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Tea and biscuits! A talk with my friend about technology and life

custard cream

I decided to interview a good friend of mine for the blog. She is 20 and has cerebral palsy. She was studying at University but is now enrolled on a course that helps disabled people to get into work. I decided to ask her a few questions about life at University, how she uses technology to help her in her daily life, and how her carers are important to her. 

Firstly, what technology do you use? 

I am a powered wheelchair user and this is how I travel independently.  

At University, I used my iPad, which is the main piece of technology which I use. I still use it to access my course now.  There is a communication programme on there which I sometimes use so that people who do not know me very well can understand certain words that I am saying. It’s called ProLoquo2Go.  However, once people get to know me, they can usually understand exactly what I want to say! 

As well as my iPad, I also use a tracker ball mouse which helps me to use the computer and I can type so that isn’t an issue usually. 

What about social events? How did/do you manage these? 

At University, I used to use Facebook to communicate with friends and organise to meet up with them at different times. This is because I find it difficult to speak on the phone. Unfortunately, they would let me down quite a lot which was upsetting. However, the fact that I tried always felt good because I was the one making the effort. 

Now, I do trampolining and swimming. I used to take part in these activities and have only recently started going again. It’s fantastic as disability sport is one of the main things that I am really passionate about and I really enjoy myself. 

With your disability sport, do you mind me asking about how you adapt it to make it easier?

No, not at all! I have a carer who helps me by taking me to and from both trampolining and swimming. This is because sometimes my parents are busy and obviously cannot always drive me around everywhere! 

My carer and I have a great working relationship as well – sometimes it feels like we are more like friends! But there is always a level of professionalism which is important too. We sometimes go out for a coffee too so that helps a lot with feeling less isolated. 

So, why did you decide to leave University? 

I realised over time that University just wasn’t for me. But I knew I couldn’t just be doing nothing! So I decided to enrol on a course, based in London, called First Impressions. It helps disabled people to access the world of work by getting them into work placements and helping them gain confidence to find a job. I’m loving it – Maya can’t stop me talking about it! 

No, I can’t can I?! Are there any changes in how you access the course compared to University life then? 

There aren’t really many changes, as I still use my iPad for literally everything! And my tracker ball mouse comes with me everywhere so I can use the computer – it’s a lot of fun showing others how it works! 

My carer does change while I’m on my course – I suppose you’d call her more of an assistant because she helps with work related tasks. At the end of the day when my course is finished, I usually get a member of staff to call a taxi for me so I can get home OK 🙂 I rely on taxis quite a lot to get me to and from places, either with or without a carer or my family. 

What do you think could be changed about your University and/or its’ environment that would have made it a more positive experience? 

Well firstly, I think some of the people that are enrolled at my University are not really supposed to be there – the University just seemed to let anyone in who wanted to go, and while I fully support equal opportunities I had my concerns about some of the people who attended University with me. But even more importantly than that, I think there needs to be a lot more done to change attitudes towards disability as at my University in particular it was not the most inclusive  of spaces. I’ve learned that sometimes ‘yesterday’s attitudes never change’. I wish I could change the attitudes of everyone but it is a very complex social issue. In addition, this awareness shouldn’t just be happening at my University – it should be happening up and down the country. 

Finally, is there anything else you’d like to get across about cerebral palsy to readers of the blog? 

One thing that I’d like to mention is that sometimes I can get quite lonely. It can be harder to socialise with friends because of my disability, and that means that sometimes I’m on my own which can be very frustrating when everyone else can go out and do what they want without making extra arrangements first. I just wish I saw my friends a little more sometimes. What I’d like to say is that it can be harder for people with disabilities to make arrangements to do social activities, so if it can be avoided, try not to cancel! 🙂 

Having said this though, by using my carers, technology, my family and taxis, I usually manage to do the things that really matter to me. I’ve always been a very positive person anyway, and at the moment, I’m loving life and living it to the full! 

Thanks for the interview! 

How do you use technology or friends and carers to make the most of your social life? Have your say below and get involved! 

 

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