So, I start university in just under 2 weeks now ... when did I become this old?! It hit me this morning when I realised I am going to be 20 in like 2 months, 20 sounds old! On Thursday, I went over to university to meet my lecturers, who were all really lovely, and I'm not as anxious as I was about things!
We discussed the course and the different modules etc., and what could potentially need adapting, and they couldn't have been more helpful! I thought pigs were going to fly past the window at one point though; the very first task/assessment will be a group presentation, admitally just to a member of staff, and I sat there and said, 'yeah, I'll do that' ... I would have never even considered saying yes at school, ever! Obviously, first and foremost, I am going to university to get my degree, but I also think I need to gain the confidence I have never gained, especially using my own voice (which I can assure you is rather loud once I'm confident with people!) and I just decided there and then that it's going to start with the group presentation!
I have met a few people who are on my course online on Facebook who all seem nice, in particular one girl. It came into conversation that I obviously have Cerebral Palsy, and she knew what it was (always a bonus!), and it didn't seem to phase her at all. I just go off experiences of 'friends' at school, who were clearly phased by the fact I had a disability and weren't willing to lend a hand or just made situations awkward! We are meeting up on our first day to walk in together ... it's nice to know I'm not the only wimp!
Today was my first 'shift' Twitter moderating for a company called Sport4_All. They promote anything and everything disability sport and also have an online hub of resources. I thoroughly enjoyed my 'shift' representing Sport4_All, and going forward it will be extremely useful for my degree. I went through the whole of school not knowing at all what I wanted to do once I had left, and it's kind of crazy how I've discovered my whole future if you like in this past gap year! I even know what I want to do after my degree, which is to set up a Paralympic/Disability Sport company that does everything from coaching, to events, to promotion!
As my gap year comes to a close, I have started to look back over the past year. Firstly, unless you are 100% sure of what you want to do, take a gap year; I have discovered stuff about myself that I didn't even realise, and I've discovered a whole new path that I wouldn't have previously known even existed. The thing is, I've not done any 'normal' gap year activities, in fact, I've not even left the country, but I've still had the best year ever! Here are a few things I've done (and yes, you will probably laugh at some of them!):
- Setting up CP Teens UK, one of my biggest highlights of my gap year and it's as strong as ever and nearly 1-year-old!
- Taking up Athletics and becoming a member of City Of Sheffield AC, a club I now love and couldn't imagine life without it
- Meeting Laura, who I met through CP Teens UK, in person and becoming close friends
- Going to my first festival!
- Seeing McBusted and One Direction live (don't care how sad I sound!)
- Entering my first Athletics competition
- Winning a silver medal at the National Disability Championships
- Having the most amazing weekend in London!
- Being recognised by Paralympian, Stephen Miller
- Having a feature in the UK's biggest disability sport magazine (more on this in a future blog, due to be published in the next issue of the magazine!)
- Volunteering for a local charity that helps young people with disabilities and additional needs
- Being selected for a 'Road To Rio' talent day
- Going to Wembley with my local football club
I could go on, but what I'm trying to say is, last September, I was devastated at the fact I had left school; I would never have dreamt in my wildest dreams that I've had the year I've had ... I'm extremely lucky! I kind of thought that they'd be nothing for me to do 'because I have Cerebral Palsy', but I was so wrong! You never know what will be waiting for you...
Now for the guest blogger, who this time is Cat Lee, one of the CP Teens UK Ambassadors - thanks Cat, I know you've waited a long time for this!
Recently, I have been interested in quotes, and have noticed that one in particular appears often. ''The only disability I life is a bad attitude'. While I appreciate the message that this quote attempts to give off is positive, I also find this quote quite patronising, as if the only thing people with disabilities have to go through is being negative- therefore insinuating that the only thing stopping those with disabilities from achieving is their attitude.
Furthermore, I dislike the way that it appears to be offering a road about message to able bodied people that says 'if those with disability can, you can too.' This quote infuriates me, as it affectively objectifies disability and in my opinion, relays the impression that those with disability do not have anything else to content with, such as pain or physical/mental disadvantages.
Another image on the internet- which is not disability related, that attracted my attention was of Disney princesses without hair.
This image is of course a positive one, showing those with cancer that you can still be beautiful. But doesn't this in itself down play the affects of cancer? Loosing hair is a symptom of a form of treatment for cancer. Those with cancer don't just suffer baldness- and in this sense, the image could be construed as quite insulting.
A qualm I have with this positive message is that no-one ever thinks to portray disabled characters. I for one loved Disney princesses but couldn't help but question why they were perfect, and whether or not if they lived with a condition, would it have been the same story? Sometimes, I feel society overlooks this. I am of the opinion that disability receives far less attention from public and media alike, whether it be funding or awareness. In 2009, Disney brought about a black princess, and although the storyline wasn't to my taste, I am aware that the film was popular with many viewers. I would have given anything to see (and I still would) to see a main Disney character with a disability or impairment. Despite this- I still love Disney, even more now than when I was little.
When disability is portrayed it can often be shown as being weak and in television circumstances, just a supporting character, such as Glee's character of Becky who has Downs Syndrome, played by Lauren Potter. But that's not the only thing that irks me! I can't understand it when characters who have disabilities are not portrayed by those with actual disabilities. I mean fair enough if the character becomes disabled on screen, I don't expect the actor to be replaced, but those characters that are initially determined to have a 'difficulty' should actually be portrayed by an actor with those 'difficulties', such as Breaking Bad's character 'Walter White Jr.', who has Cerebral Palsy, played by Marlee Matlin who has the same condition in real life. I'm in no way saying it shouldn't be done, but I'm of the opinion that MORE disabled actors should be chosen. I mean to say would a white person play a black person on screen or vice versa? I doubt it. Another Glee character, Artie, who is paralysed and in a wheelchair, however in actual fact the actor (Kevin Michael McHale) is fully able bodied, and in all honesty, did the role require an able bodied character to portray the role (trust me-I've watched Glee- he does no extraordinary stunts etc.)? I know it seems like I'm targeting Glee a bit so here's another example- Daniel Day Lewis's Oscar winning performance in My Left Foot, in which he plated a man with Cerebral Palsy.
I have no real conclusion to this post, because I doubt these matters will ever fully resolve themselves. I can only hope that eventually, disability will receive equal treatment in the media and not be used as either to be an 'encouragement' to others, nor an inspirational message. I would also love to see more disabled actors on screen and for television programs to actually have main characters with difficulties, without making them 'inspiring' or destitute, but just *for want of a better word* normal. instead.
I would to hear other people's thoughts on this.
If you're interested in reading more of my ramblings- check out my blog and maybe leave some comments?-www.livingwithlefthemiplegia.blogspot.co.uk