Maria Jerez is the founder of Accessilife, an online social enterprise business directory for families seeking to support loved ones with disabilities. It includes products and services you may not find on the NDIS and has a marketplace for both new and pre-loved products.
Maria's life was turned upside down when Mateo, her youngest son, suffered a severe brain injury at birth. The consequences have been life changing for everyone.
Not only did she have to navigate a new way to live, she also had to work out how they were going to access the support they would need to improve Mateo’s quality of life as well as that of her family.
So, as most families appreciate when you have a profoundly disabled child you become forever dependent of a wide range of products and services. These needs evolve as your child’s disability does, so what you find is suitable today may not be tomorrow.
The astounding discovery for Maria was that there is not a central database of products, services and therapies for families in this situation. Her journey began pre-NDIS.
Now of course, the NDIS has some 20,000 registered providers but not in an intuitive way so that it’s easy to find something specific. In addition, the NDIS does not list unusual, or obscure disability or condition specific products and services that may have been the brainchild of a small business that recognised a specific need through their own experience.
These types of businesses are a ray of light in the disability sector because they have developed a specific item you just can’t find anywhere else, so instead of believing your experience is singular you know there is a small community that gets you and your family’s needs.
Accessilife was born in the quiet hours holding Mateo’s hand in hospital. On so many occasions Maria found herself pondering how she could make life easier for families like her own, how she could practically support a quiet and humble community that in the main are hidden, just getting on with it as best they can.
There is still a stigma around disability despite so many experiencing their own story. And what’s most confounding is the services and products families need are not easily found, without a central and complete resource it’s near impossible.
Maria intends to bring disability into the light and empower families that are already going through so much emotional adversity to find what they need easily and quickly.
Research told her that the average family seeking disability products and services had to use a minimum of three different resources before finding the product or service anywhere near what they needed. Maria intends to change this.
At this stage Maria is relying on the good will of community groups to spread the word so that more companies will list their services on the site which has a self-serve listing portal for businesses and marketplace sellers.
It will eventually be a one stop shop for everything disability, the weird, the wonderful, the 'gee I’m not sure if anyone would have thought of this' to, I read about this therapy and want to know more.
At the moment Maria has 100 businesses listed on her site and hopes with the good will of the disability community that number will grow. This amazing lady has two other children and a busy job but is so passionate about Accessilife and supporting her new-found community there is no stopping her.
SERVICE ONE is a founding partner of Mill House Ventures a social entrepreneur incubator, of which Maria is a Graduate.