Being an ambassador for Ataxia UK at Naidex was truly one of the best things I’ve ever done. Over the course of just a couple of days my confidence increased hugely. I usually feel self-conscious and aware of how ataxia affects the way I come across to others, but at Naidex I was talking to people, not worrying about my voice or how I looked.

Over the two days, I was manning the Ataxia UK stand with my amazing ataxia comrades, and also scouting round the exhibition for things that would be useful for people with ataxia in general – and also for myself.

My particular interest was in wheelchairs, because I’m just at the stage where I’m struggling to push around outside in my manual chair and I need a powered one. I found chairs I wouldn’t even have known existed if I hadn’t visited Naidex. I had been looking for a folding electric chair for a while, but then I saw electric chairs that you could stand up in. Wow! I thought those weren’t even real! Now, the only problem is working out how to afford them, because sadly, most of them are very expensive. It is difficult and time-consuming to sift through the information about the various organisations that offer funding, together with the different criteria they each have, to find out if there is anything I would be eligible for. A finger-tip guide would be so useful.

Ambassadorial Training 

In advance of Naidex, I had a media training day with Trevor Barnes from the BBC - if you don’t know him, then you’re missing out! He’s a really genuine guy, kind and helpful. We practiced multiple interviews, both in front of the camera and for radio. Each time I practiced, I improved; knowing what to say and where to look.

Everyone I did the training with were very supportive and the environment was so friendly, I wasn’t scared to make mistakes. Trevor, as a professional, constantly gave tips and advice from which I learned a lot and improved my skills, such as eye contact (I can tend to look “shifty” because, being shy, I often find eye contact difficult to maintain), confidence and learning how to better communicate what I wanted to say. Thanks to Trevor, Adam, Zoe and Steph for that day; I went home elated.

Networking at Naidex

Networking at Naidex seemed very scary when we were told to go round the stalls; however, it was actually easy when I got into the swing of it. It did help that everyone was so kind and understood the particular needs and challenges of disabled people, so it was a good place to start gaining confidence. A safe environment.

When manning the stall, I talked to people about ataxia, the charity and my own life experience, as well as handing out freebies; the badges and wristbands were all the rage. When going around the stalls I did the same, as well as scouting for equipment that would be good for others. I didn’t have to “fake” being interested either!

It was fascinating to see all the different products available to help people like me, and I’d recommend going to the exhibition if you can.

The future

I’m really looking forward to next year at Naidex, and hopefully more opportunities to be an ambassador in the meantime. I’m so thankful that I could be a part of this. Special thanks to Steph and Rebecca, who were so encouraging and fun to be with. They almost feel like big sisters. Congrats too to the other ambassadors; Ashley, Dan and Gemma for doing an amazing job. Even though my mouth was a little dry from lots of talking, I hope to encourage more Ataxia recruits!