Inspiring other young people with disabilities

Disability is often perceived in a negative-only light by those not affected by it. It can be seen solely as a hindrance, rather than something that can inspire a more fulfilling life. For young people, archaic perceptions can make it all the more challenging. This doesn't have to be the case though, far from it. This is something we have learnt by talking to some inspiring young people who have not allowed their own disability to hold them back and, instead, have turned it into something positive.

As a legal firm that specialises in helping people after they suffer a serious injury or illness, we know how challenging it can be for people to live with a disability, be it something they are born with or something they have had to adapt to. We also know the positive difference that even the seemingly smallest thing can make - be it an encouraging message or the support of a solicitor when going through a challenging legal process.

We invited a number of young people affected but not defined by disability to offer advice to their younger self or to others who have just become physically disabled. Below are some truly inspiring words from young people with a positive message to spread about living with disability:

Chloe Tear

Writer of Life as a Cerebral Palsy student blog 

"I was born eight weeks early, weighing 3lb 3oz, which has resulted in me having mild Cerebral Palsy, as well as epilepsy, chronic pain and impaired vision. However, many people become disabled later on in life, whether this is through an accident, illness or another cause. There is no doubt that this can be life-changing, but not life-ending, simply a new beginning. I created 'Life as a Cerebral Palsy student' when I was 15 years old and began to notice a bigger difference between myself and my peers. I am so glad that I made the decision to start writing a blog and open up about the highs and lows of living with a disability.

"Attitudes towards disability are often negative, but they can also be positive. Not only that, it has also been proven that if the individual has more interaction with someone who has a disability, then their attitudes can only improve. All of this can be extremely useful for inclusion and continually demonstrates the need for including disabled children and adults within the community, as well as allowing more mainstream schools to take on pupils with SEN. Doing so will not only mean the general public has a more positive attitude towards disability, it will also provide the disabled individual with a positive self- image, which surely is just as important.

"I certainly think charities such as Scope have allowed this to progress over recent years. They have been running 'End the Awkward' campaigns for three years to promote a more positive attitude towards disability. These campaigns have ensured that all blog posts, adverts, YouTube videos and pictures follow a positive message about disability, as well as making the disabled individuals involved relatable, and showing how this kind of interaction should not be awkward. I have been so fortunate to be one of those individuals who has been allowed to be part of this. I have had the chance to be part of such a positive movement within Scope and be someone who can change the attitudes that people have about disability. I may write a blog about Cerebral Palsy - and yes this blog is a very big part of my life (because what else would I do on a Saturday night?) - but I hope you see me for more than that."

Ellie Simpson

Founder of CP Teens UK

"I have had Cerebral Palsy from birth, however I know many people who have become disabled later in life - mainly with an Acquired Brain Injury through illness or accidents - through the charity that I founded, CP Teens UK. CP Teens UK helps teenagers and young people, mainly between the ages of 10 and 25, with Cerebral Palsy and similar disabilities. The people who I know through CP Teens UK who have become disabled later in life have coped remarkably well and have embraced and used their situations as a strength, often becoming heavily involved in activities such as disability sports.

"Even though I have had Cerebral Palsy since birth, I have not always seen or used my disability as a strength. I used to see it as a major weakness and a disadvantage. It wasn't until I saw the London 2012 Paralympics that I thought that maybe a disability could be very much a strength and not necessarily a negative thing that needed to hold me back. I became more and more into this 'way' of thinking and the more I thought in this way, the happier I was and the more doors opened for me.

"Disability is something that people are often 'taught' to fear. I've even heard people say "I'd rather die than become disabled". You might be surprised to know that it really isn't that 'scary' at all, especially with the right attitude and a desire to achieve and succeed. With the right attitude, you'll be shocked at what can be achieved. No one, able-bodied or disabled, see results with a negative attitude.

"It is easy and entirely understandable to feel frustrated, trapped and scared when you become disabled. Life has changed and probably won't take the same path that you envisioned. However, the new path that you will now take will give you a totally new viewpoint on life and totally new opportunities, many of which you would have never been able to have before. Embrace these. I've been disabled all of my life, but it was only when I truly accepted this in my late teens after spending many years of trying to 'fit in' that my life really began.

"I would now never change who I am. Use your disability as a strength. Take every opportunity and don't get upset about the things you can't do - there's no point, you will only upset and frustrate yourself. And, give everything 100%. Your determination will make things happen."

Martyn Sibley

Creator of martynsibley.com

"I have a genetic condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. This means that since I was born I've had little strength anywhere on my body. With my electric wheelchair, independent living equipment and carers I live a very fulfilled life. The key to my personal achievements has been the funding for these vital inputs.

"When you use a wheelchair there are lots of barriers in everyday life. I need help to wash, dress, hoist (lifting device), cook, clean and go outside. The fact I am weaker means certain barriers are overcome with assistive technology and great people.

"However, out in public there are three types of barriers. The first is from the environment. If transport or buildings have steps, I'm disabled. When there are ramps and lifts, I'm totally included in that situation. The second is attitude. If a person sees my wheelchair and presumes things about me in a negative way, I'm disabled again. If they treat me like any person and get to know me, well I'm included again. The third is organisational barriers. If I have to phone for a train ramp 24 hours before travelling, or handwrite in a test for a new job interview, I'm disabled. But if train companies factor in that I won't know my exact travel time or if a company allows me to use a PC, I'm equal and able to show my true potential and value.

"This can all be quite tiring and frustrating. One of the tools I use is my outgoing personality. Always getting out and about, being interested in helping people, and asking for any support I need has been useful. This creates an interesting conversation about nature versus nurture. Can we use all use social skills as a barrier breaker? It definitely works but I appreciate for a shy person it's not ideal.

"Another way I stay positive is to balance my understanding of what's good today and what can be better tomorrow. The world is far more accessible, inclusive and full of technology today. However, there's so much more that governments, businesses and everyday people need to learn about disability.

"Overall, living a good life, regardless of disability, is about passion. All the people I know who are living fulfilled lives are connected to their passion. I love travelling, writing, creating videos, connecting people and improving things. So being a travel blogger, CEO of a disability organisation and advising government and companies is perfect."



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