Exactly one year from now an emotional yet outspoken teenage girl decided to start a blog called The Wheelchair Teen. I’ve come a long way since then, and so has my blog, so thank you for asking me questions to help me celebrate the occasion by getting to know me better. I picked ten of your questions to answer, I hope that you enjoy!
1. What were your expectations when starting your blog, and have you met them? Or have they changed over the years?
I expected that writing for my blog would be cathartic for me – I didn’t really expect anyone to read it. My blog has truly helped me to accept myself more, and I never would have guessed so many people would be interested in it. Now my expectations have shifted from writing for myself to writing to help inspire and educate others.
2. If you could tell one thing to your younger self, what would it be?
Oof, that’s a tough one. I would try to tell myself: “Please stick to one TV-episode a day, you’ll rot your brain.” But I know that would be futile because there’s no way I’d take that advice. Instead, I’d tell myself to work hard no matter what and not to push away the people who are close to me. Almost every single best friend I had in school, I pushed away because I’m bad with affection and it’s one of my biggest regrets.
3. What is your biggest dream?
I would love to travel Europe (train only. NO aeroplanes) giving talks and raising awareness about disabilities. My current dream is to publish a book and I’m also working on concept art for a comic with disabled superheroes but that one is a little more unlikely because they cost a lot to make. I guess that my biggest dream is to have a positive impact on my community, and even though I’m young, I won’t stop fighting until I feel as if I’ve made a real difference for people like me.
4. Is it better to say “person with a disability” or “person with special needs”? Is there a right or wrong answer here?
That depends. Personally, I’d say the disability one is better because many people find the term ‘special needs’ to be patronizing. Whether there’s a right or wrong answer is a little harder to explain. If it helps, I once wrote a discussion post called ‘Disabled’ vs. ‘Physically-Challenged’ and Other Such Terms where I discussed in further detail terms used to describe disabled people: ‘Disabled’ vs. ‘Physically-Challenged’ and Other Such Terms – The Wheelchair Teen
5. What is your favourite animal?
The Patagonian Mara. It’s an adorable yet peculiar mix between a rabbit and a kangaroo with a kangaroo body and legs that hop around yet a rabbit’s head. Also, my eldest sister’s name is Tamara so Maras always make me think of her. 😊
6. What have been the best and the worst things about starting your blog? What has been the biggest challenge?
The best thing is probably the incredible people that I’ve met through it. The blogging community is magnificent: they’ve seen me through some extremely tough times, encouraged me, inspired me to write, and so much more. Thank you to everyone who supports me – now that I’m apart of this community, I can’t imagine what it would be like without it.
The worst thing is how it brings out the perfectionist in me: I read every single post through about ten times to check for errors (I even spell out each word), and I check every single button on WordPress multiple times juuuust to make sure. I do a mini-freak out stress session after I hit send too, every time.
The biggest challenge is probably how time-consuming it is and trying to figure out what is going to be a good topic for a blog post or a boring one. I’m still figuring that one out. 😊
7. Is accessibility a national law where you live?
That’s a good question – I don’t know. As far as I can tell, where we live in the Netherlands things are much more accessible than London. It’s rare to find a pavement without a ramp or at least some sort of disability accommodation in buildings. When we go to London, it’s definitely a different story.
8. I’m a wheelchair user too and my typing skills are slow, so I’m wondering if you have any accessible tools you use to meet deadlines?
I used to use a speech-recognition software called Dragon Speech but I actually ended up spending more time fixing its mistakes. Now I just stick to typing with a pen in my mouth which goes moderately fast. At school, teachers accommodated me by allowing me extra time to complete assignments and more time in tests since they took me slightly longer to do. I also took fewer classes since I struggled with the workload and I couldn’t take classes like Physical Education anyway.
9. Something about you not many people know?
I am criminally shy. This morning I felt ashamed about how badly a conversation went… three years ago. As soon as I’m done talking to someone, I go over everything that I said in the conversation and stress about it. I sometimes panic around people and it just takes a lot of energy for me to be social. People who read my blog or my poetry where I tend to be rather outspoken can then be surprised by how quiet I am in real life. Words are where I feel comfortable. I’d much rather have a friendship with someone via email and messaging instead of face-to-face. (Ironic since I was so confident and crazy in primary school when I was able to walk. The combination of secondary and my wheelchair really squashed my confidence).
However, in complete contradiction, I LOVE public speaking and presenting to large audiences. I feel comfortable doing it because I know that I’m good at moving people with my words. I’m horrible at improvising though so I write out everything I’m going to say from the jokes to the dramatic pauses and sarcastic “ums…”, and then memorise it completely and present it with no notes or assistance. It sounds like a horrible method but surprisingly it actually works because it helps me to feel well-prepared and comfortable. I once performed an emotional spoken word poem to my English class full of sixteen-year-old students who hated poetry and managed to move some to tears. I may find people tricky but the stage feels natural to me.
10. What is your favourite colour?
Red. Although I like purple too so I had the walls of my room painted in purple, but most of my wheelchairs have been red.
Thank you so much to everyone who has seen me through from my very first post until now. Hopefully, I’ll keep this blog going for many more years to come – all the way until I become a Wheelchair Woman 😊. Happy December everyone! I hope that you all have a wonderful month!