The phone rings and I see Rob’s name appearing in the screen. I met Rob a few months ago during a brainstorm session of designers looking for opportunities in the medical device world. An interesting session which eventually led to a proposal creating a wheelchair with a horse saddle. Yes, indeed a horse saddle. This would enable me to stand up easier as I would need less strength and energy to stretch my legs and get in an upright position in comparison to the wheelchair I currently use.

Ooh I love these sessions where nobody uses the word ‘BUT’! There are plenty of challenges of course where we eventually will find a solution as we use the word ‘AND’ instead. A BUT is to sit on.

Back to Rob. He is organizing a 2-Day event called ‘Business meets Design’ and asks whether I would like to fill up the program. I guess I gave it a 2 seconds thought and said YES! A good opportunity to speak in public out of my wheelchair.

One needs to know the audience when writing a pitch and here it is clear as the title of the congress says it all. An audience of designers and business men. I had to re-design my life and currently feel confident and strong enough to tell my story and express my needs.

“It’s all about preparation” is the sentence I like to use and also use on my LinkedIn page. I learned to be prepared and to ‘expect the unexpected’ during my training to become the assistant to the anesthesiologist.
It simply makes things easier to give situations a thought upfront where one needs to take in consideration that it’s a challenge to be prepared to all situations. I guess a little bit of grey hair and some wrinkles next to the eyes makes it is easier to put things in perspective and/or improvise in situations. I have to stop here, I notice I get carried away from the story I want to tell.

“Would you like to share your story?”: Paul asked. While enjoying a nice glass of wine we talked about the changes that occurred in my life. The period in the Rehab Clinic. The fact that I often need to say “this is my first spinal cord injury, please help me”. The impact for Pascalle, my lovely wife. The fact that my energy level indeed increased following intensive training. Etc etc.

Without knowing an opportunity of speaking at the Design-conference would occur Paul and I worked on text to be used in presentations, speeches and/or publications. He created a draft document following the conversation described above. Several take away messages are included and when Rob called I took Paul’s document and started to work on the speech.

No Powerpoint, No Flipchart, No distraction. I wanted to have the audience just listen to my story.
I decided to start from the very beginning. The moment I opened my eyes looking at the trees surrounding me, feeling I couldn’t move my legs.
The iPad in my lap carries this story. I use it as a kind of backup in case I wouldn’t know how to continue. The screen was left untouched throughout the speech. I felt back home again. Feeling comfortable talking English. Doing the thing I like doing the most: Talking.

As the audience was seated I could look into their eyes. I explained this is the goal I am currently working on.  This is also the reason why I am working on developing an exoskeleton enabling me to stand up. During the development the Zuyd University students also avoid using the word ‘BUT’. Why? Because the word ‘BUT’ is an excuse, it poisons the mind, it stops progress.

In the Cube Museum conference room I expressed my need to receive input from designers to make the exoskeleton fit into my wheelchair, to hide the battery pack and avoid injuries when using the exoskeleton. I am sure they will accept this challenge and I am looking forward receiving their first ideas.
The outcome will be the result of using the word ‘AND’ and I will be the one sitting on my ‘BUTT’ in the new designed wheelchair which includes the possibility to stand up and look the designer in the eyes.

Thank you
Dank jullie wel Cube Design Museum en Rob Vermeulen voor de uitnodiging.
Fred Tassie en Rinus van den Berg, van de Limburg Design Associatie bedankt voor het in contact brengen met de designers en de business rondom design.
…. én bedankt Paul ’t Lam, voor de voorbereiding!.

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