Dr Pops: Why I ‘celebrate’ #InternationalWheelchairDay

my AFK Ambassador and #RollModel Dr Hannah Barham-Brown on why she celebrates International Wheelchair Day. Originally posted on her blog here.

Dr Hannah Barham-Brown smiling in her wheelchair

Dr Hannah Barham-Brown (“Dr Pops”) is an Ambassador for my AFK as well as a doctor, writer, disability advocate and #RollModel. She recently made the Shaw Trust Disability Power List 2018 and did a TEDxNHS talk (she’s a bit of a superhero!)

I love my wheelchair.


I love that I designed it, complete with light up front wheels, a bright red frame and a tiny little bell.


I love that the cushion is the most comfy and supportive ever, to the extent that I stay in it, even when I have the choice.


I love that as I speed down corridors at work, the porters have taken to yelling ‘DOCTOR ON CALL!’ Or ‘GO DOC, GO!’ At me.


I love that it has allowed me to get back into exercise, racing 10ks and training for Triathlons.


I love that when I enter races, people cheer me on personally, apparently unaware that I’m getting a massive advantage on every flat or downhill section…


I love that I take fewer painkillers as a result of using my chair at work – and I love that my chances of getting an ulcer is massively reduced because of this!


I love that people are constantly surprised by what I can manage in my chair – whether that’s going upstairs unaided in the Council Chamber of BMA House, or having a go on a skatepark and shocking mums and their buggies as they walk by.


I love that more and more people want to help with accessibility issues, take on transport companies and make life easier for wheelchair users, whether or not they themselves have a disability.

Dr Hannah Barham-Brown smiling in her red wheelchair
Dr Hannah Barham-Brown speaking at a my AFK event

I love that people never bat an eye when I kiss my able-bodied boyfriend in public – and that he still laughs when I roll over his toes.


I love that my upper body is stronger than ever, and that my shoulders are broad.


I love that heads turn when I pull into a Blue Badge space in my hugely impractical 26 year old convertible, and jaws drop when I somehow manage to unpack an entire wheelchair from the passenger seat.


I love that good friends have apparently learnt more about how to interact with people in wheelchairs through knowing me.


I love that I now have freedom to get out of the house, and travel distances further than the short periods I could walk for would allow.


I love that I have had to become more confident, to handle the occasions when I throw myself on the ground by accident, or inadvertently crash into people.


I love that I am able to continue in a career I love (most of the time!), because my chair means I can leave the house.


I love that I have met incredible people with a huge range of disabilities, who have both taught and inspired me so much.


I love that I have learnt to campaign, and now can speak publicly at events to hopefully improve things for the next generation.


I love that I am able to use my experiences to advocate for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

my AFK Ambassadors Lucy and Dr Hannah Barham-Brown
Matt Coynes with his 2 children and Dr Hannah Barham-Brown after completing the Superhero Tri

Most of all, I love that when I was at my lowest, when I was at my most broken, when my life and career plans seemed to be falling apart around me thanks to a body I couldn’t control, people near and far came together, regardless of whether they knew me, and crowdfunded my amazing chair. I love that in 24 hours I went from desperately trying to pull together every penny to fully funded by incredible friends, some of who I have never even met. I love that my faith in humanity, and myself, was restored by such generosity that I get emotional thinking about it even a year on.


Being in a wheelchair, even part time, is hard. A lot of the time, it is miserable, frustrating, and means I spend hours fighting for rights and access others take for granted. But having a wheelchair has changed my life, and today, I celebrate that change.


Tomorrow, I return to the fight.



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