I have Cerebral Palsy which affects all four limbs and my speech.
I spent most of my pre-16 education in mainstream school. While I enjoyed a firm group of friends in primary school and wasn’t limited in any way by my disability, secondary school was a different story. At primary school I’d felt accepted, because children at that age don’t have any preconceived ideas about disability and therefore it wasn’t much of an issue. At secondary school, however, my differences became more evident to both me and my classmates throughout my five years at the school. I quickly went from having a group of friends I’d had at primary school to feeling very isolated.
Despite social struggles at school I grew up being stubbornly independent and wanting to do everything I could for myself. I measured myself against my two brothers, so as they became more independent I wanted to do the same things they were allowed to do.
After completing my GCSE’s I went to a specialist residential college for disabled students in Coventry where I really started to discover who I was. I’d gone from having full-time one-to-one support at school to having one-to-one support only when I needed it. It was there that I started to realise that I could be completely independent and direct people to help me in the way I wanted them to.
After doing my A Levels at college I moved to Bristol to do my undergraduate degree in Economics. This was the first time I’d lived fully independently and my independence greatly expanded.
It was after attending a leadership course for disabled students that I started to consider how I could make a valuable contribution to the world and go into whatever career I wanted to. Soon after this my sense of adventure fuelled me to take up rock climbing and skiing, both of which I’ve been doing regularly ever since.
I finally found my voice in 2014 when I joined my local Toastmasters club. I started to share the things I was truly passionate about: disability and independence, changing perceptions around disability and encouraging disabled pupils that there are no limits to what they can achieve.
I want to share my experiences and the understanding I’ve gained from them to provide a clear lens through which to see what living with a disability does, and doesn’t, mean.
The only limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves.