offered valuable advice about what we can all do to help support people with visible and non-visible disabilities.

Thanks for joining us Akasia! The theme for this year’s International Day of People with Disabilities was “Not all Disabilities are Visible” – what are your thoughts on that topic?
As a culture we have a lot of ideas about what makes up a disability. Seeing it seems to be one of the main concepts, but most people can’t tell that I have a visual impairment. Part of that is because I do have some usable vision but the real reason is because I’ve worked really hard to adapt and triumph, and to do more with less.

The real “unseen” part of a disability is the resilience, grit, problem-solving and courage, so what most people don’t realise is that I’m always working harder. I’ll give you an example. After an 8-hour Salesforce Certification class day I’ve had to find my cursor a few thousand times, locate countless fields that are “somewhere” on the screen and switch between notes, exercises and many other things over and over, re-orienting visually with each switch. Of course, I did all of that while listening to the instructor, absorbing hours of new material and asking key questions. I also then study after class, switching between glasses with four different levels of magnification. But that’s just one day, I do that every day, with a very narrow visual field (imagine looking through a drinking straw) and a huge amount of distortion in what I can see. This example is played out across “invisible” disabilities all over the world.

That’s why I think the theme, and International Day of People with Disabilities overall, is so  important. It’s our chance to understand more about someone else’s experiences of work and life, and see the invisible disability and the hard work it took for that person to succeed.
With so much of your experience being unfamiliar to many of us, how can the people around you offer their support?
Think of people with disabilities as part of we, you and I. Every day we have an opportunity to help each other succeed and lift others up. If you make “wanting success” your leadership style, and everyone is a leader, then your normal is supporting humans—whether or not they have a disability.

For example, at Revolent it’s normal for the L&D team to ask if anyone needs to request additional time for certification testing. This covers vision issues like mine, but also cognitive and learning issues, seizures, and so much more. The goal is passing certs, but the approach is wanting success for everyone.
With so much of your experience being unfamiliar to many of us, how can the people around you offer their support?
Disabilities aren’t easy things so my advice is acknowledge the truth. If you have a disability, then your life demands a hero. Be the hero! Be relentless in your success. Be courageous, especially when you don’t feel like it. Be fiercely awesome – always! Surround yourself with amazing people. And do good work.
My advice would be the same advice I’ve given a hundred times as a Business Consultant to my entrepreneurial clients: “Success is a thousand moments of action requiring courage. You can do it.”
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