By Lisa Tyte – Spotlight on Felixstowe
What DIScoverABILITY is it, how and why it evolved and what we’re striving to achieve from it…
Rob Dunger from Felixstowe Radio and us at Spotlight on Felixstowe have partnered up to showcase and celebrate amazing people with disabilities and their achievements, to break down and challenge stereotypes, share ideas and tips that could help people with difficulties adapt and signpost people looking for help towards organisations and groups that offer support.
As a wheelchair user with a painful connective tissue disorder and associated mental health challenges, I’ve been wanting to do this for years. I wanted something good to evolve from a life-changing condition that has been a tempestuous rollercoaster since I was 10, and thanks to Rob, Felixstowe Radio, our editor Sharon and my colleagues (who have supported this all the way) it’s now happening.
The aim of DIScoverABILITY is to ‘discover ability’, using our platforms in the media to ‘cover’ stories and campaigns related to a range of disabilities and pass on lots of tips and ideas that could help those facing challenges live an easier life.
We want to gather human battery chargers who live with disabilities and those who crave friendships with understanding, like-minded people for fun, laughs, space to talk, and to offer and accept support when it’s needed.
Rob and I are ‘virtually’ meeting amazing people who, regardless of their disability, strive to be the best version of themselves and like to help others do the same. We’re hearing their stories and want to share their inspirational energy and insights with you.
We’re appealing to anyone who has a project, awareness campaign, fundraiser or support group to get in touch with us so we can help spread the word and support you in your venture.
If you’re living with a disability, whether it’s physical, sensory or related to mental health, we would love to celebrate your achievements with you and be a megaphone to let others know how brilliant you are. We want to give you a voice if you have a story or campaign to share and, if you’re struggling, offer friendship, help you feel less isolated and point you towards people who can offer support.
Speaking as a person living with a disability, and after chatting with countless friends and contacts with their own story, I can assure you that we like to fit in, feel included, respected for who we are, make new friends, be there for others, reach our goals and have a good laugh! We have vibrancy, determination, empathy and a drive to be in the best place possible.
We’d love to live life with no limitations but that’s not possible, so we do our best to appreciate our abilities and use them to enjoy work, rest and play as much as we can. Our life challenges (and achievements) tend to centre around what our bodies and minds allow, but we do our best to make sure the restrictions don’t stop us in our tracks.
Our disabilities are life changing and we have to adapt to incorporate them into our own normality – and we get there quicker if those around us, and society as a whole, make it easier.
If your coping mechanisms are low – your best is good enough…
If adapting, accepting your circumstances and keeping your coping mechanisms strong seem like impossible tasks, you haven’t failed. If you’re in a place where you’re struggling, just getting out of bed in the morning is a huge achievement – and if staying in bed is all you can do right now, that’s ok too. Don’t beat yourself up, your best is good enough.
You don’t need to be in a good place to be a strong person – and if you would like some support there is help out there from organisations, medical professionals, your trusted loved ones and us, if you’d like to take us up on our offer to be a friend.
Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak or failing – quite the opposite. It takes a lot of courage to be honest and take that ‘I’m fine’ mask off. Allow yourself time and space to grieve, cry with freedom, know that anger is a natural human emotion… you have every right to feel all these things and under the circumstances, it’s a normal reaction to life events that aren’t normal.
Even the most positive folk with disabilities and chronic conditions have days when everything is a struggle, so accept how you feel without shame. Adapting takes time – and every little step you take is a huge stride towards coping mechanisms that will, eventually, help you live the life you crave to have.
Support, advice and resources are available…
Suffolk Coastal Disability Forum is a valuable reference group for those living with disabilities, their families, and organisations in East Suffolk. The Forum enables disabled people to come together to talk about things that are important to them, such as access to amenities and services, and it also enables East Suffolk Council to consult directly with disabled people.
Margaret Morris, secretary of the Forum, says: “We meet four times a year – and all are welcome. Disabled people, their families and disability organisations can discuss a range of issues concerning disability in order to make a difference. We give disabled people a collective and stronger voice on all issues concerning disability.”
Would you like to get involved?
DIScoverABILITY is a new venture and we’d love to see it evolve and grow. If you’re part of a group or organisation that supports or offers resources to people living with disabilities and would like us to publicise and share what you do, or if you’re living with a disability and would like to tell your story, share your campaign, get involved and find friendship, message Rob Dunger at @FelixstoweRadio or us at @spotlightonfelixstowe via Facebook, or you can email me at [email protected]