DisruptAbility Podcast – Ep.3 – Stephen Ryan

DisruptAbility Podcast – Ep.3 – Stephen Ryan


Hello and welcome to the DisruptAbility podcast presented by inclusive cork. Today’s interview is with Stephen Ryan who is the founder of narration and 24 stories. Stephen’s educational experience started in the cork spastic clinic and he is now a lecturer in digital marketing in the Cork Institute of technology. Stephen is a storyteller and this is a great story. Sit back and enjoy and thank you for listening. So today it’s my great privilege to have Stephen Ryan here talking to us today about disability. And I met Steven back in January in the Republic of work, which is based in the Republic of Cork. And I heard your story and it blew me away. And at the end of the talk I went up and I said, Stephen, I want to talk to you, man about coming on the podcast with me and you’ve been very kind to me cause I’m a startup and you have given me loads of opportunities in the digital, marketing . . . Which I think is important. Everyone needs a hand when they are starting off. I’m a big believer in that and I think we, we wont progress as a society unless we all help each other as well. So that that’s, that’s my thing. And I think you’re doing something good as well with, with not just as this podcast but in general for businesses. So yeah, so we brought into CIT and I brought you into a startup talk in 24 stories as well and where you’ve got some honest feedback, which sometimes can be good as well. I certainly did, yeah!! So you got a bit of a grilling, but look, these things happen and, but I think you learn from those things as well No, absolutely. Absolutely. And in CIT one of the students gave me my own hashtag #employthepeopleyouserve and I’ve been using it since, so you know, you, you get something from everything you do. So . . I’m a big believer in that. I’ve said that. I say to everyone, look, if you can learn one thing, even if you go to a conference for a whole day and if there’s, one thing new that you’ve learned then is worth it. If you go to a meeting, there’s one new thing you have because every day should be taking one new thing on. And, and sometimes that new thing is, it is much bigger than maybe all the other new things you’ve learned recently. But you know, it’s all a part of a bigger jigsaw. that you know, as, as the business grows as well, that you, you’ll find that from your starting point to maybe a few few months on, and a couple of years on, hopefully that will completely changed because of all of those points as well because you’ll see that different things happen. Yeah, no, it certainly, it’s a work in progress, but it’s getting there and I am meeting amazing people who are very supportive and really believe in diversity and inclusion and want to do something around it, you know? So I think you have a story to tell. That is a very interesting story and I think it’s a very powerful story. And you are what I would call an accessible role model, especially for young people, um, who can see that someone with a disability can succeed in the education system and can succeed in the business world. And I think that is really important for us to talk about that because maybe we didn’t have that when we were growing up No, no. In some ways I think what has happened is, is you see there is good and good and bad parts to social media and to the online world. But one of the good plus Pinter’s points is that it has given probably smaller niches, a bit of a voice now that maybe wasn’t heard before or people are getting discovered or you can follow the right people and all of that type of stuff. So, and I think that’s one of the reasons that when I, I suppose last year, eh, this time last year I made the bold and maybe crazy decision to, to do something for myself and go on a start up journey. Um, luckily for me I had the back up of CIT cause I’ve been lecturing there for five years as well. But I said I wanted to do something for myself and I always had this idea in my head that whenever I did do something for myself I was going to tell my story because I felt that was the opportunity and and I wanted to tell it for a number of reasons. In some ways it’s like nearly therapy for yourself because the secret is out of the bag. The second one I said wouldn’t it be great that I could help somebody else, another organization. And I suppose the third one was could I inspire possibly younger people? Because when I think back, just like you said, a while ago, when maybe I was leaving school and I was going into maybe third level I couldn’t think of anyone that could have been a bit like me and therefore you’re kind of saying am I destined to succeed at all because there’s no one out there that’s doing that. You know, so I suppose they were, they were the big things. So it was, so I suppose I spent so, last June for those of you listening that don’t know me, I’ll just give you a small bit of a, a my kind of professional background. I was head of marketing for for eh, Red FM for the last two and a half years up until June last year. And previous to that I would have been the head of marketing at FOTA wildlife park for seven and a half years. And I had built a bit of a reputation in Cork eh for being very active on social, on Twitter, I’d be known as marketingincork and that would have been going back 10 years ago. And I suppose in my own mind, I was building my own personal brand for years. I had made a decision early on that I was, I was going to not sit behind the brand even though there were very, very big and famous brands in the city, eh, that I was going to come out from behind that and also have my own brand. And luckily for me, building that over time led to me lecturing. So when they went to started to introduce digital marketing in CIT em, I was one of the first people that they asked would I be interested in going for it and led that course, which is, it ended being, being a Master’s. So I suppose I said, you know, I built this brand and but now there’s a different aspect to my story that I’ve never told. So I said this is a perfect opportunity. So when I left Red in June last year, I said, I’m not going to rush straight into launching this. I’m going to give myself time and so met a lot of different people. I had probably more coffees than anyone could ever need in their lifetime but from July, August, September. And I said, okay, what I’m going to do is I’m going to launch, eh, my new business with a new brand name in, I’m gonna launch it in probably the end of September start of October. And it was the start of October I launched it in. So I said, first of all, I want the brand to reflect me and I want the brand to reflect something to do with me as well. So there was gonna be two sides to it. So one of it is actually I suppose is that whole is, it’s 24 stories, which is a network for people and we can probably talk about that later on. But I also wanted to give back as well and that that’s why the start up story. But the other side of it was probably me, the personal brand and it was about bringing my expertise to lots of different businesses and I said it was there for a long time and I was saying, well, what would I call it, and I was going to call it Stephen Ryan consultancy, had talked to a few people. They said, no, but if you ever get bigger, it’s not nice for everyone else in the organization to be working underneath someone else’s name. You know what, actually that makes complete sense. Yeah. Even if even for example, if as I grow older, my own two kids have already suggested can we take over the business and, but anyway, unless, it would want to be big, big first before you do that. And I said, yeah, it makes sense to call it something generic that is not just about me, it’s about something bigger. And so I played around with this name names for ages and I’m sitting at a meeting, actually I’ve actually never told, this part of the story before. I was sitting at an event in Dublin last year and nobody knew that I was leaving at this point. And it was a radio conference and I think it was April and I was in the Aviva , and I was sitting there and one of the speakers was talking about, um, and this is how it’s, you know, this is how, the story has been narrated over time. And, something triggered and I just said, hold on a second, that’s an interesting him name. So of course went home looked up what websites were available, uh, saw that narrator had gone, all of these and I had remembered in a previous life and still do the odd bit every now and again, I’m a trained tenor as well, an operatic tenor. I had performed in a show in the Everyman, um, in the Everyman palace in Jose and his technicolor dream coat and my roll was the narrator. And when I thought back to that role, I said, okay, that role was about. You were nearly invisible on stage. All these characters are doing the performance and you’re telling the story, which is kind of weird and in a show that you’re on the stage, but they don’t see you, but you see them. And I said, but in some ways, that’s what, you know, marketing tells a story for businesses. So I said they like that name. And so I fooled around, like looked through the dictionary, seeing is there any other kind of versions of that. And um, then I saw that the word narration was free and narration was about narrating a series of events. So it’s, it’s,over time. So it’s not just one particular moment, it’s more like the, the longevity of it . So actually I looked at, so I said, yeah, that’s really good. I’m going to take that. And so that was, that was in April and then saying, okay, I need to brand this a bit better now as time goes on. So I handed in my notice. And at this point nobody knew what my company was going to be called. I wasn’t going to launch it, eh, till later in the year and, I then started fooling around with this idea, what am I going to look? What’s it gonna look like? And I always had this idea that I wanted to reflect so, that on something that was personal to me and the condition. So, um, I was inside in dundrum shopping center and I walked into um, I dunno , we were looking clothes. I think we were in fat face that that clothing shop and I noticed that they had there was just a big jewelry section or whatever. And I noticed that there was one, the had a wishbone, but it was turned upside down. And I said that looks like an N. And I said, I like that, I said, that’s the start of my story, that that wishbone can be a name and now I can tell the story. So I waited till the launch and I got all these logos with the N, the narration logo, it’s a wishbone. But a lot of people didn’t realise what it was, so I actually, in the summer when I launched, I had this, when I first said I’m leaving Red FM and stuff like that. I had like had just a wishbone, small little wishbone, put that out there. And people didn’t know what it was. Some people didn’t even guess what. . . They were like, Oh, one person, I think it was about a hundred people commented on LinkedIn. 200 people comment on LinkedIn posts on one person said, I like the wishbone. Some other people says, um, they thought was a helmet or something. They couldn’t figure out what it was. Eh because it was styled in a certain way. So I, I said “ready for the next chapter,” that’s what I put on it. So I had a series of books and I had Red FM, I actually had previously worked with Cork city, had a CIT book,a Red FM book and then this one, that said the next chapter with this wishbone on the front. And I was it. And then the following week, eh, I was doing a bit of freelance consultancy under my own name for the time being. I didn’t have any brand or anything, no website. And I just said “off to a great start” . I had done training with Cork city council and a few other things and I said, eh, let the story, let the story begin and put the N was wishbone again. So people didn’t they probably, a few started to cop that it was an N but they left it at that. Then it went quiet. I started telling, you know, my journey of being a start up and all of that. But I said I invited people then to a launch in and again going back, cause I’m always about connecting and joining the dots and bringing that theatre side in. I said okay. I remember when I was, about six, my first appearance on stage was in Fr. Matthew Hall. So I said doing the Feis Mathiu I said, I wonder can you hire that place? So I contacted them. They said yeah, no problem. Nobody ever askes them because they said you can’t have drink in there. Look, all I wanted was tea and coffee. They said ,yup. No problem. Cause it’s a temperance hall so you’re not allowed any alcohol in there, so I said thats fine. I said I wanted to do a launch. So pick the date and then so we sent out an invite to people with the launch, uh, I would like to invite you to the launch of my new business. Uh, where I’ll be telling my story but I will also be launching an initiative with u m, Enable Ireland. So people then were saying, what’s this about. Seemed to make no sense. And nobody at this stage had made the connection between the wishbone and . . .. Absolutely not. I’m a big man, about teasing things out. I’ve always said don’t be rushing into stuff over the years. I’ve done it with FOTA and Red and stuff like that always tease it because people are anticipating that, so on. So I’m on diff the 4th of October last year then I was just lucky, about a hundred people turned up to the launch inside in Fr. Matthew hall and um, I gave a bit of a bit of speil at the start, or whatever, about marketing and stuff like that. And then he said, um, but I’d like to unveil the name of my new company, welcome to Narration. And the logo up on the screen. I said, you might notice that, the N is a bit different, to the rest of the the letters. And I said it resembles a wishbone. And I went on to another slide and I said, well the wishbone represents me because like a wishbone, I break easy. And I said, that’s the story I want to tell you tonight. So I said, what a lot of people don’t realize is they know Stephen the marketeer but they might’nt know Stephen, the kid that’s suffered with osteogenesis imperfecta. And I said, when I was, I said, I started my life here and I showed a picture of the Cork spastic clinic. Cause that’s what it was called when I went there. So at three years of age. I went to preschool there and I stayed there until I was about seven, I made my first Holy communion there and I said from, from the minute I was born, I had this condition, which means my bones break quite easily and I had over 50 breaks in my life. Probably possibly a lot more than that, you don’t count all of them. So some, and plus you don’t count in each individual, you kinda count it in stages. So you’ll say, I’ve done it now once. And then the next time it happens, but you could have done three or four when the first one happens. So I said, I suppose I told, I told that story. So having started there, you know, I started in a very different environment to possibly more people. And I suppose in some ways it, you know, it is used as a kind of a term now to kind of mock people. In some ways And which is, why they did change the name over time today,. Language has changed over time. Yeah. Language is huge isn’t it?. Originally it wouldn’t have been, but no, but that was a place where, you know, you got sympathy, “oh your small fella goes to spastic clinic” Yeah! You know that kind of, that kind of way. There’s a lot of tragedy. surrounding it wasn’t it? Yeah. So, and that happens a lot with disability actually. We always tend to look at the kind of the negative side of it, which of course there is negative. sides of it don’t get me wrong, it’s not all rosy in the garden and it’s, it can be a struggle as a kid when, when when you are constantly faced with, you don’t know what the next break is or whatever. And so I suppose what I was trying to get across was I had started there, but I was very lucky that I had teachers don’t there who saw this, this, this ambitious child I presume and, and very early on knew that I was progressing at a rapid rate because you, have to think back to a time when there was no SNA’s. The was no you, know schools didn’t know how to cope with kids with special needs. And like if there was a child that was going to be breaking a lot, they would run a mile. So my parents were looking for a place that would support and, and the only obvious place that was suggested was there at the time. And did you get the equivalent of education in the Cork spastic clinic as you would have got in a mainstream school or do you think it wasn’t at the same standards at that time? I’d say they were trying their best. But they were, it was mixed classes. So I, I, I got, I remember bits, you know, yourself, your, when you were a kid you remember bits. I remember being in a class and I was teaching a boy in six class his maths. Okay. And how old were you? Oh, like I was only seven. He was 11 or 12 so, I’d say the level was all over the place. So mixed abilities,. Mixed stability, they were trying their best. But I think you see in time they realised, hold on a second. What we’re really trying to teach here is people with mental disabilities, what are the people with physical disabilities doing here. Because we’re holding them back in some ways. Whereas we need to help the people that have intellectual problems because there was a struggle there, a genuine struggle to read, to write, to do maths and stuff like that. Whereas somebody like me, it was the physical nature. Once I was sat on a seat, nothing was going to really happen to me as such. I get on my work, yes I suffer from fatigue and stuff like that, but upstairs there was, there was nothing. See, and this is it. And what often happens is when people see something physical, they assume, wrongly, that there’s something intellectual as well. And they don’t always go hand in hand. And that’s why disability is so complex. And that’s why we’re doing this and we’re talking about it now so that people really get their head around it. Yeah. So yeah. So I went there and I went up as far as second class I think I made my communion when I was six going on seven. So I made it quite young becauseI think I went into school quite young as well. And, but the teachers said to my parents, look, we need to try and get him into mainstream school, we’re kind of holding him back so they talked. Um, I used to get transport to school to go in a van and you think about stigmas and stuff I used to go in a van to school with Cork spastic clinic written on the top of it you’ know.This was as a kid, you don’t kinda notice these things, but thinking back, like, you know, and um, it was great for me in some ways because I grew up with people, with all various backgrounds, various disabilities. So I was, I was probably ahead of the game. And in terms of inclusion, I knew what inclusion was, when no one else probably did cause nobody no two people were the same they all suffer from different things. And, and I so they eventually got school, I’m originally from Farrenree, so Scoil Iosagain. So I went up there and, I think they did put me back into second class because I had that year where I could, I wasn’t that old. So I had the opportunity to go to, to do second class again, do it properly, um, which straight away, even though I had come from the spastic clinic, straight away, I remember they were surprised in the school that would, in a matter of weeks, there was a maths test one day and there was forty five questions there was one person in the class got them all right and it happened to be me? So I think it surprised them that a child had come from this and it was consistently into, you know, kinda in the top performing in the class, but still they struggled with how to deal with me. I don’t think they truly understood what do we do here? And so much so that I had an operation and I told, this in story. Uh, I missed the whole of 4th class because I went through a stage where, eh, I had an operation I was constantly going over on my knees. I suffered from very bad fallen arches so they wanted to see could they amend it and they took a piece of bone out of my hip and put it into my ankle to try and support it. I was 9 going on 10 at the time, so I’d be gone into, I was third class actually going into 4th class. Went in I was in cast for four months and I always was say this is the dangerous time. So when you’re approaching kind of adolescence, when you’re getting to that stage now the paranoia sets in. Now, now. It’s there. I think when you’re younger I was breaking stuff, getting out of cast and going back into cast. I don’t think so. The fear wasn’t in me as much as when as I got older, so I was in the cast for four months when I came out of it, I hit a mental block, complete mental block. Didn’t know how to walk. Now, looking back, they tried everything. Brain scans, cat scans, all that type of stuff. Put me through intensive physio, No, the doctor actually the orthopedic surgeon and Dr McGuinness at the time he, he was terrified. He had thought, he had messed things up completely. He didn’t know, couldn’t figure out what happened to me. And so I ended up in a wheelchair. Um, cause I just couldn’t walk, couldn’t even walk with crutches and just mental block. But I think, I had built up a fear that it’s going to fall again. So I had spent four months where I didn’t break anything cause he was in a cast and I was held up. So I was saying it was, it was a sense of security. So I don’t know whether that had set in and played. So, and so we’re talking about inclusion then. And my class were upstairs in the primary schools. It was a two floor primary school, no lifts. Of course not!! This is all in the 1980s going into 1990s. There was no lifts. So, um, and they wouldn’t bring the class downstairs. So I ended up not going to school for the whole of fourth class. And luckily for me, mr Fitzgibbon, he was um, kind of, he was a teacher in the school and, but he actually got some hours to come and, and, and kinda maybe do three or four hours a week in the house, department I think paid for it . . Right, at home, tutoring So kind of kept me going. Then I got back on my feet and it got back into fifth class. But actually I had to move class to go back to school because my, old class still were upstairs, but it was a different class downstairs so I had to go into a different class into, into, into fifth class. So that was fine. I went back and looked like I was kind of getting back again, had a couple of setbacks, broke my arms and legs and stuff a few more times. And then I had a very bad break just before it was making my confirmation in six class in March I literally, all I did was at home I was supposed to actually have an appointment in the, in the regional at the time, now the CUH and knelt down and broke my femur. And just from kneeling, down but I think there had been an underlying problem there for awhile and whatever happened, it snapped. Stephen, when I’m listening to this, I’m hearing pain, you must have, as a young person, you must have been in so much pain. Like that was the worst. When I think back over the time that was the worst I nearly my poor mother I nearly bit her. I think, I was 12th. Uh, in the ambulance going to the hospital. Pain was vicious and it was really, really bad. Um, I ended up in hospital that time then because the way they treated it. They put you up on traction. I ended up in there for eight weeks. I stayed there for eight weeks in the old orthopedic hospital and when I came out, it was kind of nearly back to square one again. This time I was walking but with the aid of crutches and I had, I had to make my confirmation with a different school and because I was in hospital, they couldn’t do anything about it So I made it with a different school when I came out. I came out the end of May or something like that. And of course, I didn’t finish off school with my old class. I wasn’t able to. Um, and then, um, it was time to prepare for secondary school. Um, my parents had looked around at the time and they wanted a school that kinda could really cope with me cause if I Think back in primary school as well. I never got to do, so I didn’t go on any school tours. They wouldn’t take the risk. And they would’ve brought me to the likes of sports days, but I would have just sat, sat at the side you know, and that’s fair enough, I could understand bits of that. . . Did you have friends? I had friends . . .sometimes, the ones that you didn’t think were friends would be the ones to surprise me. I always remember it was in hospital for 8 weeks and it was a young guy in my class and I wouldn’t have been that close to him, he used to call in nearly every day cause he lives around the corner, you know? And that kind of surprised me, you know, so there’s always those kind of little . . now People just, they’re kind, their good natured. People you don’t expect support you . . And like when I think back then I wanted to go into a quiz team or I wanted to go into the school band, I always, there was always an excuse why I didn’t make it in, you know, I remember being the 26th out of, 25 had got in, I was down to the last two and I didn’t get in. They were scared of you. I think they just didn’t want to take . . , It was different times. I’d hope it’s different times. I’m sorry that sometimes I do hear stories where inclusion doesn’t happen, you know? I can see it all the time. Yeah. Yeah. So . . So I suppose then at that point we wanted to look for a secondary school. I remember going into, um, Farranferris college and one of the first questions they asked, “Does he play GAA? My parents were like ” they don’t get this at all”. No, he doesn’t, he can’t play a sport I couldn’t play any contact sport, you know, and just was was, it was never an option was it was never gonna to be there. And, and then he started bringing up other questions like that, something similar happened with the Mon. So they were saying forget this, we need to go to school where, where it’s where kids are looked after with disability. So I went to um, up to Mayfield community school, they had a nurse up there and they had a reputation. Everything was on the flat. They had a reputation for really caring for kids with disabilities or kids had come from other parts of the city to go up there as well. They were one of the rare few schools in Cork, that really kind of, they were setting the precedent in terms of where we’re going to be leaders in this area. So I went up there and in fairness school was very good to me. I have to say that, I look probably back a lot more, fondly of that school than Scoil Iosagain. And I think they were just that bit better from day one. And the vice principal, uh, Mr Mackey was very good guy, eh, always, you know, looking out for me. And I went in there, but again, I went into a school again, but I was used to it at this stage. I went into school and knew nobody, cause they had to come over to my own area. So I knew nobody, but I’m, and I was on crutches and I ended up on crutches for the first 2 years. And there was actually I remember lads, when we got older told me , there was two fellas, had a bet and they had a bet between them they said, eh, that one said I would always be on crutches and the other said no, he, he won’t be. They had a bet and they told me this . . . They were laughing one night when we were kind of 18, 19 when we were, you know, had a few drinks on board or whatever. And they were telling me this and I taught, you know, looking back, it was kind of funny. That’s what they’re thought process was and but I remember, so I was on the crutches, so it mentally was a bit of a struggle, you know, to try and bring a bag around. And I remember the teacher and the class teacher that you had in first year she, said, look, would anybody be willing to help Stephen here? He can’t to, you know, he’s in crutches and stuff like that and there was this young guy put his hand up and said, I’ll do it. Uh, David’s his name and he did it for about two or three years, you know, incredible. We’re still friends, eh, you know, um, and I didn’t didn’t know him before that, but like it says a lot about a guy when he does something, something like that.So yeah, I suppose went through secondary school . . fine, probably a lot easier. I still had the odd break, but you see with the condition, your worst period is kind of, 10 to 15. That’s the worst part. After that, it gets easier. It’s as your, your, your bones are growing your going through puberty all that kind of stuff. Once you’re past that, it eases off. Okay. It’s kinda more solid. Your skeleton is . . Yeah. You’re formed at this point as such. You’re still very vulnerable so you won’t be going skiing or anything like that anytime soon. But so yeah. So I suppose it became easier and, but everyone knew in the school what I suffered from, um, you know, they would have been very, very aware. And then I went into college and I kind of went into college and for some reason I stopped telling people. And, I first went to Tralee and again, like put a lot of stumbling blocks in my own way too. Over the years. I probably should have studied harder for leaving cert. I got distracted I got into singing when he was going kinda 16 and found a hobby. So when everyone else had had sport I had gone into musical theatre and found it quite, I wouldn’t say late in life, but I found it as a late teenager and got this passion and wanted to do all the shows and I was doing that while, I should have been studying. Oh no, I don’t agree. I think you need to for your own mental hea;th you need it, It all works out. I ended up in Tralee first. Luckily for me I got back to back to CIT in second year I was able to transfer accross was the exact same course. So I got back and, and then, and it was funny cause then I missed out, going into to third year. By about, I didn’t fail at anything but I missed out, but back then you went, it wasn’t a straight degrees at all. It was cert diploma, degree that was kinda the way it worked, and I missed out by something like 2% so I got 53 instead of 55. I was devastated. I remember I was like what am I going to do now, cause I was very adamant that I had to succeed. I couldn’t do a laboring job or anything like that because I just physically wouldn’t be able and I didn’t want to be stocking shelves or anything like that because I would be tired. You needed a [desk job. . ]. I needed something that I had to use my mind more than anything else. And I think that’s very important for people with disabilities, isn’t it? To understand that early yeah. Take ownership of what it is and then. . . Control the journey in some ways. And you take up the subjects, you know, I never, even during secondary school we would have all, had a chance to do eh, woodwork and engineering. And all that, I dropped a lot of them fairly quick, you know, I picked Art, you know, and that I was comfortable with art and it was creative and stuff like that. And in hindsight I was too late, I probably should’ve done music. I would’ve done very well in it, which is a pity. But yeah. So I suppose came back to CIT, but as I said, I missed, missed out but I spoke to career guidance out there and it said, is there any way that I can carry on, they said you can, you can go at night time, so they know who’s faced with my thing of now I have to go into work. So what do I do now? So for years, um, I had, I suppose I had disability allowance and stuff like that for a while, and that was great cause it is, it is great cause it’s quite hard with a condition or anything. Some people don’t realize that but it’s hard to get a part time job because what happens if you break something or you know, you know it’s hard enough to be young and get a part time job anyway But it’s even 10 times harder probably in some ways when you, when you have a condition cause you’re afraid if I, you know, something happens to me then they’re gonna probably let me go cause they can cause you don’t have a contract. So it was my first kind of, If I remember first going into, I did a call center whatever, but my first proper job then I suppose I was eh, admin, kinda customer service role with a galvinising company of all places I know. My mother was was quite fearful when went in there. She was thinking he’s going into steel industry type job. Now I was in the office. But there was times I had to go outside and deal with stuff and I remember having to lift plates one day and again of course me being, trying to keep all this under wraps. I didn’t want to say, cause I said if I had said that in an interview, there’s not a hope I was getting the job, So I said nothing and spent two and a half years there and went from one job to the next and never again every time I said nothing. And it was funny cause I got a very bad accident, I had broke my scapula when he was about 26 27 and it was the first bad one I’ve had had in years I had kinda smaller things. And then I ended up two weeks later. It was typical, its like waiting for a bus, nothing and then it happens. A couple of things happened together, the, I’ve lost my balance on the stairs and went over on my ankle. So I ended up in a wheelchair again, this was the first time in a while.Now, this time, thankfully, only for about 8 weeks, Um, but as I was coming out I was on crutches and they I went for an interview, I went for an interview for a job cause and of all places it was Cork city football club. So despite, despite, eh, never played football, I was a big fan, so it was just one of those things and uh, just, just told them that I dislocated my ankle, never said that I had a condition, just said I, dislocated my ankle and got the job, went into that job and for a while was, you know, on crutches and stuff like that. Then got off the crutches and I was fine afterwards and I was saying, I never told them, never said anything. Went to FOTA again, never said anything. And I think as time went on in FOTA, something had happened and I kind of kind of said it, but not the full story because I was comfortable. I was there for about five years. I felt comfortable now, that I could talk about something but didn’t kinda give the full story. And I suppose I was always, so, you know, I was giving a talk Enable Ireland brought me back to do a talk for their ball last year. And I said in some ways it’s an invisible condition. And you’re afraid to talk about it. But I said, I, still live with a fear and I live with a fear of wet leaves on the floor. If I’m walking down the street and there’s a drain, a manhole cover, I walk around it up an embankment, I will go the longer way than trying to take a shortcut and people are looking going whats he doing and I’ve always been like that and,. . You see the danger to your body. . . that someone else doesn’t,. I taught last year, I go back when it was still at Red and I was afraid to say, kind of said nothing and Storm Emma came. That’s my worst fear. Storms. Ice, snow. Ice, I couldn’t think of anything worse, because my balance isn’t great anyway. If I go down, I’m in trouble. I know I can’t fall. So you will see me perform nearly acrobats rather than me going and hitting the ground. So if I lose my balance, I will try everything to get myself up, like a giraffe or something. Trying to fall or something it’s really funny. So when that happened last year I, I was living in a house where there was actually a steep hill but, I remember thinking I can’t go because even just getting into the car is a problem here and then what happens if my car gets stuck in the ice? If I try to get,get out of the car, where do I go then? So all these different things that are going through my mind. So I just said I’m stuck. And of course I’m fearful then everyone’s going, to be saying, he’s exaggerating he’s doing . . .You know, all these things are running through my mind. I know paranoia, really worrying about what other people, they all have their own things. Anyway,. And there is probably plenty people stuck and there’s nothing wrong with them, in my own mind I’m building up all this anxiety. And like this had happened over the years. I would have been always late for walk if there was ever an icy morning I would have waited. So I suppose when I was able to tell my story, then I felt this huge sense of relief that I now can explain it. And even sometimes I still didn’t find that I, if it’s a new person that I still don’t, tell them, cause sometimes you’ll think in your own mind. You’re like, do we really want to go down telling this big story again? But, there’s no need either. You know, like it’s, we’re not just like, we’re not one dimensional. Stephen, there’s a lot more to us then our disability and if there isn’t a need to say it, I mean who discloses their medical conditions to anyone on a first date.So it’s not necessary. It does look, it has a huge roll to play in our lives. But there’s also days where you don’t think about it? And there’s been plenty of days in my own mind that sometimes I forget, but subconsciously you never forget. It’s part of you, part of who you are. So I always say in some ways it’s probably harder for people that get a disability late in life. Like I’m thinking of people, elderly and stuff that they get it because they’ve been so mobile and active all their life. And then all of a sudden this thing is thrown on them. Then somebody that got it, maybe when they were younger. Cause when you, when you, when you’re younger you don’t know any different. It’s always been like this. Yeah. Most people acquire them. That’s what they say. Like most people acquire it between the ages of 18 and 64 at working age, that’s when you’re most likely to acquire a disability. You were talking about pain a while ago my pain threshold will be very high. So I remember when I dislocated my ankle that time I was inside in hospital nurse didn’t believe me that he had dislocated ankle she said you don’t look like you’re in pain. But I said, I know how to control it cause this is not the first time it’s happened. So I know if I sit still, if I don’t move, there’s no pain. See some people wouldn’t know. Some people would even try to walk on something, which is a disaster. This is an awful thing to do. But if you, if you’re not used to it, you’re going to make those mistakes. Whereas if someone that has been trained in their mind and trained themselves over time, you know how to avoid things. You manage it, you know how to manage. You know how to manage. . . But even a small fall like, even to this day, I remember last year it was sports day in my daughter’s school again, I walked up, it was like a little grassy embankment and I walked up and then I slipped. Now I was fine, but I could have really done with a whiskey or something after it cause I was shaking so bad. And then the embarrassment of falling. And possibly nobody’s looking at you, but all of these things are running through your mind. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You feel vulnerable. So you do feel vulnerable and I think that’s the one thing that people don’t understand. There is that vulnerability that’s always there. There’s that paranoia and it’s very hard to explain that to people. And I think it’s something you know that, that unless you’re in a position yourself, you probably wouldn’t really understand it. I have often said, I don’t, don’t think some doctors really understand though either the pain and you know, unless you, you know, it’s very hard to, to actually describe things as what goes through and sometimes eating with a condition , people think all of us all, yeah, you’re, you have conditioned where you break bones, but there’s much more than that. There’s a lot of other stuff that goes with it. Sometimes people dismiss, you know, so I’d be very um, loose joints. So potentially would, and they say, they said originally in the description someone, someone who has the condition will be clumsy, but it’s actually because they have loose joints so they are clumsy because their balance is off. You know, just simple, simple stuff like that. But I saw, I mean since I went to college and then as the years went on, I suppose in many ways I said, look, I wasn’t going to give up. And did you do CIT by night? So I went down and got the bug and found that actually I was better working by day and college by night. So I started doing really good and finished the degree and then there was talk that they were going to have this first taught masters in the evening. So I actually went and I was on the very first program that they did back in 2007 and actually had that injury in the, in the middle of all of that actually one of the lecturers that had me for the first time. She thought I was, I was always in a wheelchair. I came in one day, she thought I was after coming from Lourdes or something! I was in a wheelchair in the class one week for 8 weeks. She never asked me and the next thing I turn up, and I’m walking, she must’ve thought, definitely something’s after happening she, she, she, I remember her saying to me, I actually thought you were always in a wheelchair. I didn’t realise. So yeah, so I did the masters and eh, luck plays a big role as well happened to get an unbelievable job in FOTA. And it was a bit of a blank canvas at the time. And um, that was in 2008. I was actually just doing my thesis for the masters at the time. Got that and made it my own and I think it was made for me, that position had great fun with it. The whole start of the digital revolution began at that point as well. And uh, as a result of my success, there I started doing a lot of guest talks and stuff as well. So then I started seeing all the dots join up because I said, hold on one second, I belong up here. I like this. But of course I like this because I had done singing and drama and stuff for years. So it’s, I see that as a stage. So I’m talking, I’m informing people, but I see it as a stage. So I kinda, got more into it over time. Then I became a lecturer and then the success of that course. There was two of us myself and Z, we’re teaching on that course for the first two years, it was so popular that they went away and decided to create a masters. So I created two modules for the masters program. And I suppose it was nice to reflect for someone that started in the Cork spastic clinic, to end up not alone doing a master’s, but creating a masters. Who would have thought back then. You know for a guy that missed 4th class and stuff like that. So no matter how many obstacles are put in your way, it’s ther’s always a way,. There are opportunities. Opportunities. Yeah. Yeah. Even on, I see kids, they are and they’re struggling with their leaving cert. It will work out. Yes, but stick with education. I mean one of the statistics is like, I think between the age of 15 and 19 one third of the students with disabilities have already left education. So the plea is out lads. Stay in education. It really, you know, it makes a difference to your career. I’ve seen a lot of people with my condition over time as well possibly give up. It’s too hard. Too hard, you know? But you need support as well. These young generation coming through that I think are hungry, which is good. Yeah. And they’re in mainstream and they’re getting the supports because of legislation that’s coming in and everything. So they’re getting the support but it’s just to, to look for the supports as well and for parents to look for the support. So you know, don’t be afraid of the of being identified with the disability because you know there is a lot out there. I would think listening to this podcast. You, you’ll have a lot of parents. And my advice to parent, is sometimes you do have to have a small bit of tough love as well because I t hink back and more, my mother and father would’ve pushed me in terms of physio and stuff cause I was lazy, didn’t want to do it, you know, kept pushing and pushing and pushing and that’s what got me back up on my feet and I’m lucky that they did. They could have easily said sure God love him. Yeah. I think that doesn’t work for anyone. Sympathy and tradgedy doesn’t work. And there are,some people, I see out there and they’d nearly put them in a cocoon and they’d wrap them up and they’d be happy enough to keep them in the front room for the rest of their life. And that’s not gonna help anyone. It’s not gonna help them. And it’s not going to help the children either. So I think we do need more of that whereby people need to, encourage, it’s not giving out, it’s encourage, there’s a difference. There’s, there’s the kinda in the c’mon you can do it. Yeah. And scaffolding and supporting along the way and pushing onto the next thing, you know? And, and I think, yeah, we do need more people in society, that are role models. So one of the interesting things that I’ve come across since I suppose I’ve told my story is the amount of people privately, they have told me their story. Yeah. Same here. So, which leads me to believe there’s a lot more, someone said to me before, it’s like, you know, it’s like a duck, you know, they’re floating on the water, but their legs are going 90 underneath, there’s a lot of people like that out there, that you don’t really know it’s not very obvious. You know, there’s a lot of invisible conditions out there that nobody knows. You’re dead. Right. And then, and in some ways that can be very hard from a, from a mental point of view, from a psychological point of view, it can be very hard because you’re treated like everyone else, which is great. But if, if, if you’re a bit of, or if there’s something wrong, people don’t understand it. And I think that’s the, that that’s, that’s the big problem. And, but they don’t understand it because we don’t talk about it. So we’re talking about it now and we’re bringing awareness out there and letting people know that there’s all kinds of disability, whether it’s visible, that you can see someone in a wheelchair or using a cane or it’s invisible, whether it’s sensory, emotional, psychological, you know, sometimes physical but you know, physical in terms of it’s inside the body, not physically outside or a combination, you know, and what I would say as well as um, stress will make any condition worse, you know, so managing people with disabilities, the advice I give to young people is um, yeah, take ownership of it and then manage it, you know, really look after your wellness and anxiety and all else that comes with disability. The frustrations . . . And I think companies need more help in this area. I’m not sure that they are fully aware of how to deal with the bigger organizations are quite good. But the SMEs of the world I don’t know how if they’re, unless they’re used to dealing with a situation in their own household, I think. Yeah, they’re not really sure. Yeah. What I find funny is when I meet people in organizations and they go, well, we don’t really have disability in our organization. I don’t see it. And I’m like, Oh, you do, every organization has disability, but there’s no legal requirement for anyone to disclose their disability and we don’t talk about it. So, um, look, hopefully this podcast will help people and get the courage that they need maybe to talk a little bit more and to get what they need to be able to have successful careers Yeah. And it’s all bit by bit more, more of this type of stuff will help I think, it will help so many people. Yeah. Well Stephen, thank you so much for telling us your story today. It’s a very powerful story and I wish you every success in your upcoming events. I think you have another conference coming up. I have another conference coming up. Yeah. And I’m all about storytelling and yeah, 24 stories. It’s a bit of a network in Cork and originally I suppose for marketeers, but I don’t see it just for marketeers I see it for anyone that has to tell the story to their organization. So if you’re in any type of communication role, possibly even HR probably works for you as well. And so I have people signing up as a member, but then I put on two conferences a year. I had my first one, which was I was delighted with um, back in March in FOTA Island. And the next one is coming up on the 13th September. Lucky for some they say it’s a Friday the 13th. But I said, look, it’s a why not, why not embrace that. And, and so that’s coming up and I’ll be announcing the speakers in the coming weeks and stuff like that. But you look at that again, all I’m trying to do is educate and inspire people. That’s all I’m trying to do. And if I can do that, that’s my job done. You know, I think you can, I think you do inspire people. Stephen, thank you so much. Thanks for all your help and we were delighted to have you on the couch here today. All right. Cheers. Please be advised that this recording does not constitute medical or legal advice.

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