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My name is Alice and I am Belgian. As I am a french speaker, I will certainly make mistakes in this writing. But no worries, I will try not to torture you too much…

I have been diagnosed with syringomyelia at about the age of 7. I used to walk normally until I was 4 or 5. Then I gradually lost the strength of my muscles and today, twenty years after the diagnosis, I have been using a wheelchair for about eighteen years now.

I feel free since the day I started using an electronic wheelchair, thirteen years ago, in September. Since that day, I started seeing the world like never before. The world was all new for me, I finally could go alone to places I never imagined going to. Suddenly I was able to do things as simple as going to a bakery down the street and come back home, which was not so simple before.

I became able to participate in the everyday organisation of my family’s life. That wheelchair made me decide to open up myself to people and meet some new friends. I realised what I was missing during so many years… Since then, I met many people: some are becoming friends, others are just there for a short term experience, and there are also those who bring unpleasant experiences, but I always learn something, because this is how I am learning to lead my life, day after day.

This journey on opening up myself and meeting people started two months before my 15th birthday. It started in my city, then in my country, by traveling from my city to others, until the day I travelled by train from Brussels to Somerset (UK) and stayed in a guesthouse alone in April 2015. All this would not be possible if I did not have this protective, kind and loving person who is my sister. She was there at the right time and is still there in every important step of my life. She always gives me a hand when I need it, she is the one who let me figure out that I can fully participate in organizing a family’s life, which was a concern of mine. The way she considered me, by trusting me, is the reason why today I can think about maintaining a family on my own.

I think that all of us human beings, with disability or not, need someone to make us see our potentials, our strengths and abilities in life, instead of our limitations. For me, my sister is that one.

Another thing that I learned is that when an unpleasant experience happens in life, one should find a positive aspect in it and consider it as something important. In other words, learning to focus on the positive aspect in order to make it the most important thing. And today, I consider myself as a happy person; not because now I have got everything, but because I enjoy being alive and I am doing what I can to get involved in things that I find important, like working on making Brussels more accessible to everyone.

I thank Enhance the UK for their amazing work, as well as for making it possible to share experiences among the people around the world, because a change can only be possible if we work together.

Follow us on Instagram @UndressingDisability and twitter @ETUKUndressing. Or buy our Undressing Disability ebook for £5.99

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