Accommodating disabilities is a business opportunity, says a Mississauga accessibility expert

By: District 86 Toastmasters International
MISSISSAUGA, Ontario - April 18, 2022 - PRLog -- Accommodating people with disabilities is a business opportunity, not a liability, says a 25-year accessibility advocate from Mississauga.

Melanie Taddeo says assuming you know what's best alienates customers, clients and employees who are part of 14 percent of Canada's population with a disability. She says incoming accessibility legislation challenges the "but we've always done it that way" thinking.

"It's not a scary thing. It's not something to run away from. Have the conversation. Ask: What can I do to best support you?"

Taddeo will host an accessibility workshop at the Toastmasters District 86 Conference in Mississauga April 22-24, 2022. Tickets for the hybrid conference are on sale now.

Taddeo suffered a stroke at age 21, which left her paralyzed on her left side and legally blind. She became the first legally blind teacher to graduate in Ontario, then certified as a special education teacher.

Her company, Connect 4 Life, offers training for individuals around communication, life skills, job readiness, advocacy services and education training for individuals and companies.

Taddeo asks participants to bring a blindfold to her workshop, where she will face challenges using teleconferencing software designed for people with full vision and physical ability. Her workshop includes a discussion about Ontario's accessibility legislation, takeaway resources and practical advice to improve accessibility for everyone in meetings – not just people with disabilities.

"People automatically assume accommodations are expensive or take extra work. But the reality is simple as just changing language or asking questions that are a simple solution and being open-minded," she says.

Practice proactive empathy, Taddeo says. Ask questions, accommodate the needs of your audience to receive your message, and don't assume anything about anyone, she says.

"Use descriptive, simple language to describe your pitch. Tell me a story. Incorporate the benefits into your story and how it impacts your audience."

Over the past two decades, she's seen improvement in accessibility with new legislation pushing the issue. "It's no longer a taboo subject, but just because you put a ramp in front of a building doesn't make the building accessible," she says.

Conference information

The "New Chapter, New Beginnings" conference runs online only Friday and Saturday, while Sunday, the Conference unfolds at the Hilton Mississauga Meadowvale and online for a total cost of $105. Online-only registration is $15.

Expert-led conference workshops offer leadership communication and personal growth tactics. Watch public speaking competitions and hear four inspirational keynote speakers:
  • Roger Caesar, who took third at the 2021 World Championship of Public Speaking
  • Lark Doley, 2018-2019 President, Toastmasters International
  • Jennifer Jones, 2021-2022 President-elect of Rotary International
  • Margaret Zanel, Founder and Partner, Strategy and Leadership, Wentworth Strategy Group Inc.

Nancy Movrin, Public Relations Manager District 86
Source:District 86 Toastmasters International
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Location:Mississauga - Ontario - Canada
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