Over the past few months we’ve been busy working away in the background trying to track down a whole host of writers to contribute to the Sunrise Medical blog. We’ve spoken with Paralympians, racing drivers, models, business owners and lots of other people and we think we have some really interesting, relevant and engaging articles lined up for you over the coming months. We like to refer to our team of writers as the Sunrise Medical Blog Squad and we thought it would be rude not to introduce some of them to you.
These are exciting times for gymnast, Tiri Hughes. The 19-year-old, who is originally from South Devon, has recently started her first year at Oxford University, studying medicine.
Prior to this Tiri completed A-levels (in Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, Maths and Further Maths) at a residential college for visually impaired young people in Hereford, where she would zip around campus in her sky blue Quickie Xenon2 lightweight folding wheelchair.
My manual wheelchair helped me at school
Tiri is an occasional wheelchair user, opting at other times to use a crutch to get her up and about and prevent muscle wastage. She says: “I have H-Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and secondary Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (as well as my visual impairment, which is totally separate). These cause chronic pain, joint instability, weakness, dizziness and fatigue.”
“When I was younger I often missed out on school or activities due to my conditions. Then, when I went to college at 16 my Occupational Therapist wrote me a recommendation letter for a manual wheelchair to help to increase my attendance – and after a bit of a battle trying to get grant funding I got my chair! It’s helped massively – on bad days instead of staying inside I can go out as normal, just wheeling instead of walking.”
Tiri’s Quickie Xenon2
Tiri uses her Xenon2 with the wheelchairs standard backrest and a JAY Easy Visco cushion, She says: “The Xenon2 is an excellent chair, it’s very light and easy to manoeuvre. Considering the backrest is the default one for the chair it’s very comfortable. The cushion is fab too – it’s fitted enough to hold my legs in the right place but not so fitted that I can’t fidget.”
She also sometimes uses a white (or pink!) cane for when she is walking whilst her guide dog, Darby, is off duty and loves that she can adapt her equipment by opting for an array of different colours.
Challenging perceptions of disability
One of the main challenges that Tiri finds is people’s perceptions of her disabilities. She says: “The public have a generally poor understanding of the spectrum of disability – for instance people fail to grasp that a person can be visually impaired but have remaining vision, or can be a wheelchair user who is still able to walk. I try to educate people as often as possible when they make assumptions (one of the common assumptions is that I must be training my guide dog, rather than be the visually impaired owner).”
Another challenge is accessibility, she says: “There is definitely work still to be done! Often buildings are partially accessible, so that the front of the building is step-free but there are areas inside that cannot be accessed.”
She says that Hereford (where Tiri studied at college) is much more accessible than her native Devon, “South Devon has some lovely scenery, but a lot of it is very hilly and not very accessible, whereas Hereford was reasonably accessible as a whole and luckily quite flat in the centre of town. The biggest attraction in Hereford is probably the cathedral, although that’s only partially wheelchair accessible as there are a lot of smaller parts which can only be accessed by old cobbled steps.”
When Tiri isn’t studying her main hobby is gymnastics. Although referring to it as a hobby does Tiri a disservice when you consider that Tiri has been competing in women’s artistic disability gymnastics for 7 years. In that time she has progressed from level B, to level A, to open (the highest level of competition), placing 1st in B and A competitions multiple times and 5th in her most recent open competition – the British Disability Gymnastics Championships 2017.
During 2015 Tiri was selected to go to South Africa with another gymnast and three coaches to develop disability gymnastics out there – she describes this as an incredible experience. Her proudest achievement is being selected to be a member of the GBR Gymnastics squad in 2014.
Her determination in terms of gymnastics and academic pursuits is certainly backed up by her ethos of ensuring she is focused on fulfilling her full potential – entirely regardless of disability.
Educating people about disability
Inclusivity is another area which Tiri feels passionate about, she says: “Progress has been made, but there are still issues. Disabled people can often be socially isolated because of societal stigmas about them. I think that if children were taught more about disability in school that inclusivity would improve. Also, I would love to see more people with disabilities being represented in television.”
Tiri will be writing more articles for us over the coming months. To find out more about Tiri’s wheelchair, take a look at the Quickie Xenon2.
What’s your earliest memory? Sitting in a highchair eating chocolate ice cream and making a terrible mess.
Do you have any pets? My guide dog Darby and my partner’s guide dog, Nala.
What might someone be surprised to know about you? I have a phobia of oranges (the fruit, not the colour)
Favourite holiday destination? I used to love visiting Greece, especially Corfu. We went a lot as a child. I don’t think it’s very accessible, but I didn’t use a wheelchair back then.
Last book you read? Admissions: Life in Neurosurgery
Last film you saw? Mamma Mia – Here We Go Again
Last thing you ate? Macaroni cheese. I absolutely love pasta.
Three things you couldn’t live without? Books, gymnastics and lemonade.