Fancy a shot of optimism and boost to your confidence?! We hear from Disability Horizons Co-founder Martyn Sibley about how to be an awesome disabled person in our modern society.
I’m a professional disabled person. I’ve been breaking barriers and fighting for our rights for a while now – and it’s taught me a lot.
So I’ve decided to share my top 10 tips for being a kick-ass disabled person.
Be sure to share your ideas too in the comments section below and on social media @DHorizons.
And remember, don’t take life too seriously. It’s often what you make of it that counts.
When you need to use a hoist and accessible bathroom to pooh, planning is your friend. When I flew to Australia I literally had to plan every time I would use the loo, to give me a fighting chance of reaching Singapore safely.
It’s not just pooing that needs planning. When you are a kick-ass disabled person you have to plan around health appointments, Personal Assistants (PA), accessible venues, and company policies. So planning will save you a lot of time, in the long run, waiting for assistance or being able to actually do what you need to.
But there are some exceptions. Did you know that to request ramp assistance at railway stations you should give 24 hours notice? I don’t know about you, but I don’t know when a meeting I’m having tomorrow will finish. So I just rock up smiling and kill the system with kindness.
“Can you push my head forward?”
“Oh, and my foot back a bit? No, the other foot.”
“My ear has folded on the pillow. Can you straighten it please?”
This is me getting comfortable at night time. Just one of the many things in my day I have to articulate to my PA. Imagine the toilet and bath routine!
Communication is very important in life. To have harmonious family, friend, and work relationships we need good communication. The better you are at it, the further you’ll go.
My PAs are so important to me. They are my arms and legs. But they’re also human beings. It’s important that they are healthy and happy too.
For me, communication isn’t about giving orders. It’s being empathetic and listening. Of course, you can’t just talk or listen to the detriment of getting a bath or comfortable night’s sleep. But manners, compassion, and patience will get you far.
This is the same when it comes to asking a venue or company policy to be made more inclusive. An empathetic understanding of their perspective will result in your priorities being met too. Win, wins are everywhere – you just have to look for them.
3. Physical health
The only sit ups I can do are by using the electric motor on my wheelchairs backrest. I’m never going to be Mr.Motivator (there he is – 1990s legend). But that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything for my physical health.
Physically disabled people often assume that they can only strengthen their mind. Why bother with healthy food, good sleep, exercise and associated practices. After all, our bodies don’t work properly!
This was definitely going on in my subconscious throughout my adult life. Until recently. I realised that my belly had grown a bit, I felt more tired and my muscles ached.
Basically, I’d got older…
Suddenly a lightbulb turned on. My body and mind are connected. Plus, I do use my body in lots of ways I didn’t realise.
Since eating better, drinking more water, sleeping eight hours, cutting down on alcohol, taking supplements, and doing more physio – I’m feeling a lot better again.
I need this suit to carry me for a lot longer. My mind has big plans for us!
4. Emotional wellbeing
You might think that, with the difficulties I face on a daily basis, I get down about being disabled. When I was a teenager, I certainly did. But now, I’m pretty cool with being physically weak, mainly because it’s the last thing that defines me. In addition, it’s not mine or anyone else’s fault. The key to my happiness is having the right government support and social inclusion in place. Then I’m totally in charge.
The key to my happiness is actually having the right government support and social inclusion in place. Then I’m totally in charge.
What does really stress me out though is the suffering of others. When my family, friends or fellow disabled people feel low, I’m a huge ’empath’. I feel their pain. I want to solve everything, but then realise I can’t, so get down.
Following the recent disability rights regression, I’ve struggled a lot. But I think I’ve found a way to stay positive. I’m not letting the negative news or stories get inside of me. Instead, I’m tirelessly working for solutions. I’m ready to collaborate, but in a no pressure way. It’s my life mission that I will plug away on, regardless.
I’ve also learned to switch off a bit more. I go outside for daily fresh air and I’m practising mindfulness. I’m also enjoying my meals, drinks, projects and social interactions. I am reading and writing more, watching good movies and, most of all, enjoying the kisses and cuddles with my soul mate. Yuk, sorry! How did that get in there? 🙂
Overall, I’m trying not to grapple for control over everything. Bad things happen. Trust yourself to do the right thing – and see point 10 on always learning.
5. Care and equipment
Without the necessary support for independent living, everything else is irrelevant.
So, I advise you to read about what you’re entitled to, ask questions, and demand your basic rights. Despite recent cut backs, there is government and other funding for health and social care. Just please make sure you fight for the necessary care and equipment you deserve.
It’s not your fault you are disabled. A good society should recognise and cater for that. Don’t give in.
You can also get creative with the technology that enables you. My smart phone is my office. I read, write, listen, communicate and store documents on it. I also operate the central heating from an app. Assistive technology is everywhere, so go and research the right solutions for you.
Our environment is so important, for both our health and happiness. We should all be able to wake up feeling safe, filled with calmness and the enjoyment of our surroundings.
Firstly, without being too obvious, they key thing is to be able to actually get into a building, through the doors, and to use the amenities. Something that isn’t always doable.
But with research, knowledge and vision, houses can be accessible. With adjustments – ramps, hoists, and technology – a house can be an accessible home (watch out for my long post on my blog just on this topic soon).
7. Finances (work/benefits)
If you hadn’t heard the news, we live in a capitalist society. It’s by no means perfect, but other economic models have failed more spectacularly. So, like it or not, we need money to live both basic and fulfilling lives.
First off, being disabled costs more. Fact. That’s why the government offers the Personal Independence Payment (PIP – formerly the Disability Living Allowance), and other benefits, such as income and housing support, for those unable or out of work. For anyone looking for work but facing difficulties, there is also an Employment Support Allowance.
Now don’t get me wrong. These benefits aren’t always easy to access, and they’re being cut too. There’s definitely lots of paperwork and meetings involved in securing help, so do use organisations, such as Disability Rights UK, for support.
But trust me, it’s worth the stress and effort to become financially stable. In the long run, it’s best.
If you are able to work, there are other funding streams, such as Access to Work. This covers the expenses of travelling to and being at work.
Some employers simply aren’t accessible, so ignore them. There’s plenty of businesses actively seeking disabled employees now. Try the disability-friendly jobs board Evenbreak, for example.
There’s no reason why most disabled people can’t work. Even part time and/or from home. We just need to protect the government funding and encourage inclusive businesses to see our talents.
I’ve worked Monday to Friday, 9-5, in London. I now work remotely from home and around the world. I’m a blogger, author, a CEO of Disability Horizons, and consultant. Work is fun and keeps me financially independent.
I’ve got in trouble for blogging about past sexual relationships, so I’m going to keep this general 😉
Like with work, there’s no reason why disabled people can’t find love and have great sex. But the fact drunk members of the public ask me if I can ‘shag’, shows we have a way to go.
Like with employment, anyone you meet who is not able to love you or be with a disabled person definitely isn’t worth your time. But having run Disability Horizons for six years, I know of so many disabled people doing just fine in that arena.
Simply be yourself. Enjoy life and get out into the dating scene. Don’t let dating success, or failures, define you though. And trust the universe to do the rest.
9. Great experiences
I love music, football and travel.
I’ve been to pub gigs, arenas, stadiums and festivals to see my favourite bands. I’ve seen Cambridge United (local team growing up), my beloved Tottenham, and England play football in many locations. I’ve visited the USA, Australia, Japan and travelled around Europe many times.
With the right planning, confidence, passion and acceptance that things will go wrong, all leisure activities are possible.
I’ve even flown a plane, SCUBA dived, gone skiing, husky dog sledged, gone in a hot air balloon, and lots more for my accessible travel adventures. That’s me in the above image on a mountain trekker!
10. Learning. Forever
We all think that education stops when we jump off the school bus. Whether at 16, 18, 21 or soon after, most people go to work and stop learning.
For me, a fulfilled life comes from having new experiences, constantly learning, and always contributing. In the above tips I do all three – experience, learn and contribute.
Learning must be nurtured. I read a variety of blogs and books, listen to a variety of podcasts and audio books, and watch a load of Amazon Prime and YouTube videos.
Every bit of information provides me with new insights, ideas for new experiences, and ultimately an ability to give more back to the world. It’s an awesome circle.
The key to being awesome you
Being a kick-ass disabled person is a silly, subjective statement. You are unique, disabled or not. Plus, disability shouldn’t define people, but it certainly impacts.
By ensuring you are independent with choice and control, that the world keeps getting more inclusive and accessible, that you have new experiences, new insights, and contribute with your unique talents, well, we’ll all be better off for it.
Cheesy but true closing comment – live your dream. It’s all in your head and in your hands. Good luck soldier!
By Martyn Sibley
PS: If you have any questions about living with a disability or without one (we all have some challenges) please do get in touch by visiting my blog – martynsibley.com,