As the dust settles from another successful Paralympic Games, many of us have asked ourselves "What is the ongoing reality for disabled people in the UK?"
We asked Samantha Milne, a wheelchair basketball player with Leicester Cobras, and who featured in the recent BBC News broadcast about the Paralympics legacy and the ‘WeThe15’ campaign representing the 15% of the world's population that is disabled, to share some of her story.
My name is Samantha Milne, I am 33 years old and live in Leicestershire. I have a disability called Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy is a Neurological Condition that effects my movement, coordination, and speech. The effect of this means that everyday tasks, such as walking, use a lot more energy and I get tired much quicker.
I was a member of the Girls Brigade and have belonged to a few churches, most recently being at Mosaic Church in Leicester. Finding my place within church has sometimes been a challenge as I have found some churches can often view a person with a disability as their “project” and some hold healing services; while I recognise the place for prayer for healing, it can sometimes become uncomfortable and eventually was a factor in me moving to another church.
Moving to Mosaic Church about three years ago was a decision I thought and prayed about a lot, and it took around a year for me to make the move, but it was the right decision. My connection to Mosaic Church started after my Crusaders (now Urban Saints) leaders left the area. I was looking to meet young Christians and my Crusaders leaders met a couple at their church that have family that belonged to Mosaic Church Leicester. We began talking and I started to attend some of their events, for a while I divided my time between the two churches.
This wasn’t a situation I felt happy with but due to having move churches previously, and originally being very happy at this church, I felt I needed to be sure about my decision. I questioned if I was letting people down, was it the right decision? My decision was made when my grandmother passed away; she passed away on a Sunday morning and I choose to go to Mosaic. For the last two years I have attended Mosaic, I have made a great set of friends, become more independent, confident, and have grown in my faith.
I became a member of the Girls Brigade from the age of five when they visited school to tell us about Girls Brigade. I worked to achieve many awards and eventually completed my leadership training and my Brigadier Brooch. In 2003 I was awarded the Endurance Award; this is a special award that is awarded to girls who have continued to attend Girls Bridge in spite of health challenges, only about 40 of these awards are presented each year. I believe that my years in the Girls Brigade really helped me build by confidence and self-esteem. I was a member of the Girls Brigade for around fifteen years and in this time belonged to three different companies including the first company to meet in a school rather than a church.
One of the most helpfully Bible passages I found was Psalm 139 verses 13 to 14:
‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.’
These verses talk about being made in the image of God. This verse really spoke to me about God having a plan for my life, and I felt strongly that my disability had a place in this plan. This combined with having taken time to accept my disability; this further added to my feeling that praying for healing just didn’t sit comfortably with me, I didn’t feel that Gods plan involved healing me from my Cerebral Palsy. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t had moments of wondering why I have Cerebral Palsy, and wishing I could be able to do certain things, but over time I have adapted and actually been given some amazing opportunities because I have my disability.
My journey with Crusaders started in 2006, when I attended the Crusaders Centenary at the Royal Albert Hall; what a amazing experience! This was actually my second time to visit this beautiful building as I had previously been with the Girls Brigade.
In 2011, after learning to drive, I became more involved in Crusaders, helping at the Group on a weekly basis. I also completed my ‘Insights’ Training Course For Christian Youth and Children’s Leadership Teams. I was also able to attend a few weekends away, first visiting Wales then going to Derbyshire. This was a big step in building my confidence and independence, I also enjoyed the opportunities to try different activities such as raft building and kayaking.
Channel 4 ‘Superheroes’
More recently, I have been involved with the Superhero Series; this was founded by Sophia Warner, a Paralympian who also has Cerebral Palsy. I came across the event on the internet and decided to fill my details in for a chance to take part in the celebrity relay. One of the questions I was asked was ‘What’s my superpower?’ I knew exactly what the answer was, “to never give up”. Growing up, my dad used to say that this was the easiest thing to do, to give up, so I made it my aim to give everything my all and not to give up. To date, I can only think of three things that I really gave up on, riding a bike, roller-skating and ice skating. At the time, not being able to ride a two wheeled bike seemed like a big deal; little did I know that I’d be able to drive and the wheelchair that I’d hated would allow my independence and enable me to do so many great things!
A few weeks after entering, having not thought about it, I opened my emails to find I had a place on the Celebrity Relay at Winter Wonderwheels 2017; having entered this without looking at all the details I had to quickly find out where and when we were going!
The event took place on the 3rd December 2017, our friends came to meet us, it was a very cold but amazing day out; I ended up on a mini bus with Jonny Peacock! My team captain was Chris Jones, a former soldier, who was dressed as a reindeer and riding a bicycle. Each team was made up of three people who worked together to complete the course.
In 2019 I had the opportunity to take part in the Superhero Tri, and I was lucky enough to once again take part in the Celebrity Tri! This time my team Captain was the BBC Security Correspondent, Frank Gardner. As the name suggests, the Superhero Tri is made up of running or wheeling, cycling, and swimming, although it allows participants to use any equipment they need to complete the course; I took part in the wheeling section of the course.
Here’s a link to Sam’s Superheroes team page:
I have also written for ‘The Mighty’; this is an online magazine for people who have disabilities who can submit articles about their life with a disability. I have written five articles, my first being about the experience in mainstream school; I have also written about how having a physical disability had affected my mental health, about learning to drive, and about how using a light weight made to measure wheelchair has improved my life.
I have been playing wheelchair basketball for around five years, having first started at an inclusive sports club before joining my local wheelchair basketball club; after initially just taking part in weekly training I then joined the women league. I really enjoy playing wheelchair basketball, having previously not being able to take part in group sport I really enjoy being part of a team.
The opportunity to take part in the filming for BBC News came when I was contacted by our Club Chairman. Having not had the chance to do much over the lockdown I jumped at the chance, not really knowing how much I would be filmed but really grateful for the chance to not only play basketball but to raise awareness of the issues many people with disabilities still face.
While I have witnessed many positive changes for people who have disability, I feel that more can still be done. One of the issues I face regularly is doors being too heavy for me to open, changing doors to power push button opening would make a huge difference to my independence. I feel that a lot has been made of making things step free, but steps are just one issues we face.
Here’s a link to the ‘WeThe15’ BBC News article:
Here’s a link to the Paralympics legacy BBN News video:
As you can see my journey with the Lord has blessed me with so many opportunities and I look forward to continuing my journey.