Have you ever wondered how far belief can take a person? We live in a society of labels. Of Men and Women, of Rich and Poor, of Black and White, of Gay and Straight, of Disabled and Abled. Although none of these labels define who we are as people, they frame the way that other people, and society as a whole, view and treat us. So what can we do? We can challenge these labels, and break free of the constraints that these social constructs place upon us.
Martyn Sibley is a 30 year old guy living independently in London. He has a beautiful fiance, has earned a Masters degree, drives a car and has travelled as far as Australia. He has SCUBA dived and runs his own business… He also happens to have Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Diagnosed since birth, Martyn cannot walk, shower by himself, or lift anything heavier than a book.
As someone who has never let a label restrict his dreams, Martyn, in his own words, has decided that his goal in life is to “inspire, inform and change the world around disability issues.” and is leading by example.
SMA is a genetic condition, meaning that Martyn has had it since birth. He’s never walked or known any other way of life. Despite this there has still been a share of the hard times, times where in comparison to friends and society he’s realised he’s different and has had to come to terms with his disability.
As a young child it was hard knowing I wouldn’t play football for my beloved Tottenham. As a teenager it was hard to party, meet girls and imagine a great career.
Fortunately, Martyn got through these negative phases and found a way to see his disability as something to be overcome, rather than a restraint. He has developed into an adult who never sees a brick wall, only an obstacle, and loves his life and the people he shares it with.
Family and friends are important to all of us, but for Martyn, the most facilitating thing his family have done is to look through his disability, and only see him.
Ever since I can remember my family, friends and colleagues never saw my disability. Of course they’ve had to help me, do things differently, and be aware. They’ve just done what was necessary and off we went.
Martyn’s mum in particular was a very strong, positive and encouraging influence in his life.
She found my flying the nest difficult because of our bond, but she’s a big reason why I’m so out there and happy now.
Making the Impossible, Possible
Because of his upbringing and support from family, Martyn has always lived with an attitude of making things possible; Where others would look upon his condition and shake their heads, Martyn nods and always finds a way. It was his decision to start blogging however, that truly refined this stance on life.
I was at a Fundraising conference for my work with the disability charity Scope, and I attended a social media workshop. A guy called AJ Leon spoke about telling your story, building a community and making a call to action. He also spoke of living a life of purpose.
This struck a chord with Martyn, and he really took Leon’s advice to heart. Ever since, he has written, posted pictures and recorded videos on his website, www.martynsibley.com. By not only continuing to do the things in life Martyn loves and cares about, but by also blogging about his journey and experiences, he has realised that he has found his life’s purpose; Changing the world through inspiring others to make their dreams possible too.
The Beginning Of Many Adventures
Living with SMA has made every major life event more complicated for Martyn. Going to University meant he had to grow accustomed to strangers doing his personal care and travelling to Australia meant funding PAs, getting on an aeroplane with a wheelchair and exploring new terrains. The complications Martyn faced on these adventures didn’t stop him. Instead, the more challenges he overcame, the more he believed was possible and the more he realised that so much could be done to improve the accessibility of everyday tasks for those in need.
Flying a plane over Stone Henge and SCUBA diving in Tenerife was awesome. However some days getting out of bed, accessing a local cafe and seeing a gig is made difficult by our still inaccessible world. Luckily I love a challenge and get a buzz from showing the world what is possible. We need to ensure the basics aren’t so tough and include everyone in everything.
From John O’Groats to Lands End
Following the blogs, the projects and travels a few things came together. Martyn, and his fiance Kasia, supported a Polish project where a lady went 2500km by wheelchair. At the time he was also an ambassador for Britain’s Personal Best and so Martyn decided that putting together their own version of the project made sense.
Following a couple of frantic months of logistics, PR and sponsorship planning; Martyn and Kasia headed to John O’Groats on September 4th 2013.
You can see the videos and pictures on my blog, but needless to say it was amazing! With Kasia on her bike, me in my wheelchair, the sites of Scotland and dramas of breakdowns in Bristol – we had it all. The media coverage and funds for our charities was fantastic too.
It was the day after Martyn returned from Lands End that I met him at the Britain’s Personal Best reception. The chair still covered in mud and Martyn and Kasia clearly exhausted, you couldn’t ignore the excitement on their faces of having conquered yet another challenge.
The Road Still to Come
In the coming months Martyn’s doing an accessibility review at Center Parcs, a Social Sector exchange in Tokyo, 3 months in the Catalan and a month in Poland. “That should keep me busy.” he added, before I asked him to tell me where he can see the future taking him more long term.
In general I’d love to be a dad, travel South America, write the novel I’m planning and basically have fun!
Overall, I’m living my life by my principles, educating society, inspiring disabled people and leaving a dent in the universe. I just want people to live their life by their own principles, and leave their own dent!
Meeting Martyn has been incredible. His passion and determination to live life to the max and to help facilitate others in their goals, whatever they may be, has been an inspiration. It has also been a reminder that whilst anything is possible, we all need to pull together as a community, and society, to help others achieve their dreams.