Despite growing up with a disability, I was always very distant from the community itself as I had grown up with fully able-bodied friends throughout my childhood. Hell, back when I was little I’m not even sure if you could comprehend there being a ‘community’ as such.
Even throughout my teen years, I never contemplated my club hand as anything that would take further shaping in my life. It had already provided me with a thicker skin, therefore what else could I anticipate it give me?
As time went by, self-awareness came in massively and I accepted my situation, my challenges and embraced my difference. I embraced this by firstly taking speeches at schools, forcing myself out of my comfort zone and allowed the stares to do just that – stare, whilst answering questions from young’uns.
The more I found myself reaching out, the more the community reached back, too. Becoming friendly and learning the stories of people through the Lucky Fin Project helped break down a big barrier to find people just like me.
Having FaceTimed the Lucky Fin Project’s founder Molly and the Stapelman crew on numerous occasions, becoming good friends with them all and attending NubAbility camp, I love the similarity in stories I was hearing.
Returning from my first trip to America, I was fully induced by the inspiration and scenes I had experienced in 2015. Despite that, knowing all these amazing people was great – but they were so far away, so for quite some time I was thinking, ‘what can I do over here myself?’
I remember a long chat with Molly in early January 2016. I remember telling her how there was ‘a lightbulb in my head that just hadn’t switched on yet (either that or I’d been punched too many times!)’. I felt that, after the bonds I had made and the impressions that had set upon me, I had to do something myself, but what to do just would not click. Eventually I spoke with some friends who helped my creative process speed up.
And then it clicked.
I would create a website. A website would follow the same name as my previous speeches in ‘Disability Is Ability’ which all seemed to flow together seamlessly. My creative juices may have been flowing, but my technical abilities remained flawed. Luckily, it was my friend Dominic who supplied the goods on that front and helped me build the site.
I wanted to do my bit to raise awareness and share my stories as well as others’ on this side of the pond. Today marks a year since its launch and a proud year it has been. There are still many stories left to tell and plenty of experiences for others to relate to.
In the past year the website has had heartfelt emails from teenagers, children and grandparents - all on how is best to treat their situation and honestly, the feeling has been amazing. From the Channel 4 feature, speech bookings, to seeing friends and family around the world wearing their Project DIA t-shirts means so much to me.
There is still so much to capitalise and build on for the year ahead. The support the cause has had and how it gradually grows makes this every bit worthwhile.
For the year that’s past, the DIA thanks you for your support. For the time coming, we hope you continue to show the love!
(Facebook: Disability Is Ability – Twitter: @DisIsAbility)