Skip to main content

Ruth Owen'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.

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.

Ruth's unique childhood experiences include international travel between England and Zambia as a young wheelchair user, describing once incident when an airline successfully  managed to lose her wheelchair!

Ruth describes how some of the hardships she faced, such as the premature death of her sister and the low expectations everyone had of her, helped her to become resilient and develop a positive mind-set. As such, she sees Covid-19 as an opportunity for people to show more compassion towards the disabled community - after all, as she states, "the majority of people are kind". 

Travel 

"I've travelled all my life. I've never let my wheelchair get in the way and it's given me my love of other cultures…I travelled independently with my sister on an airline, which, you know, didn't even think about accessibility for the toilet…I had to be tough. I had to speak up for myself. I had to put my own needs across to whoever was helping me..."

Low Expectations - Listen to a clip here 

"There were very low expectations of me, to either leave home or to lead an independent life…But I was very, very clear in my own mind that that was not going to be the life I was going to lead…I am much more than my wheelchair, and if you stupidly just look at my wheelchair and don't think any more about anything then you're the silly one, not me." 

Why CEO? - Listen to a clip here

"I wanted to ensure that our young people's voices are heard. I wanted them to feel important, I wanted them to have a better world than the world that I faced"

Disability Legislation - Listen to a clip here

"Legislation has made a difference. Having some form of legal right has been important. It's easier to get into buildings today and there's often a disabled toilet…We're not the ones that make the world disabled, it's the other way round…Forty years down the line I'm still having to ask, "can I get to the toilet?" and "can I go, get in that building on my own?"

COVID-19 - Listen to a clip here

"I think the pandemic has left [the disabled] community behind…It's tough and it's been difficult, but actually I've viewed it as an opportunity. Covid-19 has kind of rebalanced the world a little bit...I'm hoping that people's kindness towards the disabled community will come through even more. I've always found through my life that the majority of people, if I ask them for help, are kind and will help."

For Kidz

For Families

For Supporters