We have all read of people who have attained success. The definition of success, however, stands different for most who have apparently attained it. Emma Bara, the Co-founder of WeCanAccess, is one such woman who’ll surprise you through her journey to success.
Emma is a professional with over 25 years’ experience in the field of sustainability and community development in the UK, Thailand and Australia. She’s a mother to two children with additional needs, her daughter is a cancer survivor, who has been left with multiple disabilities. Her son has high anxiety, autism and difficulties with literacy. Emma herself is a woman with a genetic heart condition and fibromyalgia. Despite all odds, she is a woman who knows how to fight back. Today, Emma is changing the world to make it more inclusive and accessible for her children and other families like hers.
Emma grew up living in a seaside town in England and went to an all girls grammar school. Her parents were amazingly supportive. They encouraged her to go to university and believed that she could achieve anything. Her mum was a great source of inspiration for her.
Working for a UK charity for several years, Emma did many community projects to educate people and change behaviours. In 2001 she left the UK to do Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in Thailand. She then worked with an NGO. Emma also explored Australia, where she worked with the Victorian Government, creating the framework for Victoria’s Sustainability Accord within the state.
After about a year, she came back to the UK and worked for the City of London Corporation. She left the City to work locally, teaching and developing a sustainability plan for further educational establishments across London, when her life was suddenly shattered by my daughter’s cancer diagnosis.
Today, albeit her daughter is a healthy and happy child, she does have multiple disabilities and learning needs. “Over the years, we have left the world of cancer and entered the world of disabilities and special needs,” shares Emma. “Due to the need to attend multiple appointments for me and my children, and the impact that our conditions have on our daily life. Even a holiday means special planning to ensure the right facilities are in place. I could not look for another full time, or even regular job,” she shares.
On a holiday to France in 2018, Emma and her husband, David, met another family with a similar story who had similar considerations when choosing places to visit. They also encountered a man with his son, who was in a high-tech wheelchair, adapted for most terrains. He had looked up accessibility prior to coming but still his son was unable to get past the gate and enter the landmark! This got them to thinking how valuable it would be to have a central point for highlighting accessible places and spaces and came up with the idea of a review site. The more they talked the more they added and www.wecanaccess.com was born.
Emma says, “It’s our mission to demonstrate to the world that accessibility and inclusion is essential for social and economic sustainability”. WeCanAccess is an online platform that approaches accessibility from an issues perspective and NOT from a disability perspective. This removes pigeonholing and brings a range of views together in addressing a problem. It also removes some of the cultural and social stigmas that can exist around disability allowing people who might not be comfortable talking about ‘disability’ to engage. The response for WeCanAccess has been very positive and exciting like that of a much needed change.
Albeit changing attitudes and practices is a hard sell, Emma believes that experience is the best teacher. Her present challenges include juggling work with family and health demands. She had had to learn to stop pushing when her body tells her it has had enough!
Emma says, “It is normal and natural to feel tired and lose confidence”. “So remember and celebrate what you have achieved; every tiny step, even something as small as sending an email. What feels like a little step to you, is still a step closer towards your goal.” After all, that’s how she’s gained the strength to fight the odds; stories from other women have kept her motivated when times were tough. That’s how we all grow, don’t we?