Freedoms!!! The Anthem for Students with Disabilities

05 Feb 2020

By Jordon Milroy

Firstly, and frankly, rolling into class for an 8 o’clock lecture on Human Rights is somewhat an uninspiring activity. The sheer fact that I was able to stumble out of bed, make a strong coffee, get dressed correctly doesn’t warrant the terminology Inspirational. The use of a wheelchair (a mobility device) to access different areas of university can be compared to walking in new shoes, this ridiculous and somewhat humorous comparison doesn’t warrant the word Inspirational.

This collective vision held by youth with Cerebral Palsy of just “getting on with the job” drives the momentum towards a collaboration video series in conjunction with the Cerebral Palsy Society of New Zealand and the CP Youth Alliance. The Freedoms campaign is made up of ten bold declarations of a world where youth voices are heard and respected, this multimedia campaign through a mini documentary, Facebook and Instagram, showcased what it’s like to be a young person living with Cerebral Palsy and the real life testimonies of life with Cerebral Palsy.

The honourable position of being able to co-chair the Cerebral Palsy Youth Alliance at the same time as studying within the field of Human Rights has provided a front-row seat of the Freedoms campaign and the exciting endless possibilities that this campaign reach will cover.

My personal favourites out of the ten Freedoms as they relate best to attaining an academic qualification are:

The Freedom to Pursue a Dream: as a postgraduate student studying towards a Master of Human Rights at AUT, living with a dream of shaping the way society views individuals with Cerebral Palsy through the skills and knowledge gained at a postgraduate level. Dreams
are deeply embedded in the core desire to succeed, drink far too much coffee, and continue to challenge the world around me.

The Freedom to Be Heard is another bold statement that resonates with life at university. To be heard is to be understood clearly, despite having slurred speech or taking several attempts to express the true definition of what the point-of-view is trying to be portrayed.
To be heard is to constantly redefine one’s comfort, to move the boundaries and speak up on behalf of those who are not able or haven’t reached a point of confidence yet.  Students with disabilities don’t need to be a qualified or seasoned activist to create change within our society, the ability to be heard within the AUTSA of student council board or raising concerns and issues surrounding disability rights with faculty, staff members, teaching staff, or student support. Being heard is vitally important for change, as a student the fortunate ability to raise practical change where it was more accessible parking spaces, door entry sizes, or the language used surrounding disability was all taken into consideration and policies were changed. In short, power to the people – it’s time to be heard.

Lastly, but still as important is the Freedom to Have Fun, our academic journey at AUT will come and go as the milestones of assignments’ due dates tick by. At the same time, we all need to enjoy our time at university, drink overpriced coffee, and have a good laugh with fellow colleagues, friends, and smile at strangers. Fun is the centre point of any journey in life, it’s a driving force for self-motivation and the enjoyable experience of research in one’s chosen field.

The Freedoms campaign is a liveable and forever changing way of life for young people with Cerebral Palsy. 2020 will mark the end of my time at studying at AUT but to be able to have a real-life project to draw on the motivation to get through this year is a pretty inspirational campaign. Now, where’s my coffee?