A mum of three young children from County Durham has set up a new website to allow people with additional needs to find activities, places and people that will go the extra mile to accommodate any special considerations.
The “Eric Knows” website is the idea of occupational therapist Ella Bains from Bishop Auckland. Targeted to help those with specific needs such as new mums, wheelchair users or visually impaired people, the site pin points those companies and venues which help or go that extra bit further when people really need it.
Ella’s journey to starting the website began three years ago when she worked as an occupational therapy case manager specialising in spinal cord injuries. Her idea to help even more people by creating Eric Knows was made even more personal when at the age of four, her son Fynn was diagnosed with Autism.
“I knew very little about autism and attended parents’ classes to help me understand the condition so that I could help Fynn. As I learnt more, I realised that some of the traits and behaviours I was hearing about related to my own personality and I suddenly had the realisation that I too was on the autism spectrum. Looking back into my childhood, I was able to identify times when I couldn’t understand certain things and I started to fill in gaps from my past which suddenly made perfect sense,” said Ella.
“I was bullied as a child because looking back, I was different. I was always singled out, but I never really knew why. I also preferred adult company as I could talk more easily to them than my peers. I also noticed things about the way I processed information which was different to other people and my diagnosis has inspired me to push harder to get the website to be inclusive to help all disabled people.”
As well as the website embracing diversity and equality, Ella herself has taken the decision to help other people with a disability and in partnership with Durham University, she has taken on four autistic interns to help with blogs, website updates and social media. The four are Rebecca Kennedy who is now living in Norway, Durham based Zach Killingback and Francis Wellborn who is originally from Austin Texas and Georgina Parvin-Guerreiro from Hartlepool.
“The team have been amazing; they really understand the vision that we are trying to achieve, and they are also really creative as well as being out-of-the box thinkers. They’ve all seen what Eric Knows does for people and their passion fills me with a lot of confidence – something which I lacked in my younger years. They’ve taught me so much about neurodiversity and how to recognise strengths in everyone regardless of any disability they may have.”