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Kelcie Miller-Anderson is a social entrepreneur and environmentalist living with Mitochondrial Disease + EDS(3) + MCAS. She is based in Calgary and speaks to future leaders and on her environmental startup, MycoRemedy. In this interview, Kelcie shares her experience during COVID-19: what her day-to-day looks like, how as an entrepreneur she’s making the most out of the situation, and what she’s hopeful with the move to more #AccessFromHome of businesses and services.

What’s your #StayHome situation like?

Several years ago when my illness started progressing a bit more I was forced to move back home with my parents to get the extra help I needed. At the time it seemed like a bit of a downer being a 20-something moving back home, but now I am so thankful, especially given the current state of the world that I am safe and comfortable at home with family. I feel really lucky because my parents are both at home with me and are able to make sure that I have what I need and can isolate at home and not have to put myself at risk.

How has the pandemic affected your daily life?

To be completely transparent, my daily life really hasn’t changed all that much. I have mitochondrial disease which is a genetic disease that basically robs my body of energy, because of this my life is already adjusted to spend a lot of time at home. Even before the pandemic most weeks I wouldn’t leave the house for more than 4-6 hours a week tops, meaning having to stay home didn’t change my day to day much. With my illness there is never really a typical day as my days change depending on how I am feeling.  

As a social entrepreneur working on a new venture, I am lucky that I get to manage and control my own schedule and I can modify it daily to fit with my health needs. Currently, I would say a typical week would be 2-3 days where I schedule nothing, just let my body be the guide of what I focus on, whether that be resting in bed, responding to emails, or a middle of the night work session where I work on my latest startup. I alternate these days with days where I schedule zoom meetings or things with concrete time and schedule requirements – but I always leave at least a day between these days to allow myself time to rest and recover. 

Kelcie at home sitting in her office with her laptop open. She is wearing glasses and looking at the screen.

One thing I have been trying to include in my schedule as much as possible during this unique time is habits that help my body and mind feel a little more relaxed and that I enjoy. For me that is trying to stretch a little bit every day (let’s be honest every few days) and try to get outside for some fresh air. Luckily we live kiddy corner to a beautiful provincial park with great accessible pathways. We’ve just started getting warm weather here in Calgary and I have been taking advantage of the weather to explore my community in my power chair for the first time. It’s been eye-opening as to how inaccessible even a stroll through the community can be (I see you developers who don’t install curb cuts). 

How has this experience been for you? How has more #AccessFromHome of businesses or services been helpful for you as an entrepreneur?

Being a new chair user, but having had limitations due to my health for several years, before forced work from home, there were a lot of challenges I was facing as a disabled entrepreneur that I was just learning to navigate. From needing to ensure that the coffee shop or co-working space they recommended for a meeting was accessible (hint: a lot of them are not), to arranging a ride to and from as I am not currently comfortable driving (and finding a place to drop me off and unload my wheelchair), to needing to carefully schedule my week to ensure adequate rest days between days I needed to leave the house. Generally people don’t understand the extra work that goes into a simple coffee meeting as someone with a disability or chronic illness. For most people, a coffee meeting is just another thing they slot into their daily schedule, perhaps even a nice little break to get out of the office, but for me, there is a lot more involved, and that one-hour coffee meeting will likely take all of my energy for the day, meaning that it is the only thing I will be able to do. 

Since everyone is now working from home, Zoom has become the new normal. It’s been a huge energy saver for me because it allows me to be comfortable and rest until the meeting, only needing a few minutes to move to my home office and hope on the call. It’s been amazing as it finally allows me to optimize the way I spend my energy, letting me spend it on the actual conversations and things that matter. It’s also been amazing because as things move online, programs, courses and events that simply hadn’t been accessible to me, I am now able to fully participate in just like the rest of my peers.

Kelcie sitting up on her bed. She looks comfortable and wrapped in blankets. There is a bed tray propped in front of her with her laptop on it. The laptop is open and you can see the light from the screen hitting her face. She is smiling and looking directly at the camera.

What are some positive highlights during this time?

One thing that I think is really positive is the surge of remote working, and online learning. These are tools that are so vital to enabling disabled people to participate, but were often not offered or were really difficult to get accommodations for. I am hopeful that this new recognition of the ability to work from home and learn online sticks around as I think it will open so many doors for those with disabilities to be more fully included in the workforce and hopefully leads to less underemployment and unemployment of our community. 

One of the things that makes me thankful, and proud, during this time is the recognition that so many people in our country are acting together to protect the vulnerable. Whenever I get a little frustrated about not being able to go out or see friends,  my mom reminds me that something extraordinary is happening in our country,  that from coast to coast people are making sacrifices and staying home in order to keep people like me safe. Whenever I think about it or hear about all of the acts of COVID kindness happening it really makes me thankful and allows me to better see the bigger picture. 

Kelcie sitting in a wheelchair outdoors, prairies in the background. She is looking at the camera, smiling and with a cup of coffee in hand.

Follow Kelcie on Instagram at @thechronic_entrepreneur.

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#AccessFromHome Stories features people from the disability community and advocates and lived experiences at home during COVID-19. #AccessFromHome Stories is made possible by our Supporting Partners Government of Canada and CIBC.