My name is Nadia Clarke. I am 18 years old and I am studying Health and Social Care at college. I am an electric wheelchair user.
I understand 3 different languages: my first is AAC - this means I use an electronic Communication Aid to speak. I also use British Sign Language (BSL) as I am Deaf; oh I also understand English (which is different to BSL) and use this in college!
I hope to go to university in 2012 to study Disability Rights, which I am really excited about. I want a job where I can raise disabled people's awareness about their rights and to increase their aspirations and choices. I want to work with disabled children and young people and teach them about life and dreams.
Why personalisation is important to me
Personalisation is important to me. It allows me to have more independence and is helping me to reach my goals. I spend the money I get through personal budgets on employing Personal Assistants (PAs). This means I can get the support I really want.
I feel that it is really important that disabled young people know their rights and how to use them and that everything should be about choice. Disabled young people need to have more choice over the support they get to be able to achieve their goals and aspirations for their future.
I am excited about personalisation as I think it can really help to change things for disabled people. Personal budgets have allowed me to have more control over my own support and are helping me to fulfil my dreams.
How I use my personal budgets
My money comes from Direct Payments and the Independent Living Fund. My whole future depends on this being available. I use my personal budget for everything I do in life, for example, employing my PAs, socialising, swimming, and having physiotherapy.
My PAs are very important to me. They help me to be independent so that I don't need to rely on my parents too much! With the help of my PAs I am able to do anything I want, like going to the pub and partying all night! My PAs help me with lots of different parts of my life so it is really important to find the right person to do the job. My personal budget means I can choose PAs who are similar in age to me and like the things I like - for example, going clubbing!
At the moment I'm planning a road trip in Europe with some of my PAs next summer, which I am really excited about! I also plan to travel to many other parts of the world.
My PAs do not support me at college. Instead the college employ support staff who help me with my studies. The support at college is helping me to complete my course.
Managing my personal budgets at university
I have begun to look around universities like Liverpool Hope and Sheffield Hallam and am starting to think about some of the new responsibilities I will have when I live away from home. I am starting to understand more about my money and personal budgets and I have begun coordinating my PAs and organising my social life.
It will be very important that I can manage my own money and support when I get to university as my parents will not be there to help me.
I am also doing my support plan, but this has not been easy. There is so much to think about. I need to make sure that nothing is missed out in my plan and that everything that is really important to me in my life is included. This takes time!
I have heard that there is funding available called Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) that can cover any extra costs or expenses I might have while I am studying because of my disability. This can pay for things like travel, equipment, and staff such as sign language interpreters and notetakers.
As well as receiving DSA, whilst studying at university I will also be entitled to money from social services to pay for my living support. I will receive this money through my personal budgets and will be able to employ my own PA.
This article has been reproduced from My Future Choices magazine with kind permission.