Liz Johnson is a Paralympic gold-medalist and founder of The Ability People, working to knock down barriers faced by people with disabilities in the workforce by helping organisations redefine how they view people with disabilities. Drawing from her personal experience overcoming the challenges posed by living with cerebral palsy in a non-inclusive world , Liz shares strategies that organisations can use to create a more accessible working environment where disabled employees are set up to thrive.
What’s the story of your career so far?
For 20 years, I had been a paralympic swimmer and have been fortunate to go to three Paralympic games and win a gold medal in Beijing. Competing in the paralympics has ultimately led me to what I do now as an athlete mentor, consultant and TV presenter. The common thread has been that I want to influence change and help people genuinely understand what inclusion means and looks like. I’ve seen from my experience at the paralympics that inclusion is possible – and I know if we work hard enough, we will be able to create an inclusive society that works for everyone.
What do you love most about what you do?
It’s definitely being able to wake up everyday and know you’re making a difference. Due to my platform, I have the ability to make a real impact and change people’s perspective and understanding of disabled people. I’m really grateful that I get to do this everyday.
What’s the most important lesson you learned in 2020 amidst all the Covid-19 disruption?
Honestly, the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is to give myself time to rest and not burnout. My job has always involved a lot of travelling, intense training schedules and meeting lots of new people – which is fantastic – but I also need to be well rested. I’ve learnt that it’s okay to take a day off! It can be difficult to take your foot off the throttle when your work impacts other people, but in order to make the biggest impact, I need to say no sometimes and re-energise.
As far as you can predict, what’s on the cards this year for you and your business?
I predict that TAP will become more and more active as organisations strive for authentic inclusion and seek expertise on what strategies they need to put in place to achieve that. People are more aware of the benefits of having a more diverse and inclusive workforce and that authentic inclusion benefits everyone, not just disabled people or other marginalised groups.
If you could go back and do it all over again, would you choose a different career path and why?
I firmly believe that you’re the product of all the decisions you’ve made – good and bad. My career evolved organically and I wouldn’t be where I am today without all the events which have shaped me. Sometimes I consider what a normal 9-5 would be like (probably less fast-paced and hectic!), but I would lose that impact I am able to create. I owe it to the people I represent to carry on.
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