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It’s little wonder Great Ocean Stays won for accessibility at the Geelong Business Excellence Awards – it’s what they do.
The company builds homes that are welcoming for people of all abilities in Ocean Grove.
“Winning the award was the best business moment of my life,” owner Chris Smith said.
“It gave me the courage to keep going, and it’s opened up a lot of doors for me.”
But the award is more than promotion for Chris’ holiday homes – it’s her chance to promote accessibility to local businesses.
“I’m just one person in a small business,” she says. “Winning gives me the platform for people to pay attention.”
The whole holiday market has shifted over the last seven years with people renting their homes online, Chris says.
So she decided to carve herself a niche and has so far invested $3 million into homes that are “truly accessible”.
“Now, I’ve become the go to person on the Bellarine for accessible tourism,” she says.
“If you don’t have a disability, you know someone who does and it just made really good sense to move into that space.”
For Chris, accessibility is about more than her clients. She hires a number of people with disability who she described as loyal, competent and hardworking.
“They multitask more, just getting out the door more than you and I do in one day.
After starting the business, complications from a brain tumour left Chris with the left side of face paralysed.
“Coming out of it has given me even more empathy.”

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