Hannah Rose, author and user of Assistive Technology (AT) tells of her experience travelling to Westminster and speaking at the launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology launch
"It was a real surprise to be invited by Anna Reeves, CEO of the ACE Centre, to the launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology (APPGAT) to talk about my experience and thoughts on this topic. I felt a little daunted at first as the event was to be held in London, and as I live in Cheshire, my first thought was ‘how do I get there?’ It’s a long way to drive there and back in a day and I haven’t been on a train since I became ill, 18 years ago. However, I jumped at the opportunity as I was really keen to work with Anna, as she and the ACE Centre were instrumental in helping me identify and source the technology that allowed me to gain my degree and obtain employment. So, I took the bull by the horns and booked a return ticket on Virgin Trains from Crewe to Euston, along with a wheelchair accessible taxi from Euston to the venue.
After being dropped off at the station we were a little apprehensive about whether the logistics would work, but sure enough, the train was on time and the train access assistant was there ready to help me get on. The journey itself was brilliant and we arrived at Euston, where we were met by my younger sister, Jess, who accompanied us in the taxi (which amazingly was also on time) to the Houses of Parliament where the launch was being held.
Anna met us on arrival and we were taken to a committee room in the Houses of Parliament. Here we were met by Katherine Perry, Manager of the APPGAT and Seema Malhotra MP, the Chair of APPGAT. They made me feel very welcome and introduced me to other members of the group. It was a little overwhelming to be in such distinguished company, but I was pleased to be able to contribute to the roundtable discussion.
The main launch event was in Speakers House at the Palace of Westminster and the first challenge was to make the journey from the House of Commons committee room to Speakers House. It was amazing to be taken through areas that are usually out of bounds for non-members and to see the rich history contained within those walls.
We finally arrived at Speaker’s House and I was blown away by the splendour and grandeur of the surroundings. It was truly spectacular and it was an honour and privilege to be invited to speak in these prestigious surroundings to a group of such influential people.
The Speaker, John Bercow opened the proceedings, explaining how the ACE Centre was close to his heart and how he had always been a supporter of assistive technology, helping people with social and employment needs. He introduced Seema Malhotra MP who gave an insight into the background behind the launch of the APPGAT Group and its aims and aspirations.
It was then my turn to speak about my experiences since becoming paralysed and a user of assistive technology. The message I wanted to convey was that assistive technology was the main driver in allowing me to continue my education, obtain GCSE’s, A-levels and ultimately a university degree. This gave me a sense of inclusiveness as I was able to move forward at the same pace as my school friends. It also allowed me to interact socially, which is a vitally important element in establishing quality of life. Similarly, I didn’t want to be someone who lived off The State and desperately wanted to gain meaningful employment. I applied for a number of positions and was very fortunate to be offered a permanent job as a Vetting Officer with Cheshire Police. I have been working there for seven years and I cannot praise them highly enough for the assistance and encouragement they have given me. The assistive technology I use, together with my Access to Work assistant, has allowed me to perform my role as effectively as any able-bodied person.
My presentation felt as though it was over in a flash and I then listened to the hugely inspiring, Lord Chris Holmes of Richmond who has achieved amazing things in his life since suddenly losing his sight at the age of 15. He was followed by the equally inspiring CEO of Leonard Cheshire Disability UK and it made me realise that single-mindedness, determination and an appropriate support structure allows people’s potential to be achieved.
As if the day wasn’t special enough, my close friends, who now live in London, gave me a lovely surprise by meeting up with me at the station. I was really excited to tell them about the wonderful experience of the day.
The whole day seemed to go so quickly and after an uneventful return journey we returned home at around 2.00am, tired, but proud that I hopefully contributed to the awareness of how assistive technology can be truly life-changing and life-saving."
Authored by Hannah Rose, author of "Hannah: Same both Ways"