I contacted International Business College looking for a recent graduate to bail me out of the stumbling block I reached in designing the new website for Building Blessing & Beyond. The receptionist laughed when I told her I worked for IBC about a hundred years ago back in the day when we delivered an informative presentation to high school students recruiting for the business college. The career services rep and I got to talking and as it turns out IBC still operates the same way they did when I worked there! I took comfort in this and explained that I needed a smart, bright, young person willing to work with me on a start-up operation. Even though I knew I wasn’t exactly in a position to pay the Graphic Artist I would be working with, I was confident in the fact that I could offer unlimited publicity in exchange for his/her services. Luckily, I received a response from IBC saying they believed they had the perfect match.
A Perfect Match
Shortly after that phone call, I received an email from the Graphic Artist the college had recommend. I was delighted. Now it was time for the real work to begin as I had to sell myself to this young girl without offering any pay. Was that even possible? Despite my doubts, I went ahead and gave my best sales pitch. Shockingly, the Graphic Artist said she would give it a try and could start immediately. Wow, was this ever an answered prayer. We agreed to meet the next day.
I had arrived early to the library the next day and I told the young lady where to find me and what I looked like. The next thing I know, a beautiful young woman is rolling towards me in a wheelchair. “Hi, I am Sydney.” I just smiled and shook my head. For some reason, I knew God had connected us the moment I saw her. I have a heart for the underdog and would move Heaven and Earth to help someone who simply needed to chance to shine.
Wanted to Hear Her Story
We both set up our computers. She had to be inches from the screen to see it. Her tiny hands painstakingly pecked the keyboard in order to slowly type the notes she wanted to remember. We talked website design, we talked about what I needed to accomplish to make the site functional. She told me she hated WordPress and frankly so do I. I was not at all sure how any of this was going to work out. One thing I knew, I wanted to hear her story. Two hours passed as she shared her many accomplishments. We agreed to meet the next day to scrap WordPress and design from the ground up. I put off asking Sydney about her chair until the end, I didn’t want to offend her, which I found out later was the perfect approach to the topic.
One personal question was all it took to get a personal relationship going. Sydney and I hit it off. I found out growing up in a wheelchair gave Sydney a different perspective. When people ask about Sydney’s handicap, she often gets a lot of different responses. Some would express empathy, others would call her a blessing or an inspiration. Ironically Sydney was never the one to start this type of conversation. Now that she’s 22, she doesn’t want this to be the first thing people ask about.
Sydney is an artist, she has a degree in Graphic Design, published a book at age 15 and scuba dives whenever she gets the chance. Sydney didn’t do all those things to prove people wrong or inspire anyone. Sydney did those things because she’s figuring out the world just like everyone else. What’s the one thing scuba diving, graphics and writing have in common? Sydney explains “you have to stay calm and take everything in before you can fully get the most out of the beauty that’s right in front of you.”
Sydney was born at 23 weeks and could fit in the palm of her parents’ hand when she was born. In fact, her dad’s wedding band could fit all the way up to her shoulder. Since Sydney had to develop outside of the womb it’s harder for her process things. This means that her neurons fire at a slower rate than most people. Sydney’s disorder is commonly known as CP or Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy is a brain abnormality which affects muscles, strength, coordination and balance. While it is obvious CP affects her ability to walk as Sydney is confined to a wheelchair. It isn’t immediately obvious this affects Sydney’s brain as well.
Having worked with many adults with disabilities, I know first-hand how it is important to see Sydney for who she is and not by how she adapts in her day to day life. When someone notices Sydney’s brain works differently, many people might see it as a negative and dismiss her, not giving her a chance. Sydney often uses her slow processing time to her advantage. By the time Sydney processes something, she is completely sure of herself. It could take Sydney a few hours to design something that would take most people half that but the design will be more polished because she has no choice but to take her time.
To all the people who are on the fence about working with someone in a wheelchair, Sydney wants to tell you this: “with graphic design being a popular career choice these days, it’s common to see the same themes over and over again. But nothing about me is common. I like it that way.”
Just Give Me a Chance
At the end of the day all Sydney asked me to do was to give her a chance. Which is exactly what I did. While Sydney only had basic knowledge with WordPress, she is a fast researcher and figured out how to make it work. I am certain it took her many hours, but she was diligent. It took only one meeting at her apartment for us to figure out a way to keep the dreaded WordPress, install a few plugins to create the Service Providers Directory and the Credit Card Processing options that originally plagued me.
I am pleased to present Sydney Nicholas as our graphic artist and website rescue resource. She is showing her stuff by designing several logos for Building Blessing & Beyond. We will let our viewers pick the winning logo. With one face-to-face meeting, we have developed a very workable continuing relationship via email. Check out Sydney’s book “War Inside Me.” It is available on Amazon.
Some of Sydney’s work