Unrestricted by Disability
Photo by Maria Diaz

Unrestricted by Disability

Our International Women’s Day event featured an inspiring panel of women with disabilities, which came together to share with us details of their projects, interests, and experiences of overcoming obstacles.

The panel
Alexandra Adams is a medical student from Cardiff, who has experienced being both doctor and patient, and has a blog page called ‘Setting Sights’.

Kerrie Nicholson works for Bristol Women’s Voice alongside her other roles in journalism as community reporter for The Knowledge, a volunteer reviewer for BroadwayWorldUK, and she also has her own blog.

Katie Silverthorne is a co-author of the Amazon best-selling ‘Mumpreneur On Fire 4’, mother of one, a speaker, and runs her own business Memory Zoo.

Nina Boswell is a qualified yoga instructor who founded her own company ‘Sitting Fit Yoga’ specifically aimed at wheelchair users, after Nina realised the lack of fitness opportunities for disabled people.

Gina Hopkins is the CEO of Adaptive Martial Arts, a company based in Bristol which offers opportunities for exercise and martial arts for disabled people, injured people, and those in ill health. She’s also the Disability Officer for the UK Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Association.

Overcoming obstacles
The panel shared their experiences of facing obstacles and barriers to participation in society. For example, Alexandra spoke about the frustration of attending lectures in which the hearing aid facilities weren’t working. Kerrie also highlighted that access around Bristol can be difficult for wheelchair users – especially with older buildings, which can feel really isolating.

Gina emphasises that despite obstacles, she wants to explore and enjoy the world around her. She tries to avoid thinking of all the barriers in one go, and instead, advises that tackling challenges bit- by-bit will help you get there. Thinking of times she’s overcome obstacles in the past also helps Gina to stay positive and to remember she can do it again. Similarly, Alexandra explained that she’s proud of her experiences, and the fact that she is able to overcome any hurdles to continue enjoying her life. Nina also spoke of the satisfaction and sense of achievement that comes from the creative problem-solving required to look after two young children as a wheelchair user.

The value of social support was also evident from the panel discussions. Nina advises finding someone with similar experiences so that you can support one another. Katie and Kerrie also advocated the value of the internet for finding people you have shared experiences with, and Kerrie has even met some of her best friends online.

Raising awareness
The importance of raising awareness of the obstacles that many people with disabilities face is clear, as many non-disabled people may take these for granted. Nina explains that a key part of raising awareness is exposure, and being able to live an independent life as far as possible is part of that –
“if people are out there doing that and others see you, then awareness is raised”.

Katie also noted the impact of the representation of disabilities among celebrities. She cited Selma Blair’s recent appearance at the Oscars with her cane as an example – “if I had seen that when I needed a cane, I would have felt less terrified about what it means to need one”. Alexandra points out that in increasing awareness via hearing people’s stories, we need to make people conscious of the spectrum and variety of experiences across individuals.

Thank you very much to this amazing panel of women that joined us for International Women’s Day. We appreciate them sharing their stories and advice with us, and we hope that events like these will continue to raise awareness of the experiences of people with disabilities.

Websites relevant to some of the panellists are below, if you’d like more information about what they do:

https://wheeliestagey.wordpress.com
https://setting-sights.blog/
https://www.memoryzoo.co.uk/
https://sittingfityoga.com/
https://www.adaptivema.co.uk/

Laura Hillier

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