Campaigner for Whizz Kidz states that ‘pressure to be perfect is arbitrary and unnecessary’

Kidz Board chair Penelope picks out four women who have inspired her

Whizz-Kidz – the UK’s leading charity for young wheelchair users, is celebrating International Women’s Day (8th March 2023) and honouring women across the globe in all shapes and forms. For 2023 the theme is #EmbraceEquity to get the world talking about why equal opportunities aren't enough. People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action. Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. Young women in wheelchairs deserve all the same opportunities and experiences as their peers, and as a charity, Whizz-Kidz champions this every day.

Penelope, 20, from Derby, is the current chair of the Kidz Board and has been a beneficiary of various Whizz-Kidz services since receiving her first wheelchair at age five. She is studying English and French Law at the Universities of Leicester and Strasbourg and is the first wheelchair user to do so. Penelope is conscious that this is thanks to the empowerment she received as a young girl, and, as such, her focus is on investigating paths the law could take to introduce intersectionality at an institutional level.

She was recently interviewed and asked to share who she thought were some of the inspirational women that have inspired her.

1. Arunima Misra
– A Whizz-Kidz alumni and a current trustee at Whizz-Kidz

As disabled women, we are consistently told not to aim high. Arunima is the first disabled woman I know who got into Cambridge to do law. Hearing her testimony about the realities of this experience and what resulted from it, highlighted to me that the joys and happiness success can bring are something disabled women are allowed to feel too. She also highlighted that it’s okay to be hurt when you experience negative treatment. You don’t have to be strong all the time. 

2. Imani Barbarin – crutches&spice on Tiktok

Imani Barbarin writes from the perspective of a black woman with Cerebral Palsy and shares her thoughts and experiences on her platforms. Whilst she doesn’t use a wheelchair, she has been super influential to my identity as a disabled woman. She’s inspiring to me as she’s unapologetic in holding people in positions of power accountable for their wrongdoing and its infiltration in society. Her understanding of social structures in society means she is intersectional, revolutionary and topical in her activism. This, combined with her ventures into different facets of life such as modelling, is a prime example that disabled women do not have to be one thing, something I aspire to.  

3. Alice Wong – Founder of the Disability Visibility Project. 

    The Disability Visibility Project is an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture. Alice Wong is inspiring to me as she curated ‘Disability Visability’ - a first-of-its-kind book with a collection of first-person accounts of lived experiences with disability. Reading this book when it came out in 2020, was affirming beyond belief. In the height of being told disabled people like me were a disposable nuisance, engaging with the varied experiences of people at different intersections of disability invigorated me, reminding me of the resistance we possess.

    4. Lauren ‘lolo’ Spencer – actress, model and disability influencer

    Lauren Spencer, who goes by Lolo, is an actress, model and disability influencer who is best known for portraying the quick-witted, sex-positive freshman Jocelyn on “The Sex Lives of College Girls” on HBO.  Having originally found her content about disability and relationships when she was predominantly known for her work on YouTube, it was refreshing to have somebody I could rely on to not only be frank about the subject but have lived experiences of it too. Seeing her successfully take this honesty into acting is the first time I’ve seen this kind of authenticity hit the mainstream. The courage needed to do that is admirable and something I wholeheartedly aspire to emulate. 

    When asked how she feels about inspiring other women herself, Penelope said;

    “I guess I still feel lost right now personally but, in saying that, I hope other disabled girls realise that’s okay too. This pressure to be perfect is arbitrary and unnecessary.”

    Sarah Pugh, Chief Executive at Whizz-Kidz, added;

    “As a charity, Whizz-Kidz is all about uplifting and empowering young wheelchair users by providing the wheelchairs, equipment, support and confidence-building experiences they need, whilst also campaigning for a more inclusive society. We are trying hard to tackle the social stereotypes that face young disabled women and actively attempting to create a society in which every young wheelchair user is mobile, enabled and included. International Women's Day is an important day to recognise women, however it is also key to shine a light on all those young women and girls who face stigmatisation every day throughout the year. I hope that today prompts each one of us to actively support and embrace equity within our own sphere of influence.”

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