My wheelchair will never hold me back again

By Sarah Walsh, 20 May 2016 , Comments

Growing up is never a simple task. Growing up in a wheelchair, I daresay, is even harder.

I think that I, a 19-year-old, may be able to shed some light as to why I believe growing up disabled is a very hard thing to do but something that has made me who I am today.

I was the only person at my small primary school to be in a wheelchair and the first issue that my family and I discovered was that of accessibility.

There were no bathroom facilities that I could use, classrooms were often too small for my wheelchair to move around in easily and there was only one entrance I could use with ease. However, I promised myself that the fact I cannot walk will not stop me from doing the best that I can.

When I advanced into high school a whole new set of issues arose. Finding a school that suited both my personality and the needs that my wheelchair demanded took months. I visited numerous private schools to determine where I belonged.

Wheelchair user Sarah Walsh with her parents

I began to rely heavily on public transportation, namely buses to and from school. This had to be organised perfectly so that I had no issues like having to ring my mother and ask for her to make the half hour drive from work to pick me up

I then wished to spend time with friends outside of school so I had to figure out if a bus would be able to take me to the local shopping centre, or if their house would be accessible enough for my spare manual wheelchair that I use for such trips where I know my motorised wheelchair will not be able to go.

This was another issue I quickly realised would be extremely annoying.

Nowhere was properly accessible for a wheelchair. Almost every house or public area had steps I needed to get up before entering. I could not use bathrooms and carpet… there was so much carpet that I was almost never able to properly push myself around on it.

After months of public transportation letting me down, I began to resent my wheelchair and lost the determination I once had to ensure that nothing would stop me.

But I discovered an annual camp that is held by Muscular Dystrophy New South Wales (MDNSW) for people who are just like me; in a wheelchair. I have made lifelong friendships with the people who attend these camps, both my fellow wheelies and the carers who come to look after us. It really is my second home and it helped me find my fire again.

When I reached college, the daunting reality that I was going to be an adult hit me. Questions such as where would I live, how do I live independently in a wheelchair and what services are available to me ran through my head constantly but with help from family and MDNSW, I was able to get some guidance.

When I was elected my school’s performing arts captain for 2015 I began to see my wheelchair in a new light. It didn’t falter my ability to provide the leadership that my peers believed I held. It showed me that they did not see me as my wheelchair. They just saw a girl who could be a great captain.

This was the moment I knew that my wheelchair would never hold me back again.

Wheelchair user Sarah Walsh says a scholarship from the SpineCare has helped her achieve her educational goals

So here I am today – a first year university student who is trying to push barriers and become a primary school teacher who children will love.

I cannot thank the SpineCare Foundation enough for the financial support they have given me this year. The half-hour drive from home to uni in a taxi is extremely expensive and as I have had difficulties finding employment, the Gregory and Dolores Farrell Scholarship has eased my worries considerably!

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