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Patchworker Spotlight: Isaac Harvey MBE
Isaac Harvey MBE is a London-based Disability Advocate, Video Editor and the President of Wheels and Wheelchairs. Born with limb-pelvic hypoplasia, Isaac recently spoke with the team at Patchwork Hub about his story, his advocacy work, and what motivates him to do the inspiring work that he does.
To start, could you please tell us about yourself?
I was born with a disability called limb-pelvic hypoplasia which means I have no arms and short legs, scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and acid reflux. This has not stopped me from being a high achiever and doing things that people may not think are possible with a disability, as I believe that if it can be done then why not? It has also come with a lot of learning about others as well as myself and I consider myself on a journey rather than aiming for an end destination.
Can you tell us a bit more about your story?
I was born and raised in East London with a family who have never treated me any differently and always pushed me to be the best version of myself. I’m a video editor and have always loved creating content in different formats as I have a creative mind and like different ways of expressing it. I share my lived experience on a daily basis on LinkedIn where I speak about the reality that comes with having a disability, the random life that I live and how this has opened up so many opportunities for me. This includes taking part in London Fashion Week wearing adaptive clothing and public speaking engagements where I have conversed with different organisations about disability and how they can implement change in the day-to-day working world.
My advocacy work has shown me the different people out there within the community who are doing their part by changing the narrative. This also motivates individuals with disabilities to see that a fulfilling life can still be had, which is where I use my platform to share what is out there for others to see.
I’m also the President of an outdoor activity Sports Club called Wheels and Wheelchairs where roller skaters push wheelchair users around London. We meet weekly in London as well as taking part in different marathons across Europe.
Due to my disability, I’ve never been able to work in a conventional office as for me to do my work, I’m required to lie down to use a computer. This requires someone to lift me out of my wheelchair as I do not use a hoist. And because of how strict health and safety have gotten this becomes very restrictive and inflexible with my needs. Due to this I rarely ask workplaces to implement these reasonable adjustments as I know how difficult it can be to get these adjustments in place. Luckily most of my work has enabled me to work from home in a comfortable and accessible environment. It can sometimes be lonely with certain parts of my role, however, it helps that I do quite a lot of different things to stimulate my brain.
Throughout my advocacy journey, I've seen a lot of others struggle to get into work as the main barrier seems to be the selection and/or interview process. I feel a lot more needs to be put in place because there are plenty of people out there who have the skills but are not given the opportunity to showcase them.
If you could change one thing about the world of work or the way employers saw accessibility, what would it be and why?
It needs to be at the forefront of every running of a business, as accessibility can affect anyone at any given time. Anyone can get into an accident or acquire a health condition that may make them obtain a disability - this also plays into those who may become older and mobility becomes more restricted. Therefore, creating an inclusive and accessible world of work and beyond is not only helping those with a disability but is future-proofing it for everybody. And who has ever complained about something becoming accessible?
What inspired you to start doing the work you currently do?
For many years friends and family would keep on telling me “You need to talk about disability as you would be helping a lot of people”. I didn't really understand why because at the end of the day, I just loved creating content and not defining myself because of my disability. This was until I was given an opportunity to give a talk where I shared my life and the obstacles I face. When I finished, a woman who suffered from a lot of pain in her legs came up to me and said, “I'm always complaining about the pain I am in but after hearing your story it has changed my perspective where I don't see why I should be complaining.” This was the first time it hit me on the impact I was making on the wider world.
Skip to 2021, friends and family kept telling me that I needed to join LinkedIn, which I kept on ignoring as it was always advertised to me as ‘the professional Facebook’. I eventually caved in, signed up and started off wanting to talk about Wheels and Wheelchairs. And then people discovered that they were interested in me and my story, so I continued. This has allowed me to collaborate, change people’s perspectives and solidify my voice within the community.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt from your career to date?
Being honest in my work is not only helping me but others around me.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I like watching YouTube as it keeps me creative and relaxed as well as getting me into a deep rabbit hole where I never know what I'm going to be learning next. I also like going out of my comfort zone and doing things I never thought were possible or discovering something that I never thought I would ever see myself being involved in. Sometimes there becomes a blur between work and not, but trying to distinguish and separate them is something I'm trying my very best to do.
Do you have a favourite quote or personal mantra?
There is no such thing as losing, there is only winning or learning.
What is the one thing you can’t live without?
A well-looked-after and healthy mindset.
If you could have any superpower what would it be?
It would be pretty cool to have the power of mind-reading. Being able to know what people are thinking in certain situations would be so helpful when it comes to supporting others. However, it also may be a little difficult when people's actual thoughts may come through, so I’m trying to keep the glass half full in this answer!
If you could change one thing about people's perception of disability, what would it be?
Life still continues even if you do have a disability and it can be very fulfilling.
Anything else you'd like to share?
I would like to share my proudest moment, which was getting to a point where I felt internally happy with my life. I thought I would never get there with all the internal challenges I was put through and in some ways the self-barriers I was placing in front of me.
I'm happy I’ve reached this point and I just want to take the opportunity to say that if you feel like you're going through some hardship now, it won't last forever as there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I did it for me and so should you, because who else is going to be playing your story?
Find out more about Isaac’s story and work:
Published: 26th September 2023
- acid reflux
- comfort zone
- content creator
- interview process
- Isaac Harvey
- Isaac Harvey MBE
- limb-pelvic hypoplasia
- LinkedIn influencer
- London Fashion Week
- office environment
- public speaking
- selection process
- video editor
- Wheels and Wheelchairs
- working from home
- workplace adjustments
- Spotlight series
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