Disabled Daredevils airs on Channel 4 on Tuesday 30th August 2016 at 11.05pm and features one of our founders, Paula Moulton. Here’s her story of how she got involved.
“If you’re told often enough you can’t do something you will start to believe it. It’s time though we start to focus on ability and normalise disability”
Roll back to December 2014 when I had a random request to speak to someone about an upcoming documentary on extreme sports. This seemed a bit odd as I’ve never considered wheelchair dance sport “extreme”, other than the odd time you might fall out of your wheelchair from time to time or Gary has slipped and accidentally kicked me on the head – but you can hardly call that extreme!
I was then asked “if you were allowed to do any extreme sport what would you like to do?”. My response was downhill mountain biking that was all, although there’s things that I know I wouldn’t be able to do like bungee jumping and skydiving as I’ve been told “you can’t” in the past.
Roll forward to August 2015 and suddenly I was meeting up with a group of strangers, all with various physical disabilities, for a week-long adventure doing extreme sports – but the scariest thing was, none of us had any idea what sports were going to be thrown at us!
It was a challenge in itself getting 8 people all with different needs to the same location for the same time, complete with multiple wheelchairs, hoists, walkers, spare limbs and of course our Pas, never mind a film crew with all their kit!
The gang assembled were; a mouth painter called Bazza, actors Jenna and Kain, wheelchair fitness instructor Kris, model and campaigner Gemma, Motocross fanatic Billy, football and travel mad Caroline and me – a wheelchair dancer and campaigner.
So what did they have planned for us, how would we do these things, had our GPs and consultants signed our permissions? So often there’s so much red tape and health and safety issues it’s not worth the pain of even attempting extreme sports.
The first day found us being swung on a giant swing over a quarry then zip wired over the flooded quarry to finish jumping (or being thrown) in for a swim!
Quickly we all realised that some things were becoming common…lots of body harnesses, wetsuits and the prospect of a week of early starts!
More sports followed throughout the week with water skiing, bungee jumping and the final big challenge – a freefall skydive!
Personally, for me, the challenge that terrified me the most was the bungee jump. I didn’t in a million years expect that I’d be allowed or able to do it. How wrong could I be! My consultant signed me off with the message “Don’t worry if you break yourself we can mend you!” Whilst giving me confidence that it wasn’t going to kill me I was still terrified being hoisted up in a cradle over Bristol Quayside to be dropped on a big rubber band!
But, I did it! With lots of encouragement from the gang below I was bouncing around on the end of the bungee rope. It was an awesome experience, and so happy I did it, but it’s one that I wouldn’t repeat, unlike the sky dive which I can’t wait to do again!
Despite the extreme sports and the efforts the teams went to so we could take part, we came down to earth with a bump when ironically we could not get in to a restaurant one night (even though it was booked as a party with several wheelchair users) – their idea of a ramp was a flimsy piece of wood with a step on the other side of the doorway!
Actually the whole week was pretty ’normal’. We took part in adrenaline sports, made new friends, had a few drinks, danced, played silly games, shared stories and swapped tips dreams and desires. All pretty normal things for time away on any break, the only difference was our bodies. However, we all had something else in common, that we were beginning to feel we could conquer anything!
Sometimes the world can be unforgiving and you can get bogged down in the day to day things, whether it be issues with care or getting around and facing access needs. This trip reinforced that we can do it.
It’s always a bit of a downer when people say you can’t do that or call you “inspirational” because you’ve got on a bus on your own – sorry, but I’ve been doing that for years, just like you. I think you get blinkered by society treating you as an inspiration for the slightest little thing and you forget sometimes that you truly do do things that are inspirational.
Now being called inspirational because you’ve skydived or bungee jumped; I think we could all accept that.
What the week did make several of us realise, was not to let other people’s perceptions of what you can and can’t do define you. And a simple thing that it is okay to need more support and that accepting that support does not make you less able, it helps you focus your energy on the things that matter.
Would I be one of the “Disabled Daredevils” again? Yes, in an instant!
Words cannot explain what this trip meant to me. I think we all went home and slept for a week and had bruises on bruises, but it was so worth it.
There are extreme activities I still want to do – including winter sports, even though I hate the cold! I also like the idea of bigger zip wires and downhill adaptive mountain biking. In honesty, I want to push my limits while I can!
Most importantly I want to do this for me. I no longer feel the need to qualify to anyone else whether I’m an “inspiration” or not.
Main photo credit: Richard Ansett/C4Posted on: 26th August 2016, by : Paula Moulton