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Jacqui's Story

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.

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Jacqui grew up thinking she was a ‘unicorn’ - she had never met another disabled person before the age of 13, or saw any on TV.

She credits this tough start for giving her a kind of “…automatic resilience and I think growing up with different kinds of people in my life and in my environment really moulded me into the person that I am today and being confident in my own skin.”

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.

Her funny anecdotes cover life at school – including the moment she threw a pig’s heart at the wall during a science lesson – and how she could finally keep up with her mates in her new powered wheelchair. 

Having travelled and lived in different parts of the world, she also describes the different international attitudes towards disability and her campaigning work on accessibility.

“New buildings, why can’t they have lifts in them?” she asks.

Issues of culture and representation are also reflected on and the huge importance her Whizz-Kidz wheelchairs have played in reflecting her personal style.

Jacqui travels down a corridor in her powered wheelchair while smiling at the camera

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On being black, female and a wheelchair user - Listen to a clip here

"My dad always told all five of us, but me especially, 'You have to work twice as hard to be average. You have to work three times as hard to be exceptional. And your only option is to be exceptional'.

"I think him telling me that from a young age instilled that in me because one, I'm black. Two, I'm a woman too. And I have a disability.

"So I have to put in twice as much work just to be seen as equal as everyone else.

"But who wants to be equal when you can be the top of the pyramid?"

Jacqui’s first Whizz-Kidz wheelchair - Listen to a clip here

"The first chair I had was actually garbage, but my first Whizz-Kidz chair where I [felt] my chair is an extension of me.

"It represents my personality. It's a part of me and when I got that chair it was purple and sparkly…I was 6 or 7 when I got that chair and that changed my whole life…

"Oh Wheelchairs don’t have to be these ugly clunky things. And I was a small kid so having a chair that fit.

"I was the same height as my peers, like I wasn’t towering over them in this giant metal throne ruling over them.

"My mum didn't have to hurt her back, it was really lightweightit was aesthetically pleasing and people would want to come up and have a conversation about this sparkly bit and then we'll talk about something else.

"It was inviting, which I think is so important, especially as a young person who has a disability.

"…If you need something to help you like an aide, it should represent you at that time and it should be a conversation.

"So because a lot of people get a bit squirrely around disability, they think ‘What can I say? What can’t I say?' I’m like, ‘just talk’.

"That chair bought me out of my shell a lot more….it really changed the trajectory of how I see myself and how I see disability.” 

A close-up of Jacqui smiling at the camera with trees behind her

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On resilience and determination - Listen to a clip here

"My body is the best, and sometimes the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

"And I don't know if I would have the same resilience or drive or determination if I was born able-bodied.

"I think that is the biggest thing, no other things I think of have effected me or changed me [as much] throughout my life."

School life - Listen to a clip here

"I gravitated towards teachers that supported me, and the ones that didn't, I just caused havoc in their classes.

"Like absolute havoc just because I was like, ‘Oh OK, I'm going to show you [my]other side because I was here ready to learn, ready to get a good education. You told me I can’t? OK, I'm going to be that kid for you'.

"…Like if we had seating arrangements, I would say, ‘OK, we're going to all sit in different places' and people would follow my madness.

"And she would say “You guys have to go back in your seats”, and we would just be looking at her like, these are our seats.”

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