Disability Pride Month: Nick’s story so far

Cerebral Palsy Alliance client Nick Lapsley has achieved a lot in his 21 years – he’s a young disability activist with CPActive, a public speaker, student and successful fundraiser. To celebrate Disability Pride Month, Nick has written about his journey so far.

July is Disability Pride Month so I thought it will be a good opportunity to proudly talk about my disability. I was born with cerebral palsy and with a hearing impairment and I am proud of who I am. My disability may limit me in doing some things but I still have done a lot of amazing stuff since birth. For example, climbing to the top of Mount Kosciusko, organised the ‘20km with 20 Mates’ fundraiser and even been in the advertising campaign for the Shepherd Centre.

The Krazy Kosci Klimb was an experience of a lifetime as it was an amazing opportunity to climb Mount Kosciuszko with an amazing support team. The support team was a mix of family, Cerebral Palsy Alliance staff and NAB volunteers who helped me fundraise and climb to the summit. I would have never done this on my own as it is quite a long walk with a few challenging areas. But, there was a part when I did walk ahead of my crew from time to time as I was so determined to get to the top of the mountain. On the fundraising side, my team managed to raise around $20,000 for Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

20km with 20 Mates is another great achievement of mine but the difference is I created this event for my 21st birthday. This event came to mind as I wanted to create my own fundraising event that would raise money for CPAlliance. I invited other people with cerebral palsy to help by swimming a kilometre each and raising money for this amazing charity who have done so much for me over the years. In the end, we raised around $15,000 for CPAlliance. At the end of all this, I felt like I did a great job as it takes time to organise these kinds of events, especially during the Covid pandemic.

On top of that, I have given a range of speeches talking about my disability and my achievements throughout the years. These speeches are important to me as they allow me to showcase what I can achieve with my disability and raise awareness that having disabilities doesn’t stop you from doing amazing things. I do get comments from able body people saying, “I would have never done that”.

It is all good to talk about all this positive stuff but let’s be realistic – there is some negative stuff to talk about too. These barriers do make me feel annoyed and frustrated as most of the time with just a few adjustments I will all be good to go.

The most frustrating thing I have gone through is the HSC special provision process. Before I start talking about this experience, I will give you some context. Because of my cerebral palsy, my writing can get quite messy and illegible as my arm muscles get tired after a period of time. In year 7, my support teacher thought it was a good idea to do my exams on a laptop so the teacher could read my answers. From there onwards I used a laptop in the classroom and for exams. Also, I have always been given a list of other provisions which I won’t go through.

Now, let’s fast forward to the HSC period: I went through the normal process to get special provisions for the HSC which requires going through paperwork, meetings and an appointment to see an occupational therapist and speech therapist to do some assessments.

When I received my provisions back, I expected a provision for use of a laptop, instead, it said I will get a scribe. The problem I had with getting a scribe is my exam was 3 hours long and talking for that long can be really exhausting for me, and people who don’t know me can have trouble understanding everything I say. My support teacher did an appeal and talked with the NSW Education Standards Authority to see what we could do to change the decision. The response was to complete both handwritten and typed pieces to submit so they could review the decision which felt like just another hurdle to jump! However, I finally received good news and I was allowed the provision for a laptop. I feel like this was a crazy experience as I had already submitted group of written tests completed with my OT as evidence in the first place.

With those personal achievements completed and those hurdles behind me, I am now a CPActive Champion, with the goal of helping the next generation to achieve their greatest potential and utilise their opportunities, to have the confidence to fulfil their potential whilst educating those around them that having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t still lead an exciting and fulfilling life.

I have a whole life ahead of me so there will be many more stories to talk about in the future, especially as I head into a new chapter soon, as I finish my degree in a month’s time. Bring it on I say!

This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Nick with the title ‘Disability Pride Month: Reflection’ – check out the original here.