I became a disabled person at six years old, acquiring a spinal cord injury in a car accident in which my mum died. Growing up in a small town, for years I simply didn’t meet other disabled people, and as a teenager I really struggled with my identity. I hated the idea I was different and did my absolute best to blend in with my friends. To such an extent I didn’t talk to my friends about any of the difficulties I had, and became really lonely and isolated. The truth was, I was living a very different life to my friends and I didn’t have anybody I felt I could talk to or who was going through the same things as me.
My introduction to WECIL came at a really important point in my life. A friend suggested I contact their advocacy team to help me with some problems I was having. At this time, a string of difficult health problems and frustratingly long periods on hospital waiting lists meant that I was unable to take up a place I had earned at university. Very low, and struggling to find a workplace that was wheel-chair accessible, I found real inspiration as a volunteer.
Life as a disabled person was, and is endlessly challenging – often in ways most people don’t anticipate. Volunteering at WECIL, I found disabled people supporting and advising each other, benefiting from sharing experiences. My experiences travelling abroad meant I could help someone else plan their first trip on a plane. This sort of project would have really helped me when I was younger.
Meeting other disabled people and helping them through WECIL’s services, almost gave me a new identity – I finally felt purposeful and had never been so proud to call myself a disabled person.
A few years on, I am proud to be a Trustee. I hope that my experiences of life as a disabled person, my knowledge of all the great projects and my fierce passion for fighting for the rights of other disabled people like myself, will give me the opportunity to help impact on the lives of the WECIL community as positively as WECIL has enriched mine.