My cerebral palsy was the result of a lack of oxygen at birth but I wasn’t diagnosed until I was almost three. My parents knew that my development was unusually slow but the medical profession told them that I was “just a lazy baby”. The eventual diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy signaled the beginning of my parents’ battle to ensure that I would be afforded with the same opportunities as any other child.
My parents fought against the local authorities for my mainstream education and always promoted a “can-do” attitude. Mum used to say, “It’s your legs that don’t work, not your brain!” My parents’ attitude made it seem like nothing was off limits and anything was possible. As a young child, I always knew that my disability wasn’t going to hold me back and that if I wanted to do something, I’d find a way to overcome my physical limitations.
I excelled at school and went on to be awarded a 2:1 Honours Business Management degree from Oxford Brookes University. But I soon realised that my physical limitations weren’t the only obstacles that I’d have to overcome in my adult life. As I began my search for employment, it became apparent that many employers were reluctant to take on disabled employees. After what I thought was a fantastic interview, one employer told me that he couldn’t possibly offer me the position because his clients wouldn’t be able to understand my speech! I wasn’t prepared to let it go so I swiftly informed him that there were many ways to communicate and that by dismissing me, he had sadly lost a great asset to his team. It didn’t change his mind but it sure helped me to pick myself up and continue my search.
I eventually secured a role with a small charity, helping other disabled people to find employment. Although a complete coincidence, it gave me the perfect opportunity to try and change employers’ perceptions of disabled people and also to help my clients to secure the opportunities that they deserved. It was hugely rewarding but it was extremely evident that despite the Equality Act of 2010, discrimination and misunderstanding of disabled people and what we were capable of was an enormous barrier to us fulfilling our full potential.
On a personal level, there were other hurdles to overcome. I’d always hoped that I’d meet someone to settle down with and perhaps even one day, start a family. But I worried about finding someone who would be accepting of my disability, who would love me and my four wheels! I decided to try online dating and much to my complete surprise, it paid off. Within a few weeks, I met Dean and we hit it off immediately. After just ten months of dating, we were planning our wedding. After a truly wonderful, fairytale day, my thoughts turned towards another dream. Becoming a mum.
I’ll never forget the day that my pregnancy was confirmed. The doctor beamed as he said, “Congratulations, you’re five weeks pregnant.” As I emerged from his office, I approached the receptionist to set up an appointment with the midwife. As I told her that I was pregnant, her face fell as she said, “Oh dear…” She clearly didn’t think a disabled person like me was capable of being a parent.
So many people misunderstand disability; underestimating the capabilities of disabled people and make so many unfounded assumptions. That’s what inspired me to write, “Does it wet the bed?” – I want to dispel the myths that still surround disabled people and show that we are capable of so much more than many people realise.
“Does it wet the bed?” is now available on the Kindle Store – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0142S5884. The paperback copy will be released in November 2015.
To read Aideen’s Profile of a Working Mum interview click here.