Further to my earlier blog post about my experience of the Brunel TEDx talk auditions, here is a transcript of the speech I gave at my audition. I tried to keep the actual speech as it was written here, so you can get the full effect of what I said.
20 years ago, the doctors told me something that would change my life, or at least something they thought would change my life. 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (a neurological condition that, as you can see, means I ended up with a snazzy set of wheels). I’ll come back to why I don’t see my diagnosis as life changing at the end of this talk.
I run a blog called InvincibleWomanOnWheels where I write venue accessibility reviews, disability travel stories and discussion of disability issues, but this talk is less about what I write and more why.
So, since InvincibleWomanonwheels is MY blog and these (points at chair) are wheels, that must make me the Invincible Woman, right? Wrong, if I AM the invincible Woman, I’m the second generation, the first is my mum. She was the one who sat and willed me through being 10 weeks premature and the size of a stuffed snake toy, to being the tough as nails, stubborn as hell, will “not give up until she reaches her goals” 21-year-old invincible woman on wheels that I am today. She heard every no as no’one’s done it yet, because these doctors never knew the world from my viewpoint, and for that I’ll always be grateful. And that “we’ll figure it out” has sort of become a mantra. The amount of times I’ve answered, “how are you going to…” with “I’ll figure it out” I’m starting to sound like a broken record.
You see, the problem is that everyone focuses on this idea of disability as negative or limiting, it’s in all the definitions, so disability needs to be redefined. and I’m not saying that InvincibleWomanOnWheels is the whole solution, I’d never say that, but I certainly want to be part of the solution!
The point behind InvincibleWomanOnWheels is to carry on those messages that my mum taught me for the next generation, to be a guiding light for the parents who don’t know where to turn when their child is diagnosed, for the children who don’t know how they’re going to overcome their disability and achieve everything they want, because when every “expert” says no or can’t, you’re likely to believe them right?
But you don’t have to, anything is possible. Surely you can’t live in the capital where only 26% of the underground network is accessible? Watch me, surely a girl’s holiday with no parents can’t happen? See me drive up the side of Mount Etna, to quote Sinatra: I did it my way, and you will too.
you’re probably wondering why I write a blog rather than do speeches like this, and to me it’s because “seeing is believing” and, as disabled people, we spend so much time having so many different “experts” tell us many different things that you don’t know who to believe and so it’s easier to just see the message rather than hear it.
Now seems a good time to come back to what I said at the start, that for me this disability isn’t life changing, and that’s because life changing suggests that something has to be different or that something is different from before. But my life doesn’t HAVE to be any different from anyone else’s and I’ve never known anything different.
So, to those parents whose child has just been diagnosed with a disability, know they can still do everything they wish. And for those children with disabilities, be invincible, be phenomenal, do everything you ever wished and don’t ever let anyone tell you can’t. Think of it this way: I’m taking the exact same life journey as everyone else, I’m just doing it in a customised car.
Given what I said here, I’d like to thank my mum and everyone who supported me with my audition.
Em (Invincible Woman on Wheels)