Improving Experiences For People With Disabilities (Video)

by | Nov 30, 2020 | Company Culture & Employees, D&I Articles, Diversity & Inclusion | 0 comments

Can you imagine having 84 surgeries before the age of 50?  Think about the number. Who could ever survive that physically or mentally except a superhero, and her name is Stacy Hirschberg.  Stacy’s journey with disabilities is eye-opening from a customer, employee, and patient perspective. 

In honor of International Day of People with Disabilities, I’m bringing Stacy’s stories to life to raise awareness, communicationappreciation, empathy, and more inclusion in and out of the workplace. If even one person’s life is impacted positively from my interview with Stacy, then it will have been worth all the time to produce this article and video. 

Special thank you

To Stacy for openly sharing and making an impact.  If you have questions or want to speak to Stacy, you can email her at Sornee@aol.com. Thank you also to my daughter, Lindsey, who put heart and soul into creating the video montage.

I encourage you to DO something differently!

 

  • If you own a business or lead an organization

    Make it EASIER for your employees with disabilities to do their jobs, and feel accepted.  Create a company culture where everyone feels included and diversity is the norm, not an afterthought. Similarly, focus on customer experiences too. People buy from brands based on how they feel when interacting with companies. They will be more brand loyal when it’s a low level of effort. (Learn more about customer journeys).

  • If you are in the medical field, a caregiver, or work in the front office

    You own the patient experience no matter what your job title is. It’s not hard to interact with individuals in a personal manner and make them feel cared for. Not only will they come back, but also refer you too.

  • If you are living with disabilities

    Learn from Stacy’s stories about gaining confidence, self-advocacy and forming a support team. More details in the video.

By the way, there are many disabilities that are not visible to the human eye. Those stories and lessons learned to improve company culture and employee experiences are coming soon.

Tell Us What You Think.

After watching the video or reading the transcript, share your views by commenting below. Most importantly, share what you’ll do differently to create better experiences for friends, colleagues, family members, and even strangers who have disabilities.

 

Interview Transcript:  

Stacy Sherman:

Hello, everyone, I’m Stacy Sherman, founder of doing CX, right. For many years, I’ve been on a mission to create and inspire better experiences so that real human connections and happiness can exist. There’s a lot of inspirational stories to share. And today, I want to highlight one that is really meaningful in light of the International Day of people with disabilities. Let me start off by introducing someone I call my family and close friend who has a fantastic first name “Stacy.” Welcome, Stacy Hirschberg.

Stacy Hirschberg:

Hi, Stacy, glad to be here. I appreciate the time with you and that there’s even a worldwide disabilities day that can bring more attention to people who have gone through challenges like myself.

Stacy Sherman:

I agree. It’s the first year I even heard about this world day. And so that’s why I’m really making a conscious effort to celebrate with the world. And I’m glad we’re talking. I’ve been reading a lot about what it’s like to live with physical disabilities and amazed by some of the statistics, and learned, for example, from WHO World Report that 15% of the world’s population, more than 1 billion people are living with a disability. And that 450 million are living with a mental or neurological condition. Isn’t that a lot?

Stacy Hirschberg:

I also read that two-thirds of these people will not even seek professional medical help, due to stigma discrimination, and feeling of neglect reasons.

Stacy Sherman:

It’s astonishing and really touches me. I’m curious, having gone through your own experiences. Are you surprised by these facts?

Stacy Hirschberg:

I’m surprised and saddened to hear that so many people are afraid to seek help because of fear and worrying of judgment. I’ll admit that when I was younger, I felt this way too. During high school. I didn’t want to lose friends because of my disabilities. People didn’t want to hang out with me because I always wore casts and had crutches. I couldn’t do what they were doing. I’m a twin. And when my sister left for college, that’s when it REALLY affected me. I made a point of always saying I was fine because I was afraid of losing friends.

Stacy Sherman:

I can only imagine the feeling and emotions you’ve endured. Let’s talk more about your past experiences because you weren’t born with mobility and related difficulties. I’m interested to know, what’s it like in your shoes.

Stacy Hirschberg:

I’m a teacher of children with disabilities. And what makes my story a little bit more challenging is that I have both disabilities that are visual that you can see and medical problems that are not visual when you look at me. I was born a typical identical twin. Thankfully, my sister does not have these conditions. I had a normal childhood until the age of 15. I woke up one morning and suddenly couldn’t walk. After a lot of testing and surgical diagnostics and countless doctor visits, we found out that I have a rare medical condition that prevents me from absorbing vitamin C into my body like a typical person would my body only absorbs vitamin C intravenously. So when you lack vitamin C in your body, everything deteriorates. It helps with muscles and bones and skin healing. So when your body doesn’t have vitamin C, everything just breaks down. This has led me to need many surgeries. I also have a rare blood clotting disorder, a heart problem of advanced arthritis, and a rare condition called EHLERS-DANLOS SYNDROME all of which have complicated my surgical recoveries and have left me disabled in my life today.

Stacy Sherman:

Yeah, there’s a lot of moving parts, It’s really impacted your life especially because you weren’t born with disabilities. You know what life was like before versus now. On that note, I want to talk about three different aspects of your life. One is as a shopper, what I call customer experience, (CX). I always say that people are brand loyal and choose companies based on how easy it is to interact and to do business with them. It’s about feelings and satisfaction, which goes way beyond price factors. Do you agree with this statement?

Stacy Hirschberg:

I definitely do. I choose to buy from companies where the staff is empathetic and helpful. I know recently I’ve had my own situations where I’ve been in stores by myself with full carts and a very visible cast on my arm and with crutches. I’ve asked employees if there are shorter lines to stand on to help out with my mobility. And, I’ve been no. And it’s, it’s unfortunate in today’s society that there’s not always empathy so that I didn’t have to be put in a position and made more uncomfortable with my challenging situation. I could have easily been offered helped. There have been other experiences where I’m by myself and the employees bagging my purchases are oblivious to helping me. And I’ve had to say, I can’t reach those or can you please help me. Some employees will apologize for not looking at me to see my disabilities. Situations like that could have easily been avoided by greeting a person with eye contact. I shouldn’t have to apologize for my disabilities to the store employees.

Stacy Sherman:

Yeah! This story leaves me speechless. Because it’s the opposite of what I’d expect. YOU’RE not the one that’s supposed to be apologizing or feeling badly about who you are and what you’re facing. It’s the company and the organizations that really need to make it easy for you and be more caring as a human being. Let’s shift to you, as an employee, related to employee experience. What is that like from a professional standpoint with disabilities?

Stacy Hirschberg:

As a teacher, I found that I’ve had to work harder to achieve the same status in my boss’s eyes versus a typical coworker, I’ve had to mask my disability to fit in with coworkers. I’m not entitled to accommodations without risking my job. I have been made to walk stairs with crutches and casts on my arms carrying things long distances. It’s sad, but true in today’s society, that I could not be myself. I’m a teacher of students with disabilities, and I myself had to mask my own disability so as not to risk my employment.

Stacy Sherman:

Masking your disabilities. Gosh. Think about that statement. I wonder how many others feel that they need to shield who they are when out in the world? Again, it’s backward, right?  If you really step back and think about what you’re saying? On that note, what do you want people to know who work with colleagues and leaders who manage people with disabilities? What can they do to improve workplace cultures, because we know that when employees feel cared for and valued, they deliver better customer experiences and experiences for each other, even when their boss isn’t looking?

Stacy Hirschberg:

I think that it’s not hard to accommodate someone in need. If a person can’t walk stairs, easily allow them to have an office on the first floor. If someone cannot carry something, provide them with multiple copies of whatever they may need so that they don’t have to put themselves in a position that’s going to lead them to failure. Ask your employee what it is they need to help them succeed. Everybody wants to feel successful in what they do. Communication is key.

Stacy Sherman:

Yeah. And in everything you’re describing, it’s about doing the basics right. Ask employees, colleagues, and customers–what do they need? How can you be of help? There’s no reason to guess. Just ask and they’ll likely tell you.

Stacy Hirschberg:

That’s right.  Something as simple as just asking.

Stacy Sherman:

Yeah, communication. We can dive into that topic alone for four hours. Speaking of a topic that you could talk about for days is patient experience. What comes to mind when I say patient experiences?

Stacy Hirschberg:

I’ve tried to add up how many hours I’ve spent sitting in doctor’s waiting rooms, and it’s just endless and impossible. And I get it Everyone is sitting there in the same boat. But sometimes it just becomes so frustrating. I wish that secretaries and medical staff and doctors understood what it felt like to just sit and wait. It is so important, I think for doctors to have a good bedside manner. A lot of the time, the news they’re delivering is not good and it just rolls off their tongues like they’re asking me to The butter at a dinner table. I wish compassion and empathy and understanding were something practiced, especially when I’m hospitalized. And you have a lot of new doctors and new medical staff coming to the bedside, no introductions, no eye contact, those little touches mean a lot to someone like me who receives negative news a lot of the time. And I’m fortunate through the years to have formed a wonderful team of doctors with compassion and empathy. But it took a long time and many years to get to this point.

Stacy Sherman:

You’re raising something really good here. And that is about you formed a team. You’ve been a self-advocate for many years, I mean, it’s clearly saved your life. What do you think about advocacy and what others need to know?

Stacy Hirschberg:

Yes, yes. I think that patients definitely need advocates, especially complicated patients that see a lot of different doctors, you have to advocate for yourself. And that’s what I did for my dad, who unfortunately passed away recently, and my grandmother, who’s sick, you need to be on top of their care and your own care to make sure everybody is together on the same team.

Stacy Sherman:

If there was a magic wand and you can improve patient experience, what would you advise people in the medical field?

Stacy Hirschberg:

I would remind doctors to put themselves in their patient’s shoes and figure out how to help the patient’s life be more manageable, even if your patient’s future is not going to improve medically, always provide some sort of hope. So that patient has something to grasp on to mindset, I feel has so much to do with recovery. And it’s important for people living with disabilities gives them something to hope for. It’s great. Being able to be a part of the treatment plan and care is so important. It’s a team effort. Everyone must be on the same page together.

Stacy Sherman:

Yeah.  No one’s going to do it for you.

Stacy Hirschberg:

No, you have to own your health and treatment plan.   

Stacy Sherman:

I think you saved your life by being so on top of it. There’s so much to learn from your stories as a customer of brands, as an employee of organizations, and as a patient. If all of those can be easier and better experiences, think how improved your life would be and for billions of people in the world. This has been such an inspiring conversation. And I really believe that this discussion will touch people’s hearts and lead to positive changes, because of your stories and the awareness that we’re bringing.

Stacy Hirschberg:

Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to tell my story. I hope that it does bring awareness and helps other people feel more confident about themselves.

Stacy Sherman:

I also believe that we need to encourage people to get help despite worries of judgment and related fears. It’s is a huge takeaway that I hope even one person will get from this. Tell me, Stacy, what’s one takeaway or lesson that you want people to remember?

Stacy Hirschberg:

There are many situations that if a doctor or my boss had communicated with me, with full transparency and timely updates, it would have made my situation less challenging, less stressful, and more manageable. It’s all about communication, and that’s something in everyone’s control.

Stacy Sherman:

Yes, 100 percent. I’d also add that we need to humanize business. We need to increase empathy at every role of the organization, whether you’re at the front desk, or you are the Doctor or the CEO. It doesn’t matter what role you have. We all need to practice more empathy. As leaders, it’s important to incorporate empathy training for staff members and intentionally focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives. When employees feel included, appreciated, and cared for, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when they pay it forward. That’s when we all collectively win!

Stacy Sherman:

Thank you again, Stacy, and I look forward to more conversations.

Stacy Hirschberg:

Thank you so much.

JOIN ME ON THE CX JOURNEY

*All views expressed are Stacys and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

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