Your life after you've suffered a sudden disability,

Your life after you've suffered a sudden disability,

three quarters of your life is dominated by this,

and then gradually, as you build other parts of your life back in,

it'll never go away but it's a smaller part

of your overall percentage of your everyday life.

I went from the age of 17 to the age of about 27

not knowing what was wrong with me.

The transition from actually being able to walk

to going in the wheelchair and not being able to

was very sudden.

I fell out of a tree. I was working as a tree surgeon at the time.

I fell six metres onto a garage roof.

I landed flat on the garage roof and immediately had no sensation in my legs.

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was 13,

just before I was 14.

I just remember laughing when my mum told me that I had it.

I went, "Only grandmothers get that."

I work with individuals, making sure they're aware

of what their rights are

with regard to things like care and housing and equipment,

because equipment can play a big part in somebody's long-term future.

I've been able to stay in work because I accepted being disabled

because there are work schemes through the government,

there's something called Access to Work.

On days when I can't drive to the office they will pay for a taxi

because I can't come every day by public transport.

All of a sudden that nice quality of life you had with good incomes,

the streams of income have suddenly stopped.

My physicality was very much a part of how I earned a living.

It was difficult to think of adjusting

or finding an alternative way of making a living.

Work for me as well has been really supportive.

I'm not ill when I'm not here with arthritis, I'm on disability leave.

I have a condition and it's quite important for me

not to be seen as having time off for being ill

when it's something very different.

Housing's probably the top of the list for problems, issues with people.

The obvious thing is that most houses obviously aren't built accessible.

So in order to get access, you have ramps fitted to your properties.

And then you've got issues of door widths and getting up and down stairs.

So in a lot of cases your home has become obsolete.

I do have stairs up to the front door here,

and I have a platform lift which enables me to access it,

but once I'm in the flat is all on one level

and the doors were wide enough to be able to get through.

I would say that trying to go for a wheelchair

that will go through a standard-width doorway is useful.

I've got no disabled equipment

but I've got taps that are so easy to put on,

I've got a shower that I can just walk into

and that I can actually turn the tap to get the water on.

I've got light switches which are easy to do

and door handles I can open

because I've been stuck in a room for two hours before now

not being able to turn one of those twisty handles.

Practical things, I think.

My parents have said, "You've basically got a home for life."

They know that I want to move out,

they know that I'm on the list for a council place.

You're constantly on the lookout for things that will help you.

Before I moved house a few months ago

I made loads of notes and cut out lots of things that I saw in magazines

that I knew would help me live an independent life at home.

It was almost 15 months till I actually found somewhere

to live comfortably with my family.

There isn't enough adapted accommodation in the country for the needs,

so from that point of view we were fortunate to be able to come home again.

A lot of people's circumstances following spinal cord injury,

they need personal assistance.

That is a huge life-changing experience,

having to ask or tell somebody to do things for you,

making sure who you're talking to understands exactly what your needs are

and what you're after.

I do what I can. For preparing food my partner might do it.

For opening or shutting windows I can't do that,

and I've had flatmates before,

so there's always been somebody around, not an official carer as such,

but I couldn't manage to do a lot of things around the house by myself.

A big thing is planning.

You need to take a little bit more time out than perhaps you used to

to plan a holiday or a venture or going to the cinema or a restaurant.

You normally find that a lot of places are accessible.

You can't do anything spontaneously. You have to plan everything.

Even just popping to the shop can be a whole day's experience for me

and yet it's only about a minute's walk away.

So you really have to think about what's important to you, what you want to do.

I shop online.

If I need anything else,

say my dad is popping down to the shop,

I'll say, "While you're down there, can you get me such-and-such?"

If you've got that family support,

I strongly believe that they help you through.

My worry has always been working with individuals

that haven't got that family support.

They need more support.

You learn ways of coping. You learn different tricks.

Parenting is probably the most difficult aspect of being in a wheelchair,

dealing with first a baby, then a toddler.

I learnt quite a lot from other disabled parents

who I'd come in contact with

who gave me a tremendous amount of information

and just that informal support of knowing that someone else has been there

and that it is possible to cope with these things.

I can accept and understand in the early days all of a sudden

you're an able person that has done this, that and the other

and you feel that the rug's been taken away from you.

However, there's an awful lot of information out there.

Sometimes it's knowing where to get this information.

You have to think positively. There are times when that's impossible.

Speaking to other people in a similar position has always helped me.

I had to learn to use the words "I am disabled"

and as you grow up and accept your disease or your disability

you see something in there that's just...

It's not as important a word as it used to be to me.

It kind of has affected how I see myself

and it's affected how I think others see me.

I'm now the living embodiment of a blue badge.

People see me and whatever their preconceptions about disability may be

are immediately transplanted onto me

and so I have to deal with that in some way

and try and be as polite as possible.

I'm just a normal person.

Just because I have to get around on wheels rather than walking on my legs,

it doesn't make me different from Tom, Dick or Harry at the end of the street.

Instead of looking at what I could do, it's what I can do.

A lot of positives have come from an awful lot of negatives.

If you had told me at the time that I was injured

that I would be where I am now in terms of activity,

in terms of feeling like a full and active parent

and actually having a lot of laughs in my life and a lot of enjoyment

and a very inclusive life in terms of friends and family and so on,

I don't think I could have imagined that that's where I would be,

so I think things definitely work out better than you might think.