Learning to live with disability and getting the most out of life

Sheffield Voices piece in Sheffield Telegraph Neil
Sheffield Voices piece in Sheffield Telegraph Neil
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I was wobbly from birth and I did not have the natural waywardness of babyhood, says Neil Simpson, trustee, of Disability Sheffield. That is soon gone.

However, the rocking gait I had as a baby remained with me – I move like a drunken sailor.

Sheffield Voices piece in Sheffield Telegraph

Sheffield Voices piece in Sheffield Telegraph

The way my feet were positioned was set at ten to ten. I now walk on my tiptoes with my heels rarely touching the ground.

I find that my overall balance is difficult.

I cannot tie my own shoelaces, but I can manage a scabby little knot with a mass of trailing lace around it. I also find that buttoning my shirts is a slow task. I can look a little bit scruffy.

The reason for my physical limitations is due to me having cerebral palsy. I was diagnosed at birth but I was never told about my condition.

Sheffield Voices Kathryn Littlewood

Sheffield Voices Kathryn Littlewood

Start the engine, taxi for Crooks… well there would be if I can get one to give me a lift, according to development and engagement worker at Disability Sheffield, Andrew Crooks. Previously a long term fan of public transport in our city, including taxi services, I now have cause for alarm.

For example, I took one journey where the cabbie refused to look at me or acknowledge anything I said until I requested politely that he go slow around corners, to which he then shouted at me quite loudly, “are you accusing me of going fast?’ – ‘I am not going fast!” I was gutted at the way he pointedly ignored every word I said as though I were invisible.

On several occasions at Barker’s Pool I have had incidents which have left me quite scared by the treatment received from taxi drivers of hackney cabs.

Development officer for Disability Sheffield, Kathryn Littlewood, knows exactly what it is like for disabled people in the city. She said that Sheffield is a great place to be if you enjoy swimming as there are no less than around 14 swimming pools in the city – we are very lucky to have these.

Sheffield Voices piece in Sheffield Telegraph Grace

Sheffield Voices piece in Sheffield Telegraph Grace

Places like Graves Leisure Centre with its newly built swimming pool and also its fitness facilitates showcase just exactly what outstanding physical accessibility looks like.

I know that most gyms are accessible, but access to swimming pools tends to be a bit hit-and-miss with only a few having hoists.

Also, with some leisure facilities there is only access to certain parts of the building and these are usually the parts that are not wheelchair-accessible – and they tend to be the best parts like the sauna and the steam room.

Being disabled and having a mental health problem means that exercise is a vital part of staying fit and well but sadly, even with the physical accessibility of quite a few of the gyms, the actual times that they open can be a real barrier to a lot of people.

Peer advocate, Grace Parry, highlights her feelings of living with autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

She said that one of the main ways in which autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, affects her was with developmental and sensory issues.

She added, I found that on growing up, getting older, I did not identify with the usual interests and feelings of most teenagers and adults that I came in contact with and I was devastated when the activities I loved were no longer accessible to me, such as bouncy castles and going to adventure play areas,

However, I feel that I am very fortunate in many ways, as I have an insight into my autism.

I feel that a lot of the reason that my communication, insight and emotional well-being has improved over the years is because I managed to access the play that I needed.

That has included at Concord Sports Centre and play has included imagination, role-playing and secret agent games, which she can now use in real-life situations.