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SUSTAINABILITY | 12.01.2023

Nadeskha Mackenzie: "Without accessibility, there is no inclusion. We need universal architecture that doesn’t create barriers"

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Resilient and outgoing. That’s how Nadeskha Mackenzie (Panama, 1986), Supervisor of Corporate Communication at MAPFRE in Panama, describes herself. We spoke with her seven years after a traffic accident where she suffered a spinal injury that caused her to lose mobility from the waist down.

She now has a sense of stability and enjoys the little things more than ever. She acknowledges that each day is a marathon and that she doesn't want to miss out on the second chance that life has given her. We talked with her about her story and the keys to building a more egalitarian and inclusive society.

NADESKAHow old were you when you had the accident? What happened?

I was 30 years old when it all happened. I was about to spend a few days on vacation at the Bocas del Toro carnivals. On our way there, we had to go through a mountain area that was dangerous because it was full of fog. As we approached it, one of the buses behind us lost control of its brakes and hit us from behind, causing our car to flip over. I was hit several times until I fell on the road. It all happened very quickly, I didn’t lose conscience and I wasn’t in any pain either. I was scared, and when I realized I couldn’t move, the first thing I thought of was to call for help. As a result of this accident, I have a spinal injury that made me lose mobility and feeling from the waist down. Today I completely depend on a wheelchair.

What have been the biggest changes in your life? Who have been your biggest supports?

I used to live day-to-day, taking things for granted, and I wanted to grow up very quickly. The accident completely changed my life. I value my time, health, and having my family by my side more. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s really true, I enjoy every moment much more. We live on auto-pilot, thinking that there’s always tomorrow, but we don’t really know if that’s true. My friends and family have supported me throughout this journey, they’ve been there for me. They helped me to come to terms with my new situation, especially at the beginning. I was surrounded by people who were there to catch me if I fell. I also think I’m a really outgoing person, and this has helped me to get to know other people in similar situations and share experiences with them. They’ve really helped me accept and adapt to my new life, and I think I help them too.

What’s your daily life like?

Every day is like running a marathon. Now I depend on my wheelchair to move, which means I have to set it up and dismantle it to get in the car several times a day. People with disabilities face numerous adversities 24 hours a day due to the lack of accessibility. In my case, I feel like I’m very lucky, because in addition to my family and friends, I have colleagues who help me out, from the person who gets a coffee for me to the person who picks up my agenda if it falls down. I consider myself very fortunate to have this network of support.

You’re talking about adversity in terms of accessibility. What do you think the company needs to do to improve in the area of inclusion? 

There’s definitely a long way to go socially, especially in terms of accessibility for people with disabilities and their inclusion in society. I believe that progress must be made toward a universal architecture, where infrastructure design takes the needs of everyone into account, regardless of their physical condition. A bathroom for people with disabilities is not inclusive, it’s quite the opposite. Without accessibility, there is no inclusion. One thing can’t exist without the other. That’s why I feel lucky to work at MAPFRE, as it was key for me to continue growing as a professional. It was wonderful for me to see the various spaces inside the office adapted to make them easily accessible. It gives me great peace of mind to know that I am supported by a company with clear inclusion objectives.

How do you feel now that almost eight years have passed since the accident occurred?

When I had the accident, I discovered a word that hadn’t been part of my vocabulary until then: “resilience”. Everyone told me that I was a very resilient person. I looked up what it meant and discovered that I am, very much so. Now that I’ve grown into my new situation, both personally and professionally, I have a sense of stability, and I’m happy. Even though I live with certain limitations, I’ve been able to keep working without any barriers in my professional life. I think that if you set goals for yourself and achieve them little by little, you can move forward. In my case, I set short-term objectives for myself, such as going back to work or driving. I thought about what I had to do to achieve each of them, what I had to do to keep on living and enjoying life, and I did it.

What would you say to a person in a situation like the one you experienced seven years ago?

First of all that it isn’t the end of the world, because a door opens to a new one. It’s important to remember that each person’s journey is different. Each person needs their own time to come to terms with their new circumstances, so that, in the end, they can find the beauty in this new stage of life. Everyone has to discover what makes them happy and gives their life meaning. In my case, for example, it makes me happy to help other people who are going through difficult times, and I do that through my social networks. I share my daily routines and demonstrate that you can get that sense of safety and happiness back. I’ve also started an organization to share my experience and help other people in the same situation to keep pushing ahead. I’m very proud of everything I’ve achieved so far, and I plan to continue striving forward.

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