Paralympian Jo Butterfield on care and accessibility

By Sanjeev Mann

“Never give up” was the message from the Paralympic Gold Medallist Jo Butterfield when she spoke at a health event at UWS Paisley earlier this week.

The sports champion won gold in the F51 discus throw during the Rio Paralympic Games in August and is also European record holder, securing a European title in 2014, as well as world gold in 2015.

UWSnewsroom caught up with her to talk about care and accessibility during the Alliance Future Leaders’ event on Wednesday.

Having been paralysed from the chest down only four years ago, she was reluctant to take carers or personal assistants on however now she realises how important support is.

Jo said: “I think it needs to be more individualised – it’s not one size fits all. It needs to be about what that individual needs and requires. Everyone is different, even people with the same condition.”

After knowing she would need care, the athlete admitted it was a depressing thought but she slowly got over it.

She said: “You feel pretty rubbish at first because you can’t do things yourself and its hard to get used to that. I think you slowly realise it’s about enabling you to do the best you can. I think choosing people you get on with is important.”

The Paralympian also shared her insight into accessibility in the UK and its problems.

She said: “I think all new buildings are much better, but it’s silly little things – for example you’ll get a new building with an accessible toilet, but there still isn’t enough room to turn in it.

“It may meet the legal requirements but it would be more useful if they got disabled people in beforehand. They should talk to people in the situation to find out what really matters. Or the disabled toilet is massive but the toilet flusher is still miles away from the toilet.”

Finally, the gold medallist offered a few words of inspiration for other people living with a disability.

She added: “I think the biggest one I can say is never give up. I know its clichéd, but I’ve been told too many times that I wouldn’t be able to do something, and I wouldn’t be sat here with a Paralympic Gold Medal if I hadn’t of said ‘Why can’t I do it?

“It’s okay saying maybe I can, but then if you don’t actually take the opportunity that people give you, you’re never going to get very far. So challenge when people say no.”

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