Hannah winning a Boccia tournament

Hannah winning a Boccia tournament

Meet Hannah, who recently celebrated her fortieth birthday and joined Paul’s Place after leaving college at aged twenty.

Hannah was born with spastic cerebral palsy, that causes stiff and tight muscles, making it difficult to move. Hannah says, “if I didn’t have cerebral palsy, I wouldn’t be me”.

Hannah felt welcomed and included at infant school. Hannah then joined a mainstream junior and secondary school, where she experienced the opposite. Hannah said she was severely bullied, because she was seen as different.

At sixteen, Hannah was sent to a specialist further education college in Hampshire, which forced Hannah to live independently. At the time, Hannah hated her family for sending her away, but Hannah tackled her fears and grew her confidence. Hannah says, “it was the best thing they could’ve done for me”. She was in a space where people understood her cerebral palsy. After six months Hannah made firm friendships with the students she identified with.

Hannah said her dad told her, “the world is my oyster. The world needs to adapt to you, not you to it”. Sadly, Hannah says the world is changing, but slowly.

Hannah explains that the built environment isn’t always fully accessible. For example, Hannah loves competing in Boccia tournaments and travels around the UK for competitions. Hannah and her mum booked their stay at a hotel chain. It claimed it was fully accessible. However, after checking into the hotel, Hannah’s wheelchair struggled to fit through the door frame of her allocated bedroom and the room only had a bath and not a wet room.

For Hannah’s birthday, her family booked cinema tickets in Leicester Square, London. The first floor was showcasing the film, Therefore, Hannah needed the lift, so Hannah can see the film. The lift had been broken for weeks. Hannah felt frustrated, annoyed and excluded from her family day out. Hannah continued saying that her family always need to plan ahead, as accessibility means different things to different people and organisations, and it’s not always fully checked or prioritised.

Since joining Paul’s Place twenty years ago, the charity opened a door to learning sign language. Hannah now uses her sign language skills to support pupils with disabilities at Claremont School. Hannah says Paul’s Place encourages her to try new things, without forcing her. She can continue to smile, have a laugh, talk to people, compete in Boccia Tournaments, learn and visit new places. Hannah is a great example in growing her confidence and independence, so she can live life to the full.