How Patricia’s diagnosis changed how people saw her
ROCKHAMPTON woman Patricia Marsh remembers when she could walk into a room without being stared at but the idea is a fantasy for her now.
She has a unique insight into how people living with disabilities are treated because she’s lived as someone with a disability and one without.
While she’s used a wheelchair for the past eight years, she didn’t require one for the first three decades of her life – she said the way people treat her has changed dramatically.
“Most people think you’re stupid because you’re in a wheelchair but I’m trying to get across that I’m not,” Ms Marsh said.
Her disability went unnoticed for almost her whole schooling life until she was diagnosed with Friedreich ataxia at 15.
A genetic condition of the nervous system, it affects Ms Marsh’s co-ordination and speech, but has no impact on her brain.
“My disability is very noticeable and it’s not hidden,” she said.
While Ms Marsh has the experience and qualifications in administration, she fears her disability is preventing her from becoming employed.
“Looking for long-term employment is very hard when you’ve got a disability.”
After working in administration for 20 years and being one unit away from completing a Certificate III in Business Administration, her goal is to find permanent part-time work.
“Getting up every day it feels like you have meaning in your life, like you’re going to help someone,” she said.
Her experience has driven her passion for access and employment for people with disabilities.
She is a member of the Rockhampton Community Access and Equity Group and wants to see society change their perception of people with disabilities.
“As soon as I got out into the community they look at me like I’m weird and then they talk to me and then they realise I am intelligent,” she said.
She said people with disabilities were an untapped resource because their abilities weren’t often recognised.
“People need to look outside the box and see what change can help a lot of people,” she said.
She said the way people treated her because of her disability was ironic because she is “50,000 times smarter” than what she was 20 years ago before she was diagnosed.
She recently attended the Capricorn Citizen Advocacy human rights event to further her knowledge as an advocate.
She also wants the community to become more accessible for wheelchairs.