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​Wilma Stewart 

Enable Scotland’s 60th anniversary has ‘nice timing’ for Wilma Stewart. Not only does it coincide with her 60th birthday, it also marks her 10th year of service to the Falkirk branch. 

Wilma loves to lend a hand at the members club each Wednesday night, helping out with the disco, handing out snacks and washing up dishes, although she admits that when she first joined, she was very apprehensive about how she would fit in. 

“I’m a very anxious person and I’ve been that way since I was a child. My dad passed when I was 50. He’d been ill for a long time and it was very hard on me. That was a real set back in my life. I wasn’t doing anything or going anywhere.

“A friend noticed that I wasn’t doing too well and she encouraged me to come along to the club so that I could try and move on. I was really nervous because my barriers go up whenever I’m in an unfamiliar situation.” 

Wilma’s fears were unfounded. Much to her surprise, she quickly discovered that she felt at ease within the group, which she believes is due to socialising with other people who have disabilities. 

“I had childhood measles which left me 70% deaf. I wear two hearing aids and because of that, I find it hard to keep up with conversations. People can be very impatient and tend to think you’re stupid rather than realising there is something wrong. They often just don’t make the effort so I sit back on my own because it’s hopeless trying to join in.

“But that doesn’t happen in the club. It’s an environment where there are lots of people with disabilities so everyone is much more accepting, caring and patient because they understand how I feel. That makes me feel much more comfortable about communicating and I don’t feel like an outcast here.”

The sense of belonging the club has given Wilma over the past decade has had a positive effect on her confidence. While she admits that she can still become anxious in unfamiliar situations, she has grown to feel very secure in the company of her Enable family. So much so that her gratitude for the help she has received has driven her to actively help others with disabilities through the organisation’s member-led advisory committee (ACE) and the Scottish Council, which governs the work the organisation does.

“Being around other people who have faced similar difficulties really makes me want to do something for them and I find it easier to speak up for others than to speak up for myself. The good people in Enable really show how much they want to help us too, so that makes me feel as though they are interested in what I have to say.

“I give the committee and the council any advice that I can based on my own experiences. I’ll tell them the things I know about getting support, benefits or anything else I can think of that other people might want to know, but at the same time, I learn so much from everyone else there because I get to hear about what types of things affect them and how they dealt with it. That helps me get on better in my own life.”

The valuable information and support Wilma has gained through interacting with her peers within ACE and the Scottish Council has undoubtedly made it easier for her to manage certain aspects of her day to day life, but she believes it may also give her an opportunity to set herself a goal for the future.

“We have an advisor coming to speak to us about college courses soon. I’ve always wanted to do a course in sign language so that I can help other deaf people but I worry about things like not being able to keep up with what the lecturer is saying, or not being able to write my notes quickly enough. I’m really looking forward to asking the advisor all about what learning support I might be able to get.”

In the meantime, Wilma is happily to keep busy by setting up a sub-committee within her own branch, which will provide a forum for the members to give their input on the activities and outings they would like to organise for their club. 

“Coming along to the Wednesday club gives me a reason to get out and do something with my life and for as long as I come here, I’m happy to do whatever needs to be done to give them all something back.”

ENABLE Scotland,INSPIRE House,3 Renshaw Place,Eurocentral,N Lanarkshire,ML1 4UF.Tel: 01698 737 000. Registered Charity Number SC009024

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