March 2, 2022

Public Speaker and Blogger: When You Can't Speak

Over the past six years, I have shared my experiences of living with disability through my writing and public speaking. I thoroughly enjoy sharing my opinions on a range of topics and discussing parts of my life in a public forum. With that said, my disability (Cerebral Palsy) affects how I am able to do my work. For that reason, I want to be completely transparent with my readers and my current and future clients about how I create content, including blogs & articles. I will also touch on how I prepare for presentations and meetings.

As someone who considers himself a writer, it might surprise some to know that English is one of my weaknesses. According to my therapists, I have most likely developed bad habits by trying to be efficient in my written communication. Essentially, I have learnt to leave out words from sentences, to save time. My therapists have also noted that my inability to verbalise sentences likely impacts my ability to write correctly, as I can’t hear the errors to recognise them. With all of that considered, I am still very passionate about getting my thoughts and opinions down on the page, however, they may come.  

Due to my disability, I do not have the fine motor skills in my arms, hands and fingers as most able-bodied people do. As a result, I type with just one finger. So if typing were a race, I would definitely be the tortoise. Typically, I can type around ten words per minute, compared to the average 35 to 40 words per minute. If nothing else, it is highly frustrating because my brain still operates at a normal pace.

I want to make it clear that the content I publish will always stem from my own ideas and beliefs, but the words themselves are not solely my own. I will often utilise my support workers to assist me with my writing. This can look a few different ways:

- The first way is through verbalising or typing what I want to say on my tablet, which my support worker will then type up on the computer. Sometimes, I will give them an idea or a prompt, and they will fill in the gaps to form complete sentences. For the most part, this is to save time, as it can take me several minutes to type out a sentence.

-  The second way is by drafting up all of the key messaging of my content as dot points and then working with my support workers to turn them into paragraphs. That way, the ideas are always my own, but the process is more efficient.

-  The third way is by writing it all myself and getting someone to edit it. This is the most time-consuming way as it can take days to put together, and it often needs a lot of editing to get it up to scratch for publishing.

While these processes have become all too familiar for me, I realised that it might not be something that my readers are aware of. So, in the spirit of sharing the intricacies of my life, I felt as though this too was important not to share.

Image Description: Jono is pictured giving a presentation to a room full of people. There are about twenty people seated in the room as well as three other presenters.

When it comes to presentations, I always prepare a speech ahead of time using my tablet and with assistance from a support worker. As I can’t communicate my speech orally, I rely on a text-to-speech app to present. So, while I always factor in time to edit my writing, I must also set aside time to make adjustments to my pre-recording for presentations. Suppose an event has time for questions and there are multiple speakers on the lineup. In that case, I prefer to speak early on so that people can ask their questions before the next speaker begins. This allows me time to prepare thorough answers without holding anyone up. I’m then able to relay my responses later on during other question times.  Meetings also require a little bit of preparation but mainly support while in action. Those who have had meetings with me in the past may have noticed that I often rely on my support workers to elaborate on my ideas. This generally involves a prompt from me on what to say, followed by a support worker finishing my thought. Most of my workers know me well enough to understand the points I want to convey, but I always make sure to brief them on anything they need to know before the meeting. It’s also very important that they check whether I agree with what they’ve said on my behalf, although I would always make it known if I didn’t.

If you would like to get in touch to discuss my content further, please feel free to email me at bredin.jono@gmail.com.

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