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Zara'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.

Zara has been a disability rights activist since the age of eleven. She helpfully explains the ‘Social Model of Disability’ and describes how attitudes towards disabled people have changed since she first began campaigning.

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. 

Open, frank and honest, Zara also introduces the ‘hierarchy of disability’ that is present amongst the disabled community and how she identifies as an intersectional feminist.

In her interview she tells us about the weird and wonderful opportunities she’s had thanks to her being a wheelchair user. In particular, Zara remembers the time she attended the Queen's Jubilee luncheon on behalf of Whizz-Kidz, and almost crashed right into Margaret Thatcher!

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Queen's Jubilee - listen to a clip here 

"As a young disabled person, to be sat at the top table four seats from the Queen in between, like, the Prime Minister's wife and the Lord Mayor of London's wife, and opposite the Archbishop of Canterbury, it's quite weird. "About six Lord Mayor's of London, or former Lord Mayor's of London, decided they were going to carry me down the stairs. They kind of almost lost control of my chair and sent me into Margaret Thatcher but thankfully I managed to stop before I hit her.”

Social Model of Disability - listen to a clip here 

"It's about having choice and control over your life…It's how society reacts to someone's impairment or disability that disables them…Often they forget to mention that you still have your impairment, so you don't suddenly become this super-crip that can do everything that a non-disabled person can…I meet a lot of people who think that they are failing at being disabled because they can't do something, or because they need help to do something…Even if I have a completely accessible environment, my impairment causes me to have fatigue and pain. It doesn't matter how lovely you are to me, I still have fatigue and pain."

Intersectionality - listen to a clip here 

"I identify as an intersectional feminist and do quite a lot of work looking at how different intersections actually impact different groups of disabled people…This is how you fix the access so that disabled people can come in and be part of something, but actually, we don't have to have the discussion solely about disability if we're talking about inclusion."

Equality Act - listen to a clip here 

"The Disability Discrimination Act, which is what the Equality Act replaced... Neither act is particularly good at supporting disabled people's rights. It's a real financial burden to take a legal case because there's no guarantee that you'll win it and, even if they've got good evidence, the risk of losing money or losing the case is a risk that most disabled people can't afford…In the Equality Act, in order to be discriminated against, the person discriminating against you has to know that you're disabled."

Advocacy - Small Actions, Big Difference - listen to a clip here 

"I realised a long time ago that I'm not going to change the world... But that doesn't prohibit me from changing somebody's world…"Very small actions that I can do can make someone's life a hell of a lot better…If you constantly wait for other people to be the change you want to see in the world, then you'll wait your whole lifetime…Actually, you have to go out there and go 'this isn't working' or 'this could be working so much better'." 

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