Uplift Her featuring Lois Stratchan

Women’s Month is a celebration of what women have achieved, a conversation around what is happening right now, and the chance to consider how things can change in the future. This Women’s Month at Digicape, we want to celebrate and uplift our local (s)heroes by giving South African leading ladies the platform to share their stories. A woman with vision today inspires a girl with a dream tomorrow.

Meet Lois Stratchan

What would you do if you woke up one day and couldn’t see anything? Lois Strachan is a powerful and impactful inspirational speaker and authoress who openly discusses her special journey from the day she lost her sight, to becoming the victorious woman she is today. As we close Women’s Month, let’s look to Lois as she shares her story, to teach us how we can overcome our own challenges to achieve success.

What does Women's Month mean to you? 
While I love the idea of women being recognised for their contributions in every sphere of life, I have some reservations about this type of celebration. I would prefer that people’s contributions are celebrated every day rather than only on special occasions. In fact, I would really like to live in a world where there is no need to hold events recognizing specific demographics of people, such as women or persons with disabilities, because all barriers that prevent true equality and inclusion have been removed. Having said that, until we have those levels of inclusion, Women’s Month is an opportunity for us to recognise our own strength, resilience and power. And for others to do the same. 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.

I am a disability consultant, coach, speaker, author, podcaster, and sometime rock musician. And I am totally blind, having lost my sight at the age of 21 as a result of diabetes. 

I work in several different fields. As a disability consultant I work with organisations to bring about greater levels of inclusion of persons with disabilities into society and the workplace. I also coach persons with disabilities who wish to expand their horizons and explore new activities. 

As a motivational speaker I use my personal story to give both disabled and non-disabled people the techniques to overcome challenges, grow in resilience and adapt to change. 

As a coach and facilitator I also love working with aspiring professional speakers and writers to help them discover their voice and tell their story in a compelling way. 

What is your proudest achievement?

This is such a hard question for me because there are many different things I could choose: returning to university only 3 weeks after losing my sight, achieving my Honours degree cum laude, being recognised with a Tributes Excellence award for my work as a female writer with a disability, being elected as the head of Toastmasters International’s Southern African district, becoming president of the Cape Chapter of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa, publishing six books, one of which became an Amazon best-seller, hosting a podcast, performing at a show at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda.  All of these hold meaning for me. 

But, when it comes down to it, I believe I am most proud of the fact that, despite my blindness, I continue to live my life with curiosity and purpose, and with the determination to move forward with my life, learning, growing, doing, and being more each and every day

What did you have to overcome, to be the woman you are today?

When the doctors told me I was going to be blind for the rest of my life, I was devastated. And my life changed totally from that moment. I had to learn new ways of doing absolutely everything. At first I struggled to learn how to use my senses other than sight, and to learn about the various technologies that were available to me now that I was blind.  but I managed. And now I am able to do anything I choose to, through a combination of the tools and techniques I’ve learned as a blind person and the digital devices I have, including text to voice software that allows me to use a standard laptop and iPhone. 

The most difficult part of living with a disability is the limited expectations that others have. They assume that we are unable to carry out tasks. But I learned long ago that this is simply not true. In reality, there is so much that I can do, that I am not going to worry about the very few things that aren’t possible for me as a blind woman. And I can honestly say that my blindness has made me the woman I am today, with the skills and experience to serve the communities I am part of. 

What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?

It has  been wonderful to see greater levels of acknowledgement of the talents of women speakers and writers over the past few years, as both industries have traditionally been dominated by men. 

Interestingly, I have seldom experienced gender inequality within the disability advocacy community, where both women and men are similarly respected for their work. Perhaps this is because we are all working towards a common goal of greater inclusion of our entire sector into the non-disabled world. Because, while we are seeing a shift towards more gender equality, the disabled community remains largely excluded and marginalized from society and the workplace. 

Why do you think diversity in the workplace/your field is so important?
I believe we all have important insights to offer and that an organisation can only benefit from greater levels of inclusion of all demographics. If a team or workplace has little diversity it will limit the way that team or workplace thinks and operates. Greater diversity produces products and services that better serve the needs of all potential customers and stakeholders, and makes for a stronger organisation. 

What is the most important message you want to send out to young women, reading this?
Don’t let other people decide what is possible for you or try  to impose their perceptions or limitations on what you are able to achieve. 

Is there anything you want to add that you think should be included?

If anyone would like to reach out to me with questions or if they would like to know more about me, my books and my work, they can contact me through my website www.Loisstrachan.com or through my LinkedIn profile www.linkedin.com/in/lstrachan

They can also find my podcast, A Different Way of Seeing on any podcast player or at https://iono.fm/rss/chan/3715

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