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30 Years, 30 Stories

To help mark our 30th anniversary this year, 30 wheelchair users have chosen to share their stories.

To mark our 30th anniversary, we’re releasing 30 stories from wheelchair users across our history.

This ambitious and historic project will result in stories being archived as part of the The British Library Sound Archives ensuring that the life experiences of wheelchair users today are captured forever. With thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and The British Library for their support.

Through feature-length oral history interviews, some of the wheelchair users we have supported since 1990 have shared with us what life has been like for them as a wheelchair user in the UK.

In the three decades since Whizz-Kidz was founded, there has been significant change in disability policy, legislation and wheelchair services. For example, the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act came into force and in 1991, NHS Wheelchair Services were devolved to 151 local health authorities affecting levels of service for wheelchair users.

We wanted to reflect how these changes were experienced in the day to day lives of 30 wheelchair users through biographical interviews and striking portraits. How far have we come? What will the next 30 years look like? A number of high profile wheelchair users are interviewed to explain how, when and why changes in policy, legislation and our own clinical services were implemented.

These stories will be archived as part of the British Library Sounds Archive and will ensure that the daily life experiences of wheelchair users today are captured forever. This is an ongoing project so look out for more stories as we record them. We hope you enjoy listening. 

Chirag's Story

In his ’30 Stories’ interview, Chirag covers everything from his experiences at a mainstream primary school as being a wheelchair user, to his recent work placements at an IT company and law firm.

Judith's Story

From receiving powered wheelchairs and winning a grant to produce her own selection of accessible clothing, to being on the Kidz Board and going on work placements, Judith has had a long relationship with Whizz-Kidz - expanding for over half of her life!

Laura's Story

Family plays a big theme in Laura’s interview. Having been adopted along with her twin sister in Bangkok, and brought to England by her fantastic parents, Laura speaks highly of mum and dad, who always went ‘above and beyond’ to advocate on their behalf.

Sophie's Story

Sophie has been involved in Whizz-Kidz for years, accessing our services and fundraising to help others. Now we’re delighted that she has joined us as a colleague working in our services team supporting other young wheelchair users

Liam's Story

Liam talks about his sporting life as well as the good times he had studying Sports Psychology at university. Once his studies were over, he knew he had to “get a real job and live a real life’.

Bethany's Story

Having lived independently at college for a few years, Bethany talks about her experience and the adaptations required to do this. She highlights the differences of the places she’s lived in, telling us that whilst she’s still waiting for a dropped kerb outside her house in Wales, that the accessibility in Gloucester clubs where she moved to, was a great experience.

Zara's Story

Zara talks us through some key pieces of Disability legislation and although there is still a long way to go, she recognises that her actions have had a positive impact on the lives of the many young people she has met. She encourages us all to be the change we want to see in the world. 

Chris' Story

From getting to school from his family home, to studying philosophy and discussing the state of migrants and asylum seekers in the UK today, Chris’ interview spans a huge range of topics.

Marja's Story

Senior mobility therapist Marja tells us about the changes that have occurred for wheelchair users since she first joined Whizz-Kidz more than 20 years ago.

Martin Dougan

Martin describes how his family and friends treated him the same as anybody else, resulting in him not associating himself with disability until he started school, where he experienced some “preconceived ideas” about his intelligence.

Dimitri's Story

Through this interview, taken before the Games, we got behind the fencing mask and find it’s not just medals but solid relationships and hard won independence that are most precious to Dimitri.

Tobi's Story

“I am the true definition of intersectionality’ Tobi told us during her ’30 Years, 30 Stories’ interview. Her unique story of being a black disabled Muslim, foster care experienced, bisexual, wheelchair user is a rare and unique story that needs listening to…

Eddie's Story

Eddie tackles the sensitive subject of disability language. Having autism and being a wheelchair user means the terms we all use, have a significant impact on his well-being. Eddie discusses the pros and cons of using terms, including “differently-abled” and “special needs”.

Baroness Jane Campbell's Story

In her interview, campaigner and parliamentarian, Baroness Jane Campbell, shares her personal journey through the birth of the disability movement in the UK from its emergence in the 1960s and 1970s, through to the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act.

Miro's Story

As a Research Fellow in Disability Studies, Miro’s interview is a highly engaging whistle stop tour of the power and politics at play in everyday life for wheelchair users in the UK. From recalling his spinal surgery and his friend’s attitudes towards disability to wheelchair provision, Miro covers a lot of ground.

Ian's Story

Ian first started working with wheelchairs and vehicles in 1978, so he has witnessed the significant developments that have occurred within the sector over the last 40 years.

Jacqui's Story

A spoken word artist, Miss Jacqui shares her life story with us and her interview is full of memories and observations from her life as a young female wheelchair user. Issues of culture and representation are also reflected on and the huge importance of her Whizz-Kidz wheelchairs.

Arunima's Story

Arunima, now a City lawyer, describes how she’s navigated life as a wheelchair user since she was diagnosed with nerve cancer in her spine, and given just a few weeks to live. She now advocates for inclusivity and equal opportunities in employment for disabled people.

Penny's Story

Current Kidz Board Chair, Penny, gives us an honest account of what it’s like to be a young wheelchair user in the UK since the turn of the century. Her interview spans mental health, ‘ableism’, the impact of social media on young people and the moment she realised her voice had the power to change lives.

Louis' Story

Whilst preparing for the Tokyo Paralympics, Louis Saunders talks us through his journey with wheelchair boccia, the sport he says has transformed his life. Playing boccia has meant that Louis has now found an environment where his competitive spirit can thrive.

Hannah's Story

Hannah Cockroft, winner of 12 world championship gold titles, recalls that she “couldn’t push a wheelchair quick enough” when younger. The irony. She also tells us that whilst growing up, she had no idea the Paralympics even existed.

Nathan's story

Former Kidz Board member Nathan is the first wheelchair user to qualify as a football referee in the UK. In his interview, he tackles wheelchair tech on the football pitch and the pain and process that a wheelchair user has to go through to get from A to B.

Chris' Story

Bolton Wanderers fan Chris has years of experience working with and supporting young disabled people, giving him a unique and detailed insight into how life as a wheelchair user has changed since he was younger. Chris also lets us know just how easy it is to be an ally to wheelchair users.

Rebecca's Story

Former Kidz Board member, Rebecca, recalls her early cardigan-sniffing years through to ableism in Doctor Who, disability activism and coming out as queer during lockdown.

Sam's Story

Sam is brutally honest about the co-dependent relationship with her mother that arose after the sudden death of her father when she was just nine years old. She talks about ‘cripping up’ in the media and experiencing imposter syndrome on live TV, everyday activism and the backlash on social media.

Ade's Story

Famous for his basketball skills and TV presenting, sports personality, Ade Adepitan describes the moment he knew he wanted to be an athlete in this short animation.

Ruth's Story

From studying for GCSEs in hospital to celebrating success at the BAFTAs, Ruth Madeley shares the challenges and achievements in her life and career in this exclusive interview.

George's Story

“I’ve done everything from speaking at a boot sale and running around a boot sale to speaking in the House of Commons and speaking at 10 Downing Street and everything in-between. That was my job. I saw it as my job. Whizz-Kidz treated me like an adult even when I was 12, 13, 14. They wanted me to have responsibility and accountability and they took what I had to say seriously.”

Hannah's Story

Having just graduated from a Masters in Law, she talks about her earliest memory, hearing a Whitney Houston track, to the reason she chose law as her specialist field.

Ruth Owen's Story

In this anniversary, CEO of Whizz-Kidz, Ruth Owen explains how she defeated the social stereotypes that face young disabled women to become the valued chief executive of the charity that she is today.

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