Shaun, 30 years old and founder of Milk & Jam, a small but multi-faceted creative advertising agency focusing on disabilities.
London, England, July 08, 2015 — I’m Shaun, 30 years old and founder of Milk & Jam, a small but multi-faceted creative advertising agency focusing on disabilities.
But before Milk & Jam I would like to tell you all about me and my journey to this point in my life.
I am a quirky, partially sighted, creative web developer & designer.
Yes you read that right, I am partially sighted
What is it like growing up with a sight disability?
Growing up with my sight disability was very tough. I was not the cool kid. I was that ‘different’ kind of kid at school. The one they thought they could pick on. But where are they now? Well let’s just say I am the ‘winner’. At least that’s how I see it. I still had a lot of fun growing up even though I knew I was ‘different’ It only really began to affect me when I was a little older and even now I still struggle every day. But I don’t need sympathy. It has made me strong, has given me the great experience to be able to do my job today, and so much more.
Looking back I do not think I would do anything differently. Well maybe a few things. I struggled, yes, but I had a great support network behind me – my family. I am now at a stage of my life where I am very happy, I am doing a job I love, building creative things and tech to help others.
Never be afraid to be who you are and if others do not like it that is their problem, not yours!
Is there still a lot of stigma around disability?
People still do not like to tell other people they have a disability, and that is sad as it does not make you less a person. It makes you an awesome and different person.
A lot of companies, for example, do not like hiring people with a disability simply for one reason – they look at how much it is going to cost them! That is wrong and needs to change as that person with a disability could well become more of an asset to their organisation than anyone else.
There is always going to be stigma around disability. Just the word ‘disability’ makes a lot of people think – “Oh I don’t want to date him” or “work with him” – but many people have some kind of weakness or disability they do not even know about.
Please take a look at our newly launched website milkandjam.com where we have built the latest accessibility technology into our own website to showcase how everyone no matter of ability can use it.
By implementing access keys into our website this will help everyone, not just blind and partially sighted people, navigate around it quickly.
Colour change functionality
By building in relatively new innovative colour change functionality into our website this will help those with every kind of disability read and view our website in the way that helps them the most.
Text size functionality
To allow everyone viewing the website to switch to a large font.
Most of us have some kind of eye disability or will in years to come.
Every company and brand should now be an accessible one. Your brand or organisation should be embracing new technology, new ways of thinking, innovating and marketing in new ways and to new markets. That is why I setup Milk & Jam. Being partially sighted from birth I and my small team have personal as well as over 10 years work experience of being in the media, communications and advertising sector. We are still to this day really passionate about helping clients better their companies and we would really like to help you too.
Here are just some ways that we can help your business:
Disability & accessibility consultancy
Marketing & advertising campaigns
Web design, apps and software
Disability & accessibility key note speaking
Business & website audits
Disability & accessibility functionality
Freelance disability director services
Braille & Brand
Braille is not used enough on products, and companies are not implementing it enough or simplifying it enough.
Everyone has a right to be able to go into a shop and unaided buy the products they love, to be able to know about the product they are buying, no matter of ability or disability. But this is not generally possible and needs to change. With a simple braille change and a little educating this could become a reality and would make such a difference to partially sighted and blind people.
I am lucky to have relatively strong sight after so many years of having my partially sighted disability but as a brand you need to look at the bigger picture and keep thinking ‘what market could we look at?’ and ‘how could we sell more product?’ One answer is to be more accessible and this can actually be very simple and easy to implement. Milk & Jam can consult on effective marketing and technology to achieve this.
I have focused on brands for enjoyment as these are the brands we see every day, even making the dinner – would you know that is a baked bean can without someone telling you? The answer would surely be no and that is what needs to change.
I have an exciting exercise in my disability talks around this aspect. It’s fun and educational for your team
Take this away with you: If your brand isn’t getting noticed by everyone why is the brand there? Isn’t a brand about letting everyone know about you, allowing everyone the chance to use and enjoy the product? Many brands are not achieving this.
But what is a partially sighted disability?
The best way to describe a partially sighted disability is someone with a visual impairment that affects their day to day life.
It is really important to me to tell you about who I am, because I am as capable as the next person. I may be more determined than the guy or girl sitting next to you right now.
But let’s not sugar-coat it, as sight is how you see the world, and if you do not look after your eyesight one day you could lose it. It happened to a normal healthy friend of mine and all because they just did not go to the optician. Do not put the optician’s letters in the bin. Just go. It may be the best decision you make!
When I give one of my talks with Milk & Jam, I have a fun exercise that uses visual aid glasses to show you how a visually impaired or blind person sees the world. It helps give an idea of what it is like to be partially sighted.
Born with a rare form of cataracts
A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside the eye which leads to a decrease in vision.
I was born with a rare form of cataract which meant they had to do the cataract operation early on in my life to restore my vision by removing the cloudy part of the eye. Today my vision is very stable and relatively strong but I still have a lot of limitations and my sight is far from perfect. I cannot drive, which is a shame but as the years have gone by I have got over it. I am an awesome go-cart driver though!
Do anything you can to deter getting a cataract, like going to the optician more often, because a cataract operation is not pleasant. Even though you cannot feel them doing it, you do have to be awake and aware.
Cataracts are usually an older person thing but I was just unlucky. Other people have other unlucky moments in their lives. Mine just happened to be from birth.
Successfully funded Kickstarter campaign was quite a Journey.
Yeah, what a rollercoaster journey my Kickstarter was! From realising I had to find my disability equipment money from somewhere, to making the impact I did on twitter & social media, this was a pretty amazing experience for someone like me. Would people back what I am trying to achieve, or even care as there are so many causes looking for support?
The Kickstarter campaign was 35 days of ups and downs. I learned a lot about myself and got so much support which I cannot thank everyone enough for. One of the campaign backers was a very big advertising agency Havas Media. It was great they noticed me and later on I hope to be giving a talk to them about the importance of disability & sight amongst other things.
I have just given a talk to Buffalo, a small agency in Brighton. They are lovely people and they made me feel so welcome. I can’t thank them enough for that.
But the big question is why I had to resort to crowdfunding to get my disability equipment. That is part of a bigger problem that I think the UK needs to look at. I’d love to read your comments/thoughts on this and would be more than happy to discuss the situation with you.
Milk & Jam came out of my Kickstarter because I wanted to make a real change through the work that we do.
You can find out all about my Kickstarter journey on this friendly link here – Link to kickstarter
Just a normal guy?
Come and walk a week in my shoes and I will show you how hard my life is.
From waking up in the morning not being able to see, trying to find my glasses ha ha to going to bed at night, it is all a struggle but I just get on with it and I am used to it now after so many years.
From the outside yes, I am a normal looking guy but that is the stigma around disability fooling you. If you look closer we all have our quirks.
Something else that i’d like to share with you is that I was adopted when I was 1 year old by the best parents in the world and they have given me such a great life and supported me in every way possible. One day I hope to repay them with a grand child. One day, but yes I was adopted and I see that as a great journey.
The passion inside
My passion is about helping others not about helping myself. It comes from my struggles up to now, trying to help others combat what I went through as a child.
I am a passionate guy because I care and with Milk & Jam and whoever I may work with or for now or in the future this will never change. I hope to show this through my experience, struggles through life and helping agencies and companies make a big change.
If i can just help build a few things or help in some way I am happy. Whether that is helping a company or helping someone that truly needs our support. To help improve their life by just having access or getting that piece of equipment they truly need, that is where the hunger, fight, determination and passion comes from inside of me.
I’m a 30 year old ambitious guy. I banter and laugh and do all the normal things everyone else does. other than having a sight disability and this does not hold me back either. It just means I see the world bigger ha ha.
I like to keep fit to a certain extent but what really makes me tick is tech. It is a cliche but it does. I am always playing around with something. But I chill out by cooking and music is my passion and I love a good holiday and just spending time with family and friends.
And of course I like helping people with the work that I do directly or indirectly.
What does the future hold?
That is a very tough question as no one knows what their future holds but I would like to think that a big advertising agency will see the benefit in having me on their staff and see my experience , passion and desire. That companies will work closely with me and my company milk & jam or hire me to staff as all I want to do is be happy and creative and not have to struggle to get by. But no one knows the future. I will keep doing a great job for my clients and hopefully get noticed for my passion and experience.
I have had to struggle in the past and just with getting my disability equipment. It is just wrong. I am very good at what I do so let’s see.
I have one big plan for the future and that is I would really love to create a disability fund so I can help people like me that may just need a little bit of help with accessing a new piece of tech to help improve their life.
There is a government fund but it is riddled with mistakes, time wasting and has so many limitations. Really all people need sometimes is to be able to say “yes i really need this” and to hear: “ok we will buy it for you to help improve your life. We will do all the checks as quickly as possible with very little paper work involved to make the process as pain free as we can make it and you may even get a visit from myself with the new equipment as I like meeting new people.
I had to resort to crowdfunding. That is how hard it is to get funding for a disability and I had to work day and night to get to my funding goal.
That is wrong and it should not be this way.
I also have some big tech plans for the future to help people with disabilities but once they have been researched and built I will let you know.
For More Information: Shaun Cheesman, 01273 78 22 91, email@example.com