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Martin'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.

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For CBBC Newsround presenter Martin Dougan, growing up in a close-knit council estate in Glasgow meant he never saw himself as having a disability.

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. 

In his ’30 Stories’ interview, the TV presenter also describes the liberation of playing wheelchair basketball for the first time, why getting the right wheelchair made him feel like Superman, and even reveals he once stole a wheelchair!

Martin looks to the side, while travelling in his manual wheelchair

On growing up - Listen to a clip here

“For me when I was younger, you know even though I was born with a disability, I was treated so well in the council estate thus far growing up that I never saw my disability because I grew up with, you know, cousins and family members and we had a big family like every Glasgow family does really…

"We had a big family who treated me like they would treat everybody else. You know, if my cousins were being naughty, I was being naughty, you know…

"So I was getting the same treatment as them and if we were doing something nice, I would do something nice…And if they wanted to go and play football, I would go and play football.

"So, in my mind, I never realised that people were treating me different because of how I looked or because of what their preconceived ideas about what my intelligence was.”

On getting the right wheelchair - Listen to a clip here

“The old wheelchair felt like I was stuck in the Batman suit, like I couldn’t turn my head. But this one feels like, you know, that I’m Superman.

"In a sense, I can literally move mountains…So that was the analogy that I used to Jason at the time and he was like ‘wow man, that’s so cool’…

"So, that’s how it made me feel really, as if it was time to move on to the next level, sort of thing, and start doing what I can do best.”

On playing wheelchair basketball for the first time - Listen to a clip here

“So like, I turned up and that was like, incredible… this was like, probably one of the most significant moments in my life…

"When I look at that and I think, I could see these guys and they were in these really cool chairs and they were just like moving around like water.

"Do you know what I mean, like flowing, they were crashing into each other, somebody was hitting shots from like 20 foot away…Just like no fear, no problem.

"Like, it was liberating really, when you think about it.

"…I wasn’t what you’d call the popular boy in school but I wasn’t unpopular so I was able just to sort of fly under the radar and just kind of play basketball whenever I get the chance and sort of keep my head down… once I started playing basketball that’s all I cared about.”

Martin smiles at the camera while in his wheelchair, with mirrored blue windows behind him

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On the 2012 London Paralympics - Listen to a clip here

“I remember… sitting on the DLR line in London, going to the stadium and there was these two little boys sat in front of me and they were like, ‘oh do you remember, did you see that guy Richard Whitehead yesterday? That guy running?’. And the kid went ‘yeah’, and he like imitated Richard Whitehead’s run.

"For me, that was kind of like a lightbulb moment, where an able-bodied kid was talking to his mate in awe about a Paralympic athlete.

"And he’s copied his run like he was a hero, like he was a legend. He copied something of a disability sense that showed him how cool he was.

“And then when I stepped out of the Games everybody was like celebrating, everybody seemed to be in such a good mood, everybody was celebrating Paralympic athletes, everybody was celebrating disability sport, everybody was open to change, including the media industry…

"So for me, I felt a responsibility after it to keep it going. Not because I enjoyed the industry so much, because to be honest with you I didn’t, but I felt a responsibility to carry on the legacy about what we’d done…

"So for me it was about the next step. So my mindset had switched to being… I want people to know, kids, adults, everybody, to know that you don’t need to be an athlete to be considered to be cool when you’ve got a disability. How can I do this now?”

On media representation - Listen to a clip here

“The problem is that the majority of them won’t change, no matter whether it’s something to do with your ethnic background, whether it’s disability or diversity as a whole…

"In terms of representing people that whether they’re media or channels or corporations, or anyone representing, truly representing people from different backgrounds and making them feel like they’re being listened to and being heard…

"That’s my frustration every day with the media. Because, it’s almost like a box-ticking exercise for these companies and corporations and individuals, and then it’s never humanised.”

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