Ross Wilcock, is a young media student and Youtuber who is registered blind. He is also a new Connector for the RNIB Connect community, helping to empower people with sight loss to stand up against disability discrimination. He talks about growing up with a disability, tells us why he became a Connector, and the benefits Connect offers to blind and partially sighted people of all ages.
Starting at the beginning is usually the best place; however, this time I am going to tell you about my life now since becoming a Connector with the RNIB. I now have goals, ambitions and dreams. I am looking to go to university, which now at age 25 I don’t see as an effort or a challenge as I know with my heart and my head working together I can do pretty much anything. This is all thanks to Connect. I am now a Community Connector with the RNIB and I can tell you now, this has been a dream come true! I know what you might be wondering - what is a “Connector”? What do they do? Well my dear readers, I am about to tell you. On a larger scale, there are hopes of all visually impaired people to have things, that seem so easy to get, yet so little is done. These are things such as getting suitable menus in restaurants and having audiobooks in regular circulation, and at a decent price. These seem like little things, but as a person living with sight loss I can tell you it’s tough! But now with RNIB Connect we are challenging not only ourselves but society to make changes that will one day make the world a happier place for those living with sight loss.
It’s given members the confidence to join together and start talking to those establishments about getting menus on iPads so as they can be read out, or getting large print or braille. I am part of a campaign to try and get local business and restaurants to supply materials such as menus and paperwork available at all times in a number of formats. This is something I am very passionate about and would like to see it happen as soon as possible. These things are doable and are in the stars with Connect. I know that in the background there are many things being discussed for the future. I personally have many great (I hope) ideas for what I would like to do with Connect. Currently I am hoping to train myself up as a facilitator to run confidence building workshops for disabled people to help them cope in social situations, that many people with disabilities struggle with. My plans for the future I also would love to run community and business conferences and workshops on Disability awareness and how business and communities can better prepare themselves for adapting to help disabled people, so they have the same chances everyone else. At the end of the day we are all people and people, no matter what life throws at you, deserve the same rights as each other. Also in the coming years I would like to see changes in education and how people, young people approach disability. This can be done with Connectors going into schools and education facilities and teaching students about disability awareness. Again everything I have spoken about is very doable and with the help of other organisations I know this will get done!
Now, we should go back in time a little, to discover the reason behind my decision to become a Connector. I want to be a voice for people who are too scared to speak, so I can help them find that voice we all have. Being a person living with sight loss as well as having other disabilities I have faced a lot of things in my life. I was bullied in school and had a hard time being listened to. I was put in the lowest level classes even though I knew I was better than that. All of this is due to a lack of knowledge and the fact that it is seen that if you have a disability you are therefore stupid. I am in no way saying this is the case for all people living with a disability, but I know it was in my case and it happened to many people I know. Thankfully, though I came through the hard times and I left school with very good achievement and went onto college to study media. Education is something I think needs a good hard kick in terms of updating itself on how disability is viewed. I hope that in studying I can become a teacher who can advise and help people and help them discover the bright, smart and confident person I know everyone can be.
On top of the disability factor I came out as gay when I was 22. This is another barrier. Being gay is tough on its own, having a disability is tough on its own - let alone both! So this is why I am using my voice to shout about these things. I want to run support groups to help others, not just disabled people but anyone and everyone struggling with something whether that be sexuality, life in general or even just as simple as they can’t work a computer or their smartphone. I want to help people and now thanks to Connect I am going down that road; it is a long one. But I can tell you now, it is going to be worth the journey.
Remember - stand up, be proud and be you.
You can find out more about Ross on his YouTube channel where he often posts vlogs about his passion, film, and also addresses the topic of disability and sexual orientation in more detail. Stay tuned for more blogs from Ross!