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Disabled people are people, with hopes, goals and aspirations

It is so vitally important that communities have places and spaces where everyone feels welcome and included, regardless of their individual needs. Unfortunately, there are still far too many instances where this is simply not the case.


I have lived in Oxfordshire since birth and whilst I have been really fortunate to have had many positive experiences, I have also faced many barriers in being able to access the same opportunities as my siblings, friends and peers, purely based on the fact that I am disabled.


These barriers are caused partly by the way buildings are

built, and the low priority given to accessibility. Often even where things are put in place to support access - like lifts - they are out of order. Barriers are also caused by people’s lack of understanding, and the general attitude society has towards disabled people.


I have also faced many barriers in being able to access the same opportunities as my siblings, friends and peers, purely based on the fact that I am disabled.

First and foremost, people need to recognise that disabled people are people, with hopes, goals and aspirations. There are many people who will never encounter disability, either personally or through someone they know. But disability is something that can happen to anyone, at any time. To me, it doesn’t make sense that we do not do enough to support disabled people and their families to be able to live the life they would like to live. A family should be able to enjoy a day out or a trip to the shop without having to plan every aspect of the day and worry if they will be able to access things in a way which meets their individual needs. Yet thousands of families live with that worry daily.


Every time I leave my house, I consider things such as: will there be an accessible toilet? Will I get looks from members of the public when I get on the train and have to ask them to move themselves or their luggage out of the wheelchair space, which I will have booked in advanced due to needing personal assistance?


As a disabled person myself, I often question whether we will achieve a truly equitable society. However, we must try, right? Because if we don’t, we will continue to miss out on the wealth of talent, knowledge and experience disabled people have to offer the world.

We also need to recognise that disability is not a stand-alone barrier. People often face additional challenges, due to gender, ethnicity or social or economic disadvantages.


I do not know how we solve all of the barriers which prevent disabled people from living their life in the way that they want to. As a disabled person myself, I often question whether we will achieve a truly equitable society. However, we must try, right? Because if we don’t, we will continue to miss out on the wealth of talent, knowledge and experience disabled people have to offer the world.

We also need to recognise the enormous emotional impact on disabled people when they are excluded from society, and we need to change this. That’s why I will do what I can to educate people, through my lived experience, about how we must be more inclusive.


Lived experience has so much value and we need to continue to listen and learn from people with experiences of exclusion. We need to continue, collectively, working together to make Oxfordshire and the wider world as inclusive and equitable as possible. There has been improvement over the years, but there is still a long way to go.


 

Phoebe Gibbons, a local resident of Oxfordshire, has a passion for inclusion and equitable opportunities for all. She actively seeks out opportunities to share her lived experiences as a disabled person to help to educate and continue conversations around disability. Phoebe works part-time and is also a Trustee of a local charity which supports adults who are living with a physical disability.

With a passion for football, Phoebe spends some of her free time helping to coach Summertown Stars Warriors, a football team for children with Cerebral Palsy and other neurological conditions as well as closely following her own team, West Ham United. The rest of her free time is spent playing Wheelchair Rugby, spending time with family and friends and taking any opportunity to try something new.


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