Within the first few moments of speaking to our Brand Ambassador Fiona Jarvis, I immediately identified us as kindred spirits. She knows what she wants, what she needs and seeks to find the most efficient way of making things happen.
Within the first few moments of speaking to our Brand Champion Fiona Jarvis, I immediately identified us as kindred spirits.
She knows what she wants, what she needs and seeks to find the most efficient way of making things happen.
Unfortunately, this is not always the way the NHS (or the bank, or the post office, or the utility company, or the cable company, or the “everybody works.
As she told me about her needless ordeal obtaining a chrome rail for her bathroom through the NHS—she knew she wanted chrome, had found it on their poorly designed supplier website, but was told by her assigned therapist that it was only produced in white, and therefore had already been ordered in white—I couldn’t help laughing.
“Fiona, has anyone told you, that despite your British accent, you are secretly a New Yorker living in London?” I asked.
“No,” she admitted. “But I can see why you’d say that.”
In the end she got her chrome rail, having had to accept the white one, call and arrange for its pick up, return, and replacement. All of which had to happen because the NHS worker had already ordered the white one because she was going on holiday the next day. It wasn’t that chrome wasn’t available, it was the worker who decided to act without Fiona’s input that caused the ordeal.
Inefficiency drives us both mad. And not listening to or including the needs of those living with disability happens more often that one would imagine.
“There is no reason why things have to be so complicated,” she told me.
In fact, when speaking of her life since becoming a wheelchair user, she is even more passionate about make things more simple and accessible for everyone.
She has told me more than once, “We are not disabled. It’s the environment that disables us.”
Blue Badge Style & Awards
Fiona has multiple sclerosis (MS) and as a result, her relationship with clothing has changed considerably over the years. She requires clothes that are easy to get on and off and that don’t interfere with her chair or the brace in her chair that helps her sit upright.
For more than a decade her Bluebadge Style website has allowed those living with disabilities to rate hospitality venues — restaurants, spas, bars, and hotels — on their accessibility. The accompanying app allows you to see reviews of places near you saving you the trouble of calling.
“It’s one thing to say you’re accessible, but one wide door and a lift aren’t enough,” she explained.
During a trip to New York, I was honoured to be asked by Fiona to check out the accessibility of a midtown hotel. The hotel prides itself on accessibility and its website lists all of the room and facility features. But during my tour I immediately understood what Fiona meant. While the bathroom sink was lower to accommodate a wheel chair, underneath the sink, there was a decorative bench with towels. “How is someone going to roll up to the sink with that under it?” I asked the hotel staff. A roll-in shower room had been recently re-fitted with a lip to prevent water from running out. Apparently the floor had not been properly sloped. “This lip prevents a wheelchair from entering,” I explained to the staff. “We are still learning,” was the response.
Annual BlueBadge Style awards are given to those venues who provide exemplary services with Fiona as the awards presenter.
It was for this very purpose—an awards ceremony—that we created her cream houndstooth jacket with cobalt blue lining, cobalt satin shell blouse, and hammered silk taffeta trousers.
“Shoes are difficult for me now due to my MS, but I like to paint my toenails to match my outfit,” she told us. So we made sure her trousers were long enough to cover most of her feet when seated, but not too long to hide her toes or to drag the ground or interfere with her wheels.
“The work DE is doing is so important. Look Good. Feel Good. Do Good.”
“Everyone thinks my jacket is Chanel,” she beamed. “And the QR code provenance is so cool. I show everyone my jacket’s story and they love it.”