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Freedoms! The Anthem for Students with Disabilities

By Jordon Milroy

Firstly, and frankly, rolling into class for an 8am lecture is somewhat of an uninspiring activity. The sheer fact that I was able to stumble out of bed, make a strong coffee and get dressed correctly doesn’t warrant the terminology ‘inspirational’.

The use of a wheelchair (a mobility device) to access different areas of university can be compared to walking in new shoes and this ridiculous and somewhat humorous comparison also doesn’t warrant the word ‘inspirational’. This collective vision held by youth with cerebral palsy of just “getting on with the job” drives the momentum towards a collaborative video series in conjunction with the cerebral palsy Society of New Zealand and the CP Youth Alliance. The Freedoms campaign is made up of ten bold declarations of a world where youth voices are heard and respected. This multimedia campaign, released through a mini documentary, showcases what it’s like to be a young person living with cerebral palsy and the real-life testimonials about life with cerebral palsy.

The honourable position of being able to co-chair the cerebral palsy Youth Alliance at the same time as studying within the field of human rights has provided me with a front-row seat of the Freedoms campaign and the exciting endless possibilities that this campaign will cover.

My personal favourites out of the ten Freedoms as they relate best to attaining an academic qualification are:

The Freedom to Pursue a Dream: As a postgraduate student studying towards a Master of Human Rights at AUT, I live with a dream of shaping the way society views individuals with cerebral palsy, through the skills and knowledge I’ve gained at a postgraduate level. Dreams are deeply embedded in the core desire to succeed.

The Freedom to Be Heard: This is another bold statement that resonates with life at university. To be heard is to be understood clearly, despite having slurred speech or taking several attempts to express the true definition of what the point-of-view is that you are trying to portray. To be heard is to constantly redefine one’s comfort and to move the boundaries and speak up on behalf of those who are not able or haven’t reached a point of confidence yet. Students with disabilities don’t need to be qualified or be seasoned activists to create change within our society. Being heard is vitally important for change. As a student, I’ve had the opportunity to suggest practical changes around accessible parking spaces, door entry sizes and the language used surrounding disability. In short, power to the people – it’s time to be heard.

Lastly, but still as important is the Freedom to Have Fun. Our academic journey at AUT will come and go as the milestones of due dates tick by. At the same time, we all need to enjoy our time at university, drink overpriced coffee and have a good laugh with fellow colleagues, friends and smile at strangers. Fun is the centre point of any journey in life and it’s a driving force for self-motivation and the enjoyable experience of research in one’s chosen field.

The Freedoms campaign is a liveable and forever changing way of life for young people with cerebral palsy. Now, where’s my coffee?


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