11 June 2024

Social enterprise creates online marketplace for people with disability

| Jacqueline Lyons
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Maria Jerez smiling at the camera

Maria Jerez says her experiences raising her son has motivated her to help others. Photos: Thomas Lucraft.

The world of online shopping can be a wonderful thing, but finding anything from a pair of pants to homewares or even groceries can become quite complex.

So imagine looking for items designed for much more specific needs. It was this complex struggle that drove one mother to come up with a social enterprise to help others.

Thanks to this mum’s initiative, the lives of those living with disability, and their families, just got a little smoother.

Maria Jerez came up with the idea for her social enterprise Accessilife when she noticed a gap in the market when it came to caring for her severely disabled son.

“The world of caring for people with disability is a pretty complex and sometimes confusing one so I wanted to create something to make life a little easier for people like me and my family to give easier access to products and services to assist them,” Maria says.

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“I have been finding that there are so many products and services needed to assist those living with a disability that can sometimes be hard to access and understand, so I wanted to create a service that helped simplify things in a way.”

Accessilife is working towards an extensive free directory of disability products and services – anything from mobility aids to new and pre-loved clothes and furniture. Anyone can list anything to either sell or give away.

Maria Jerez and Craig Mayweather sit behind a desk

Accessilife has been able to go ahead with its endeavours thanks to the support of the community and The Mill House Ventures.

Small businesses that specialise in unique products are also being encouraged to list their items as a way to boost business and help those looking to find something specific.

“There are a few products out there that can be really hard to find through mass producers but there are some businesses that work really hard to create them for the people that need them,” Maria says.

“A great example is a bandana bib that is specifically designed for adults to catch anything rather than just the ones for infants. There’s a great local business that makes them and Accessilife helps give the company a chance to get their name out there.”

Maria says the difference between her website and other alternatives is that she is running it based on her own experiences raising a child with disability.

“I have lived through and seen the challenges faced by people living with disability and what they need. Making these challenges a bit easier for people is something I am very passionate about.”

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Last year, Maria and a few others working to achieve their social enterprise goals took part in the flagship three month accelerator program ‘Grist’, run by The Mill House Ventures.

“It was a very busy few months but I think what I learned in the time has been extremely beneficial to my progress in this project.”

Since the program, The Mill House Ventures Ltd has been in close contact with Accessilife to continue to help the disabled community of Canberra live their best life possible.

Chief executive officer Craig Fairweather says their collaboration has been a successful venture.

“Accessilife are doing great things for the community and we share the same vision to make life in particularly the ACT as easy as possible for everyone,” Craig says.

“Since graduating from the program we have continued to support them, we have also advocated for them and plenty of other social bodies around the place.”

Along with assisting statewide social enterprises, The Mill House Ventures is working closely with the ACT Government to provide funding for social enterprises across the state.

“The ACT Social Enterprise Program means there will be between $10,000 and $30,000 distributed to social enterprises, and we have been administering that,” Craig says.

The program rolled out in December last year and has since helped some hand-selected social enterprises.

“We are hopeful the government notices the benefits of the program and can keep it going on indefinitely to help out the Canberra region.

“We are very proud to be supporting businesses in the region.”

For further information on how to list your products and services as well as how to find them, visit Accessilife.

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