Hello, my name is Ashley. I’m 26 and from Norwich. I've had Friedreich’s ataxia for 11 years (diagnosed), but I've only spent 14 months of them in a wheelchair (full-time).
(Friedreich’s) ataxia is a hereditary, progressive and neurological condition that affects balance and coordination from head-to-toe and everything in-between. However, living with a disability doesn’t mean that the dreams and ambitions held by everyone – disabled or not – are instantly curtailed.

Undoubtedly, it may take people a long while to come to terms with swapping two feet for four wheels, but it’s important to not dwell on disability and to embrace what you can achieve in life. For One to look back on life to date and be proud of what One has been achieved is quite a grand philosophical notion. That notion should be felt by everyone, and not just the few.

I have been to University and earned my undergraduate degree in Psychology and Sociology, as well as trained to become a 19+ lecturer. I currently work, volunteer, live independently and drive. Undoubtedly, while I’m aware that things may change and I may not be able to do so much one day, it’s at that point when I'll look back and be proud to have done all of this (I have achieved all of this with Friedreich’s ataxia), not be distraught that it’s come to an end.

What does living with a disability in the 21st century feel like? I guess that’s a tough question to answer for a 26 year old – but I say life is far from mundane.
At the present time, Simply Red’s 80’s hit “money’s too tight to mention” springs to mind, a time where cuts to Adult Social care are plentiful, and undoubtedly have a massive impact on one’s outlook – life may not be as rosy as this blog!
However, things have improved massively; gone are the days where minority groups are kept in hiding, and targeted for things beyond our control. Now we live in a world where difference is seen as a good thing!

For me, despite life’s challenges (such as people not interpreting you properly, you not hearing people well and the all-round clumsiness associated with the condition - a first date in a coffee shop may not be ideal for a person with ataxia!), I have always felt lucky to have the mental strength to overcome life challenges such as becoming a wheelchair user, and needing a (heart) pacemaker with a smile on my face. ‘Smile, and the world smiles with you, cry! And you cry alone!’

To quote Phil Collins, living with a disability today can be “another day in paradise,” if you let it be!