Cian sets 'Wheelchair for a Day' challenge
Youth project members to learn about life with a disability
This October, the youth project in Ballywaltrim (Connect BNYP) will take part in its first 'Wheelchair for a Day' Challenge.
Youth project member Cian O'Neill (18) is arranging the event for fellow members.
Cian was born with cerebral palsy, a condition that affects his nervous system and has left him dependent on a wheelchair.
Cian came to the youth project with the idea of challenging able-bodied members to spend a day in a wheelchair, as a means of learning what it is like first hand to face the challenges, barriers and stigmas associated with living with a disability.
Cian has challenged his peers to navigate the local streets and public transport, to shop and even do something as simple as prepare a meal from the confines of a wheelchair.
'Things like shop layouts, parking and cars parked on footpaths can all be a problem,' said Cian, and he believes that it will be great for young people to see these problems first hand.
'People often dismiss the person (with a disability). When you hear people using the word "handicapped". I know they mean no harm and it's only a word at the end of the day but while it doesn't offend me it can offend others,' said Cian.
On being a part of this challenge for young people, Cian said 'I'm happy spreading awareness. You have to be positive and you can have fun, it doesn't all have to be doom and gloom.'
Cian's attitude is infectious as he hilariously recalled a time when an elderly lady patted him on the head so he barked 'woof' like a dog in response.
'I didn't know what to do. I thought "Ah, don't pat me on the head missus!"but she wasn't being bad,' he said.
Cian's positivity is the driving force behind the challenge the youth project is taking on and while his cerebral palsy affects his movement and mobility, Cian's cognitive function is clearly on par with his peers, as he is full of wit and charm and ready to play his role in the community. He has recently taken part in some serious charity fundraising events and has helped coach at the local GAA camps.
And Cian's message is clear: 'Don't diss my ability'. Proceeds from the sponsored event will go to Laura Lynn.