montage of people with varying disabilities
Jasper Cleland

"A few steps in my shoes"

by Jasper Cleland


 

You’ll have to wait until the book comes out before you get to walk the whole mile, but here’s a little bit about me, and how and why I became involved in this project.

I am actively involved in the South Australian deafblind community, and am constantly working to build stronger networks among the wider disability community. Late last year, one of the project managers approached a Facebook page that I helped to admin, promoting the project and seeking writers and contributors.

I am passionate about advocacy and community education. I have had to face many challenges throughout my life, and am currently struggling to adapt to a change in my disability. I have decided that I want to use my lived experience to support others in any way possible. One of the ways to do this is through opportunities like this book project.

Writing my story has been quite a challenging experience. When I first started planning what to write, I couldn’t decide which aspects of my life felt the most important to share, and which I felt comfortable sharing. I eventually decided just to start writing and see where the story went. This solution came with its own set of challenges. For around six weeks, in every space of time that I didn’t have other commitments, I was writing. Some of this was painful, as it meant thinking about past trauma that had remained buried for quite some time. I had been told that the project managers were after a chapter of between 2000 and 4000 words. By the time I was done writing, I had over 20000 words! I had a lot of editing and tough decisions to make before I would let our editor or project managers anywhere near it.

So far, this project has helped me to step outside my comfort zone and gain more confidence about sharing my experiences with others. When I have let so much personal information out into the world once, I feel there is less to lose by doing so again. Also, because I wrote so much while deciding what to include, I have a lot left that I can build on in the future, perhaps even the beginnings of writing my own book.

I hope that my story will reach others who are facing similar challenges in life. Being deafblind can be a very isolating experience at times, so I want to encourage others to reach out to the community. I also hope that, through this project, I can help to raise some awareness among the wider community. If telling my story has helped one person to feel less alone, and educated one person about some of the challenges that I and many others face, then my role in the project has achieved something positive.

I hope to see this book available in a range of formats, to be accessible to as many people as possible. I would also love to see these stories in the hands of people who are studying disability, so they can hear directly from the people who they are learning to work with.

I hope you gain something from my story, and from the stories of others on the MYdisABILITIES team. In my chapter of the book, I have tried to bring together my life experiences, creativity, and passion for advocacy and community education.

Please provide support for our book project by viewing our documentary, and pre-ordering our book.

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