Well, back in April 2011, I met the lovely Co-Editors of said magazine, Srin Madipalli and Martyn Sibley. Both are young, cool, charming, and fearless twenty-something guys who have Spinal Muscular Atrophy. They both use powered wheelchairs, hoists, electric beds and various other disabled paraphernalia, as well as needing personal PAs, but neither allow anything, disability-related or not, get in their way of enjoying life. They’re both travel-crazy adrenaline junkies, only working at their day jobs – Srin as a lawyer, and Martyn a freelance disability consultant – in order to pay for the next adventure! Check out Srin’s scuba-diving trip and Martyn’s plans to volunteer abroad.
Knowing that we all have the same ethos – to portray disability and related issue in a positive and inspiring light - I joined the guys in helping to build this start-up publication.
Disability Horizons promotes a unique and positive 21st Century view of disability. It aims to inform and inspire its readers to believe that everything is possible. No matter what your disability, everyone should feel that they can achieve their dreams, be confident in themselves and enjoy life to the max.
I’m thus very excited to have been asked to be the Content Editor for Disability Horizons, a website that I am passionate about being part of and ensuring that it reaches as many disabled people as possible.
As we as working with Disability Horizons, I also have a full-time job as a journalist, so the Inspire blog will have to be put on the back burner. But, as Disability Horizons is a community-driven website, with a high volume of personal stories from disabled people across the world, we would love to hear from you. Email us at email@example.com, tweet us @DHorizons, or message us on Facebook.
I look forward to seeing you there!
Words cannot express how much I am in awe of 51-year-old Eddie Kidd. Eddie suffered brain damage after a motorbike accident in 1996, but despite having extreme difficulty walking and talking, he is today set to finish the London Marathon today, nearly two months after he started.
Casting aside his wheelchair, Eddie has been walking for nearly 8 hours a day with the aid of a walking frame, his wife Samantha, and an electronic device on his foot. He’s been covering an incredible mile a day, determined to cross the finish line to raise money for Children with Cancer UK ; “I had a good life and I want children to have the same as me. I want them to have a chance.”
His perseverance and will power are incredible, he is a true inspiration.
Did you know that even teddy bears can have disabilities?…
Teaching children about difference and the inclusion of others is such an important aspect of fighting disabalism. So I was thrilled to see this child’s teddy bear in a wheelchair from Rackety’s.
Plus, after a little more Googling, I also came across this wheelchair from Build-a-Bear Workshop. Brilliant!
Talking about his experiences with photography and capturing the world around him, Gary demonstrates how “being blind and using photography opens a door to the rest of the world.” He uses his other senses, such as sound, to capture moments, like the movement of a rollercoaster above him.
At the age of 49, Gary has only recently become a photographer, thanks to the encouragement of the charity PhotoVoice, which help people with disabilities to find their own way of communicating and representing their view of the world. Having become blind 10 only years ago due to the eye disorder retinitis pigmentosa, Gary has found a new sense of self through photography.
But enough of me waffling on, check it out for yourself!
It seems that all I’m blogging about at the moment is Aimee Mullins! Well there’s a reason for this, not only is she an athlete, model, motivational speaker and double amputee, but she has now been appointed the latest global ambassador for L’Oreal Paris.
Aimee has always campaigned to change society’s views on disability. Becoming involved with the L’Oreal brand has given Aimee the opportunity to impress upon the world how a disability is only what you make of it, that you can still be successful, strong and beautiful; ‘sometimes we need to remind ourselves that [it's] worth celebrating all parts of ourselves and all facets of ourselves… it’s the complexity of who we are as people that makes us beautiful’. Everyone is worth it!
Mention Aimee Mullins and I could enthuse about her all day! Aimee is a double amputee who has broken records as an athlete, has modelled and acted, and is now an activist encouraging society to rethink its entrenched views on disability.
But I recently found this new video named Aimee Mullins and her 12 pairs of legs, which was prompted by her experience when presenting to a class of young children about her disability. They had been encouraged not to stare at her or ask about her legs out of politeness. But this was the very nature of what she aimed to achieve, to allow the children to explore what they might not understand, something key to changing the way everyone views disabilities.
After opening up the debate and asking what animal could jump as high as her specially made “cheetah” legs, Aimee ‘went from being a woman that these kids had been trained to see as disabled, to somebody who had potential that their bodies didn’t have yet, somebody that might even be super- abled‘ (Aimee).
Following on from this, a project with Matthew Barney (see image above) encouraged Aimee to think of her legs not as just prosthetics, but works of art, ‘wearable sculpture… A prosthetic limb doesn’t represent the need to replace loss anymore, it can stand as a symbol that the wearer has the power to create whatever it is that they want to create… so people that society once considered to be disabled, can now become the architects of their own identities, and indeed continue to change those identities by designing their bodies from a place of empowerment.’ Oh how I love her!
Trawl the Internet for just one moment and you will come across a great variety of fantastic disability-related blogs and personal websites. With that in mind, I thought I would start a regular post introducing you to some of the best and most inspiring entries.
I start with the personal website Reflections on Treacher Collins syndrome by Amie. If you read my last post about Jono Lancaster and the documentary Love Me, Love My Face, you’ll know that Treacher Collins syndrome is a condition from birth that distorts the growth of cheekbones.
Amie, who is in her own words ‘your typical, garden-variety human being’, a physician and married with two cats, also has Treacher Collins syndrome.
Her site is a great resource for others who might be struggling with the condition, with a focus on personal achievement and building confidence. It includes valuable links to other inspirational articles that have helped Amie cope with the way people view her and Treacher Collins syndrome. She even has a top ten brilliant reasons why she loves being different. And as the initial page on her site asserts, ‘what matters most is how you see yourself.’
If you missed the BBC documentary Love Me, Love My Face about Jono Lancaster who was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, then I strongly recommend you watch it. The rare genetic condition, which is believed to affect around 1 in 10,000 babies, means he was born with no cheekbones and hearing difficulties.
The show focuses on Jono’s search for his biological parents who gave him up for adoption as they couldn’t accept his appearance. Because of the way he looked, doctors predicted that he might not be able to walk or talk, and that his mental ability would be limited. But this is not a typical result of Treacher Collins syndrome, and Jono has grown to be much like any other 26-year-old man; training at the gym, working full-time (as a support worker for people with learning difficulties), and happily in a long-term relationship.
For me, the relationship he has with adopted mother Jean, and girlfriend of four years, Laura Richardson, are what is important. Laura and Jono’s relationship has generated much media attention with some people finding hard to understand how Jono could find love looking the way he does. But Laura has never seen Jono as any different from everyone else; “even though his face looks different, he’s still attractive. He’s still got a gorgeous body, he wears nice clothes, he’s got nice hair, it’s not about one thing it’s the whole package. [When we met] to me he looked gorgeous so I didn’t care if other people stared.”
His adopted mother recalls how much she wanted to take him home and couldn’t understand how anyone could abandon such a lovely baby. After fighting low self-esteem as a child following years of bullying and having to deal with people assuming he is mentally disabled because he is physically different, Jono has accepted himself and is now on a mission to change the way people think about his face. He said “doctors always asked if I wanted corrective surgery… to get my cheek bones built up, my teeth straightened or my jaw broken and realigned, but despite how depressed I got I thought ‘God made me like this’. I’m glad I didn’t choose anything. I’m proud of who I am. And Treacher Collins made me who I am today.”
I strongly recommend watching this inspiring documentary. It’s a powerful example of how we should all look past physical appearance and not underestimate or prejudge. Visit BBC iPlayer to watch Love Me, Love My Face.
PS. Looking at this picture found on Jono’s Facebook page, I can understand why Laura likes him!
X Factor will once again this year be supporting Help for Heroes, the charity dedicated to assisting wounded soldiers. The 16 finalists last night performed their cover of David Bowie’s Heroes, which is available to buy from today, all proceeds of which will go to the charity.
As well as their performance, which I noticed Wagner didn’t make much of a vocal contribution to, we also heard the story of one soldier disabled by the war in Afghanistan, Lance Corporal Matthew Wilson. After stepping on a hidden bomb on a routine patrol, Matthew lost a leg from the knee down and severely injured his arm. Unable to return to duty, the charity has been vital in giving Matthew back his confidence and life, offering him a scholarship to pursue a new dream to become a pilot. As his mum so beautifully put it “our country needs heroes like my son, sometimes our heroes need a little help too.”
Last Wednesday night saw the 11th Pride of Britain Awards with a host of celebrities, from c to z list, present awards to Britain’s unsung heroes from all walks of life.
Included in the triumphant winners of the night were four people with disabilities who have fought to overcome and achieve despite adversity. First was Kelsey Trevett, aged 8, who lost both his eyes after battling cancer. He was handed the Child of Courage award by some of the X Factor participants after his determination not to shy away from the activities he loves such as ice skating, abseiling, canoeing, skiing, dancing and swimming – that tiers me out just thinking about it! His mum said ‘he has never to this day said anything negative about what happened.’ And Kelsey’s take on it; ‘Oh well, mum, you can’t always have what you want.’
Scooping the award for Young Fundraiser of the Year was Cameron Small, aged 12, who has the rare blood disorder Evans syndrome. Cameron has been ill since his first birthday and thus spent much of his life in and out of hospital. His experiences spurred him to help others through fundraising. So far he has raised and astonishing £95,000 for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital which will go towards buying new hospital TVs; ‘the thing that makes me happy is seeing other children happy because when people are happy they respond better to treatment.’ said Cameron. He continued his money raising efforts on the show as viewers were asked to donate £5,000 so he could throw a pie in Cheryl Cole’s face, with Simon Cowell adding a further £10,000 to the money pot.
PC David Rathband, a policeman who was left blind after being shot by gunman Raul Moat, won the Emergency Services award. Since the attack David has vowed to return to the police force, and even set up the Blue Lamp Foundation for those injured in 999 duties. His wife asserted; ‘his strength of character has absolutely amazed me’.
Alison John has made medical history as the first person in Britain to have had all of her major organs transplanted; her heart, lungs, liver and kidney. Alison was born with Cystic Fibrosis, and was given the Special Recognition award after fighting against her illness to succeed as a doctor. An amazing achievement for anyone, but especially for Alison in light of the fact that it was thought she may not live past the age of 13.