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Jul 07, 2023

Sarah's wheelchair will never hold her back again


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.

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.

Spinecare , opens in a new window

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