Business Owner with Disabilities Speaks Out on Disability and Self-Employment

“My message as a business owner with disabilities is not that I made some sort of heroic effort to overcome my disabilities; it’s that I found a way to use my strengths to do something that I enjoy” - Paul Franklin Smith
By: Neuronico Art & Neuroscience
 
MONTEREY, Calif. - Sept. 11, 2013 - PRLog -- Paul Franklin Smith doesn’t match many stereotypes of disability. He doesn’t use a wheelchair, doesn’t appear frail, and he has all his fingers and toes. He also has a “hot girlfriend” - Jen - whom he describes as “incredibly supportive.” You might notice that he uses a hiking pole as a cane most of the time, leaning into it as he walks - not because of any problem with his legs, but to maintain balance. In some lights the scar in the middle of his forehead can hardly be seen; in others it’s hard not to notice: a pale white furrow which extends behind his hairline and branches into a “Y” shape, perhaps three inches long.

“I had a migraine unlike anything I had experienced before while at work one day” Paul says. “I happened to have a doctor appointment two days later and mentioned it. She encouraged me to see a neurologist, who said he was 99% sure it was just a migraine, but ordered an MRI just in case. The MRI showed a mass in my left frontal lobe which was later confirmed to be a brain tumor.”

Paul underwent a craniotomy and surgical resection of the tumor on June 17th, 2011. The surgery was successful, and Paul has follow-up MRIs every six months now. His symptoms now are mild to any casual observer - “or at least I’d like to think so” says Paul “... but they have a fairly profound impact on my life. My symptoms have changed over the 2 years since surgery, but I have consistent problems with balance, fatigue, and attention. I need a quiet environment to work in, and I need a flexible schedule. Self-employment seems like a good option for me - at least if my business ramps up as I hope it will.”

“I’m able to work eight or more hours a day, but I break up that time into three or four periods. I work at home, so I’m able to create a quiet environment and reduce distractions, although leaf-blowers and lawn-mowers in the neighborhood are my bane. I’ve been able to build an online store, populate it with products, co-market with other websites, increase my search engine ranking, track my marketing efforts with web analytics software, and create a growing social media presence… all in about two months over the Summer.”

Paul is also attending university, finishing a degree in psychology as an older “returning student.” His business knits together several of his interests: Neuronico Art & Neuroscience (http://SEE.neuronico.net) is an online gallery of his artwork where visitors can purchase prints in a variety of sizes and formats; it is also a venue for discussing the neuroscience and psychology of art. Paul worked in web development during the dot-com boom, and his technical skills are apparent on Neuronico Art & Neuroscience. Finally, if you spend some time on Neuronico Art & Neuroscience - looking at images, reading the descriptions, visiting the “about” pages and blog - you realize that there’s a consistent message throughout: science can inspire creativity and wonder, the human mind is an amazing thing, and understanding the brain can increase compassion for ourselves and others, perhaps even help to heal some of the bitter divisions in society.

Paul has found productive activities that he enjoys; hopefully, they will grow into a sustainable business. Paul states “all people have abilities; the more we focus on matching an individual’s skills with productive responsibilities, the less relevant that person’s disabilities become. I wish more businesses let this idea guide their hiring and personnel policies - I think it would benefit business productivity, many individual employees, and society in general.”

Neuronico Mind & Vision (http://SEE.neuronico.net) is the first website to launch in a series exploring the junctions between neuroscience and culture. It features the visual art and writing of Paul Franklin Smith, and offers art prints, art panels, and posters for purchase.
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Tags:Disability, Business, Self Employment, Art Prints
Industry:Business, Arts
Location:Monterey - California - United States
Subject:Companies
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