Life lessons from lockdown as a 23-year-old with cerebral palsy: Chloe Tear

LOCKDOWN has probably introduced people to some new concepts – a lack of confidence about returning to the old world, a preoccupation bordering on obsession with health, experiencing verbal abuse for not wearing a mask, frustration when planning a journey outside is like a military operation, and isolation.

Chloe Tear is a disability blogger and campaigner on disability rights.

It’s been far from pleasant, with us all having to make adjustments and sacrifices over the last year.

But what if that was your whole life? For some disabled people, this is their reality. Unable to leave the house or socialise, and the constant worry about their health.

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For others, they might have to plan every journey they take, rely on the support of others, and are faced with prejudice on an almost daily basis.

Do the blind and disabled receive sufficient assistance?

Prior to the pandemic, things were going well. I had just received a British Education Award, had a new job, a loving family and quite by accident, I had become one of the country’s leading disability bloggers.

But like all disabled people, the journey to that point had not been easy. I have cerebral palsy which is a physical disability, but one which manifests in multiple ways. I struggle with things a first-class graduate doesn’t think twice about, such as timetables and reading an analog clock.

Having being told I would struggle academically at primary school, it’s down to hard work, a lot of extra hours, and a supportive family that enabled me to achieve.

Whilst most people seem understanding of my disability, they are sometimes oblivious to the reality.

What more can be done to support the disabled and wheelchair users?

For example, I use a long cane to navigate the world because I’m visually impaired.

When I was on a train I had folded up my cane and proceeded to read my Kindle. Due to my level of sight, I am able to read large print.

But that didn’t fit with the preconceived image of being blind – not that I know what blind people should look like!

A stranger started to question my level of sight and actually told me I was faking my visual impairment. If I’m honest, these occurrences no longer surprise me, they are almost expected.

The most extreme example comes from social media, where I’ve been told to take my own life, just because I was disabled.

Strangely enough, though, a sense of justice was not my reason for starting a blog. It began as a diary, even if I now cringe when reading posts I wrote at the age of 15.

Despite the random rambles, people found it interesting and others with cerebral palsy were relieved to find someone they could relate to.

When I was 15, the difference between myself and my peers grew. I struggled with mobility and was using a wheelchair 
part-time. I felt alone. I just hope my blog ensures that other young people with cerebral palsy now feel represented and heard.

I wrote about all aspects of my life – buying shoes and splints, being in a relationship, and my journey to get a guide dog.

I pride myself on showing the truth, the good and the bad, and sharing my humorous outlook when it comes to being disabled. However, I never expected to 
be surpassing 5,000 views a month.

The recognition my readership gave me led to speaking at conferences and events – all of which were curtailed by lockdown. I hope these opportunities can return, as it has formed some very fond and proud moments over the last few years.

I am certain that receiving one of the most prestigious academic awards – a special recognition achievement at the British Education Awards – has increased my self-belief.

I completed my degree at Leeds Trinity University and secured a job with the charity Scope, after volunteering for five years previous.

I’ve now been there for two years and I’m a content designer. This means I get write content that supports disabled people and their families – there is no greater honour.

So, what about my confidence to face the real world again? As with many disabled people, I worried about getting coronavirus. The effects on those with cerebral palsy is still unknown, and if I’m honest, I was terrified.

The prospect of seeing friends and travelling again excites me but there is a little trepidation there too.

I’m often asked, now aged 23, what advice would I give to my 15-year-old self. After much thought, it’s probably quite simple: accept yourself, embrace it, enjoy life, and never, ever, give up.

Chloe Tear is a disability blogger and campaigner on disability rights. Chloe’s blog: https://chloetear.co.uk

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