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  • Writer's pictureCarrie-Ann Lightley

Airbnb Accessible Online Experiences Review: Public Speaking with a Disabled Expert

In June 2020, the team at Airbnb launched a series of new Online Experiences, designed by hosts with accessibility in mind. I was invited to a virtual press trip to review one of the exclusive, limited-edition Online Experiences to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day. 

Top of image reads - Airbnb Accessible Online Experiences Review. Middle of image shows Eric in his powerchair. Bottom of image has this blog's website address and logo

AD/GIFTED - Airbnb provided this Online Experience on a complimentary basis for the purposes of this review. This is an honest review and my opinions, as always, are entirely my own.

Public Speaking with Disabled Expert Eric LeGrand

Former American college footballer, motivational speaker, sports analyst and author, Eric LeGrand, offered an exclusive session on public speaking with proceeds supporting the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

Eric LeGrand sitting in his wheelchair in front of a framed football jersey
Credit: Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

My Experiences of Public Speaking as a Wheelchair User

As soon as I saw this experience on the Airbnb site, I knew it was the perfect one for me. I’ve battled for years to find my confidence speaking in front of a crowd.

Most recently, I spoke in front of a 100+ audience at last year’s CP Teens UK ball. Public speaking was a major fear of mine, in fact not just a fear, once a full-blown social anxiety disorder that rendered me unable to open the front door to my nearest and dearest.

Here’s the thing - when you’re disabled, there’s so much focus on what you can’t do, or what you shouldn’t be able to do. What the people around you think you can’t do; what society thinks you can’t do... all contribute to self-doubt and internalised ableism. Because if you’ve spent your whole life being told you can’t do something, you’ll wind up telling yourself the same thing.

So now that I’d found enough confidence to push through my comfort zone and speak in front of a large audience, what I really wanted to know is, how do I get good at it?

Carrie-Ann on stage in her wheelchair holding a microphone
Credit: Chloe Tear

Learning How to Be a Great Public Speaker with Airbnb Online Experiences

The session took place on a Zoom call, so all I needed was my laptop and a pen and paper. 

Each of the participants introduced ourselves, before we learned more about Eric’s background and top tips - my favourite of which was how to engage the audience when you can’t move around the stage much as a wheelchair user. We then got interactive and each shared snippets of our usual speeches, for personalised feedback from Eric.

Carrie-Ann sitting at her desk

Eric Le Grand’s Public Speaking Tips

• Know your audience and tailor your speech to them • Use your icebreaker to give thanks and tell the audience why you’re there • Eye contact is key to show confidence and grab attention • Speak about something you can relate to so you can speak with knowledge/passion • Show your personality when you speak • Use dramatic pauses or emphasize certain words to bring emotion to your speech • Be interactive with the crowd • Make yourself vulnerable • Always end your speech with a message that sticks with the audience • Challenge on how to start/end your speech

Eric’s tips and interactive feedback really made me think about the format of my speeches, a key takeaway being that I need to work on showing more vulnerability when telling my story. I am, first and foremost, a writer – I'm better a putting words on paper than I am at speaking – and that’s nothing to be ashamed of, and something I should share with the audience.

I hope that now I’ll be able to put this learning into practice and become a more impactful speaker in the future.

More Airbnb Accessible Online Experiences

Check out the Airbnb website for more Online Experiences designed by hosts with accessibility in mind – from cooking to seated fitness, sign language, meditation, wheelchair skills and loads more.

I can’t wait to try more online events like this, which make learning and connecting with others so much more accessible.

Where Next?

Read more confidence-boosting tips in my ultimate guide to planning wheelchair accessible travel.





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