I’m a youngster from about 30 years and I was raised in an open-minded way. My younger, non-disabled brother and I were raised in an equal way. I spend my school time at a school for disabled people but I didn’t see this as an obstacle because there they taught me how to be independent. On the other hand I have mixed feelings about my education. I could have done more difficult studies, an education with more intellectual weight not just about being independent.
For 8 years now I consider myself a lucky person because I have a personal-assistance-budget in Flanders and I do voluntary work for ‘Onafhankelijk Leven’ the organisation that is committed to Independent Living and people working with a personal-assistance-budget (PAB).
- What is your personal experience of disability?
Since birth I have quadriparese, comparable to spasm in arms and legs. I’m confined to my wheelchair but I can’t be bothered.
- How did you discover the Independent Living movement?
During school time I got introduced with PAB. I wanted to be independent, live my own life without others making decisions for me. For 7 years they guided me in school. I couldn’t live the life I wanted so this would be a perfect chance for me and MY future.
In 2003 I was one of the first who got the budget since they approved the decree, now it was my turn to be part of the society.
Independent Living in Belgium, called BOL in the early years, was searching for youngster members so I said to myself maybe that’s something interesting for me. When I first started there, there were only 5 working forces, now there are over 25. Their enthusiasm and warmth got me directly on board. Jan-Jan Sabbe was one of them. He taught me so much that I’m grateful to have met someone like him, so powerful.
- Is there an area of Independent Living that you are especially interested in?
It always attracted me that there is a spirit of self-determination, a freedom of choice. This is who I am and who I want to be.
- Who has influenced you the most, and how?
Me, myself and I made this choice. My parents always had the idea that I should learn by trial and error.
The person who made me believe in the philosophy of indepent living is Jan-Jan, he made me understand this way of life more and more, to promote what we believe in. Just like him we all try to realise a dream that we believe in. And … nothing about us, without us!
- What personal achievement are you most proud of?
About 5 years I live on my own, that was my biggest dream that I achieved, despite what others would think. I wanted to show them what I’m capable of and that they would be wrong.
- Do you have a favorite saying or proverb?
Have a little faith in me / seize the day
- What motivates you to get up in the morning?
Every day I wake up with a positive attitude, feel like making the best of every day. I’m happy with the way I’m living my life and everything that’s in it.
- What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Keeping up with my social life. I love to go out for dinner with friends, going to the movies or a great concert. I can enjoy reading a lovely book. Also my family get’s a lot of my attention, they are very important to me.
- If you could invite anyone to a dinner party, who would be your ideal guests?
No one in particular. I admire people with a huge wisdom of life, not only intelligence but with experience in life. A good philosophy makes people more beautiful and those people accept you for who you are.
- What advice would you give to young adults with a disability?
Go for it, no matter your disability. You are a person, not a handicap.