Jamie is a student at the University of Durham who has cerebral palsy and received a lightweight manual wheelchair from Whizz-Kidz. Jamie says that even when things get tough, he never lets having a disability hold him back or affect any decision that he's made.
'I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a child and have been a wheelchair user since I was very little. When I was eight, my family and I felt it was important for me to gain more independence and get as much out of my education as possible – both academically and socially. We knew that the right wheelchair would be central to that, so we applied to Whizz-Kidz.
'We were quickly seen by Julia, one of the charity’s Mobility Therapists in Yorkshire. Julia took my measurements, assessed my physical needs and asked me about my life, my hobbies and my school. Julia took all of my needs into consideration and gave me my first powered chair. This meant that I could start secondary school feeling free and that I was able to do things like travel to school with my friends without any hassle.
'By the time I was 12, I became a member of Whizz-Kidz’s Kidz Board – a group of young wheelchair users from all across the UK, who have benefitted from the charity and are key representatives for Whizz-Kidz. I was the Chair of Kidz Board from October 2007 to the end of 2009 and during that time I had the opportunity to do a lot of amazing things like speak at Downing Street, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Being Chair of the Kidz Board was a way for me to be a voice for other disabled people. I didn’t take that opportunity for granted.
'I would like to see more disabled role models in the media to inspire young people. Famous figures who are wheelchair users – like Ade Adepitan, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Hannah Cockcroft – are now all household names, which is great, but disabled people in the spotlight are still in short supply. The Paralympics in 2012 got people talking about disability but more needs to be done to build on the legacy of the Games and challenge people’s perceptions of disability. One of the most interesting things I have encountered since the Paralympics is the idea that every disabled person should want to be a Paralympian – but could every non-disabled person become an Olympian and would they even want to?
'Now, at 19 years old, I’m in my second year at the University of Durham. I enjoy a busy social life, play wheelchair basketball and I’m looking forward to working for a year abroad in 2014, in Italy, as part of my degree. At the moment I am really concentrating on my studies and in the long term I am looking at pursuing a career in the media.
'I have never let my disability hold me back or dictate any of the decisions that I’ve made. I am a very determined and positive person. I try and just get on with things, even if it is sometimes tough, and I seize every opportunity that I can. Whizz-Kidz has really helped me to see the world this way and has helped me to have such a good start in life.'
As Jamie prepared to change schools to attend sixth form, his needs changed and he reapplied to Whizz-Kidz where we reassessed him and provided him with a lightweight manual chair.