Story 88

Changed and grown

I am an enthusiastic aspiring young business woman living in London. I was born in Angola, spent my teenage years in Portugal and moved to the UK in 2007.

A few years later I graduated from Middlesex University with a degree in journalism, publishing and TV production.

After university, I had a really tough time finding a job. As a result of having had polio, I use a walking stick – or a wheelchair for longer distances — to help me get around. I felt that employers didn’t see me as a professional willing to give my all. Often the interview would be in a totally inaccessible place. Things would eventually be rearranged, but I could tell they didn’t see me as a likely candidate. Sometimes the entire offices would be off limits. Transport would be a big challenge too — so many stations are simply not an option for wheelchair users. It was all very frustrating.

Leonard Cheshire’s Can Do programme has changed my life. The programme supports young disabled people to develop new skills and get involved in their community. It has made me feel more positive and boosted my confidence. It has allowed me to meet new people and have new experiences. I feel less isolated. I’ve changed and grown as a person.

Talking to other Can Do participants, and taking part in campaigns and disability awareness workshops, I’ve realised there are many people facing the same barriers as me. When people come together for a cause, it can be very uplifting and empowering. It’s good to join other people and have a stronger voice.

It is absolutely vital that young disabled people are heard by politicians. They talk about engaging the youth vote, but I don’t think they see young disabled people as part of the picture. After all, even voting at a polling station can prove impossible: in the 2015 election my local polling station turned out to be inaccessible for wheelchair users. So I was really pleased that through Can Do, we’ve had the chance to go to hustings and speak to politicians directly.

With the new skills I’ve gained, I’m hoping to create my own career opportunities. And I have a renewed determination to help others. I’ve set up Travel Without Fear, which aims to make things easier for disabled people who want to go on holiday in the UK and abroad. I know I’ve fallen many times in hotels due to basic drawbacks with accessibility. So I want to advise hotels on how to make the right accessibility improvements so that more disabled people have the chance to travel.

If my business idea takes off, at least 50% of the staff will be disabled people. Whatever I do in the future, I want to make sure more disabled people are included. Can Do has helped me, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. Now it’s my turn to help others.

Can Do has helped me, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. Now it’s my turn to help others.