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Laura Merry's Story

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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.

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. Reflecting back on her campaigning work, Laura describes how she’s learnt a huge amount from her parents, of how to fight for her rights as she grew older and became more independent. 

A live music and arts enthusiast, Laura describes what life has been like growing up with a twin sister who shares the same condition as her - Congenital Muscular Dystrophy – laughing at how people often describe them “like an old married couple”. She describes growing up with her twin, ‘her rock’ and companion who was able to share her concerns with her sister who understood everything she was going through, despite being affected differently by the condition.

Laura also touches on intersectionality, discussing her experience of being visibly disabled and of South East Asian heritage - with both British and Irish culture background - and how that combination influenced how she was perceived by others’.

Listen to some of Laura’s interview highlights below

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Public attitudes - listen to a clip here

“The expectation is that you wouldn’t be working. And I work, so it’s like ‘Oh well done you’. I work as an after-school club supervisor so I work with primary kids. And sometimes I get comments like, ‘Oh it’s nice for kids to see me working. Or you know, my visibility and stuff. And yes, that is great. But also, I'm not there to be like a life lesson, I'm just there to be me. 

One of the reasons I love working with children is that just they are learning. You know there is no prejudice.

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The Disability Discrimination Act - listen to a clip here

“I applied to work at a local library and had an informal interview. The library hadn’t completed their building work and my interview was through an ‘Access to work’ scheme provided by the council. But they assumed I couldn’t do a lot of things, even though I was perfectly able to do the job. There was a lift in this new library and they said I wouldn't be able to go upstairs quickly or I wouldn't be able to carry the books. Or get behind the desk. They didn’t even attempt to ask to see me do these things in action. Under the Disability Discrimination Act, you have the right to switch tasks, so if someone is not able to do a task, you ask someone else. It was very demoralising with someone saying you can't do this; you can’t do that.

 I contacted the EHRC, (Equality Human Rights Commission) to see if I had grounds to challenge it, and they did say that I did. But by that point I was just so jaded and tired. Not everyone I meet knows about their rights under the DDA, but you should inform yourself. Not all families understand that they have rights to extra facilities or provisions or finances for their child, so I'm really passionate that families understand that they can access certain things to help support them in their lives and their children’s lives.”

London venues and accessibility - listen to a clip here

Accessibility of London events has definitely improved over the years… you're a bit higher up and just that acknowledgement that you’ve got some people that need a safe space because they can't be amongst crowd, it's great. And then you also have wheelchair platforms which are a bit higher. Stay. The stewards are really helpful and they've been trained really well. The toilet provisions are really good, there's one, specifically for a wheelchair user, a bigger type. I often go to the O2…it's also very modern venue, the toilets have changed over years as well. They're much bigger. You can have a party in one of them!

Theatres I've always thought have been great, even if they're old, they really have done their best to make it accessible…The national theatre is always improving, like you can get glasses for subtitles and you know there's various other things for those with hearing impairments…so definitely in the arts, I think it's just definitely been a massive improvement.”

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For Kidz

For Families

For Supporters