As well as delivering disability awareness training for Enhance the UK, I also give motivational speeches, mainly in schools, for presentation evenings and assemblies. It is quite possibly my favourite kind of work, as I feel that there, just by being merely present as a 20-something in a wheelchair, I am making a difference. Disability awareness starts in schools, and this is where we need to focus our efforts, collectively. This is why:
- Children listen, and can still develop their own opinions.
Children are by far the most interactive and engaged when it comes to my impairment. They marvel at my pink and purple spokes, and find all the similarities between my chair and their pram, rather than focusing on the differences between us. They are still open to new ideas and forming their own opinions. To me, it is vital that I give them a positive and welcoming view of disability, especially before their parents ‘shoo’ them away!
- They can teach adults too!
Young people are often the ‘ice breaker’ that enables an older person to become flexible with their own thoughts. If a child knows how to help a visually impaired person cross the road from what they learnt at school, for example, there is no reason why they can’t educate those around them, too.
- Preparing for a more inclusive future generation.
The youngest amongst us have the pressure of providing the brightest future they can for all. That future is one that I want to be accessible, inclusive and welcoming. Let’s focus on making our school children so disability aware that, finally, it is normalised and accepted.