What I learned about accessibility at a Tony Robbins and Gary Vaynerchuck event

What I learned about accessibility at a Tony Robbins and Gary Vaynerchuck event
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If you’ve ever read any of my blogs you will know that I’m pretty honest about my lack of perfection in this human body I live in. In previous blogs, I have talked about the health issues I live with and rarely do people know how this impacts me. I’m going to talk fairly transparently about living with some of these issues and being unstoppable.

Last spring/summer my husband told me that he wanted to go see Tony Robbins and Gary Vaynerchuk, and we talked about it. I shared openly and honestly with my husband my fears, worries, and concerns. I need to preface the rest of this blog with some very realistic admissions of myself. I’m not into hype… like at all. In fact, the more hype there is around something, the less appealing I will probably find it. For example, I watched “I am not your guru” AFTER I met Tony Robbins because I couldn’t get past the flash and sensation.

Going into this all day activity, I was cautious at best. I gave my husband all of my fears, worries, and concerns and allowed him to address those things. My concerns included things such as: if we fly down there we won’t have a wheelchair, will I be able to make it from the parking lot to my seat, will I fit in the assigned seating; what is the distance from the seat to the bathroom, what if there’s mold in the arena, and the list goes on and on. My husband did an amazing job of covering as much of these issues as he could.

My husband had multiple lengthy conversations with a very nice lady from Tony Robbins portion of the seminar. I felt like we had addressed as many bases as possible and were set up to enjoy our time and possibly even learn some great stuff. When we first got to the location there were so many people. You could easily tell the difference between Tony Robbins staff and the arena staff. When we would interact with the arena staff they would look at the wheelchair, sigh, and roll their eyes. I totally understand their perspective… All they see when they look at me is an overweight woman. I’m sure there are tons of assumptions being made there.

And this is where things went South!!

We get to the seating area, and find some seats. About 40 minutes into the entire seminar and I’m freezing cold. I don’t remember the person’s name who was speaking (because I don’t care) but he put a slide up on the screen of a larger overweight person. He stated that this guy was miserable and broke. The next slide was of a heterosexual couple who were thin, wealthy, and happy. I expected better than this based on the money we paid, but I was still willing to endure.

It’s finally lunchtime, and we had paid to eat lunch with Gary Vaynerchuk. This presented numerous issues based on logistics. I’m not sure how far of a walk the building to have lunch was from the arena, but it was a fair ways. The added benefit was that it was all-uphill as well. So, my poor husband was pushing me straight up hill to go have lunch with Gary. This was probably the biggest misnomer I have experienced. We weren’t actually eating with Gary. By the time we got there I wasn’t sure we would be able to find two seats together. Most people were already through their lunch and Gary was on the stage talking. Basically by the time we got to the lunch location Gary was up on stage and his personnel were telling him he had five minutes left. In my mind I am thinking “Did we really pay all of this money to see Gary Vaynerchuk looking down on us and spending a whole five minutes with us?!?”

The seminar itself was a bit confusing. I think if I was going be sharing a stage with people I would make sure they were of the utmost integrity. Many of the speakers came off as sleazy salespeople. I’m not intending to make this about Gary Vaynerchuk, but he and I are never going to be close friends. He comes off as a very abrasive person, so he’s absolutely not my style. I’m about saving people’s lives and empowering them to create the life of their desires. That doesn’t typically include yelling at them or swearing at them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not offended by swearing, I just think there’s a time and a place for it.

I have said since this event last June that Tony Robbins was absolutely worth the money, and he was! Not just because he physically touched me, but because he truly spoke to my soul. At one point he talked about not making excuses for you, and instead setting yourself up for success. Which is actually exactly WHY I use a wheelchair sometimes. I can walk, but not long distances or stand for a great duration. So I park closer and do many other things to set myself up for success. This was so inspiring and affirming to me!

The icing on the cake……

After a VERY long day, the seminar was finally done. As we turned to leave, I knew that we had a problem. The ONLY way in to the arena was through this line of people who were waiting for a picture with Tony Robbins. (These people had also paid more money to obtain this photo opportunity). As we sat there, basically trapped, an unexplainable anxiety came over me. In my rational brain I knew we would get out fine. However, in my anxiety and Shame-filled mind, how would we get out of here?

My husband saw an arena employee who was clearly dissatisfied with her life and her job. She sighed an annoyed sigh of exacerbation and rolled her eyes. It’s obvious to me that she was having a bad day. She basically insinuated that we had intentionally stayed around so that we could have an opportunity to see Tony Robbins more than we already experienced. The reality was the very minute Pit Bull was done we picked our stuff up and made our way to the back.

I don’t remember everything she said to me at this point, but I remember her insinuating that I could just walk to the car and take the stairs. However, the way that she took us was obviously not for customers. It was strewn with garbage and boxes and junk. (Based on the amount of hives I woke up with the next day, I would say obviously full of mold as well). She literally complained every step of the way. For about four feet of the walk we had to go through the area where the people were waiting to see Tony Robbins. She literally attempted to block us from even seeing anything in that room. It was an awful experience. I have never felt like such an imposition before. Despite the fact that it wasn’t a long walk, I regretted every penny we spent on this event.

Logically I know that I cannot hold Tony Robbins or Gary Vaynerchuk responsible for the ableism I experienced at this event. However, I can’t in good conscious go to another event where these two speak. There are systemic issues and indicators of a larger problem. I could easily keep these experiences to myself, but that’s not who I am. I am speaking out for those people who are unable to speak out for themselves.

As a Psychotherapist and Shame Busting Coach I want to make the world a better place. If you are an organizer or presenter I’d love to give you some recommendations to avoid making people feel the way I felt. They include:

· Talk to EVERYONE who’s working the event about your expectations

· If you see someone struggling REACH OUT.

· Compassion goes a long way. {Realistically speaking I would likely have never written this blog if the arena employee had said, “Wow! This sucks for you, let me see what I can do to help”}

If you have experienced these situations or are experiencing them my recommendations to you are:

· Don’t hesitate to ask for help

· Remember that just because they didn’t account for you (or your size, or your mobility issues, etc) doesn’t mean you don’t belong there or aren’t worthy of being there

· You deserve better! When we stop making excuses for other people’s poor behavior, and starting demanding better behavior change will occur.

Jenn Bovee is a Shame Busting Coach. She helps people all over the world, eradicate their Shame and step into the lives of their wildest fantasies. Learn more about Jenn here: www.JennBovee.com

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