“Girls can’t play football.” “You’re way too old for that.” “Man up, boys don‘t cry.” “You don’t look pretty now.” “No, you’re in a wheelchair. You can’t play.”

We’ve all been there. We’ve all wrongly been told, at one stage or another, that we can’t do something just because of who people perceive us to be. But, you know what, you’re more than that. You’re more than your outside.

We’ve teamed up with Exercise Movement & Dance Partnership to give people the confidence to tell their story without judgement. We’ll be all over Instagram, Twitter and Facebook encouraging people to say they’re #MoreThanYouSee. And we want to hear from you…

We want you to take a selfie (either just your face or body or you working out… actually, whatever you want!), tell your story and use the hashtag #MoreThanYouSee. Can tag us in it too so we can retweet, share and like it! Not on social media? Email your pictures and stories here and we’ll pop you in our newsletter.

We want to spread the message as far and wide as possible, so why not join our Thunderclap and tell everyone that they deserve to be happy in who they are. On Saturday 3rd September at 12 noon, our Thunderclap will burst onto social media as part of National Paralympic Day. We aim to reach at least 1 million people and it could start with you. Just click here to be a part of it.

We believe everyone has the right to body confidence, self-belief and self-love. So join us and help us break down the haters. #MoreThanYouSee”

[abbie_expander id=”Lucy” title=”Lucy’s Story”]

IMAGE 2 - LUCY 3rd AugustConfidence has always held me back, public speaking or sometimes just in meetings at work. I asked to help a colleague out at work by filling in for an instructor to teach the Race for Life warm up in Worthing. I didn’t really think much about it until the week prior, nerves kicked in and I had seen some amazing photos and comments from my colleagues who had done a previous warm up. I told myself a million times I couldn’t do it and would make it look bad and even considered not doing it as I hadn’t taught for ages. On the day I was so nervous and that voice kept telling me not to do it. Sooooo, I did it!! And LOVED it! So proud of myself and the comments and photos were great! I have never felt more confident than when I was on the stage, at the front, to see everyone smiling and enjoying my routine. I had lovely comments from staff, family and friends which I now have tons of confidence and excited to start teaching dance fitness classes again in September! I even booked onto a course to upskill! Go me!
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[abbie_expander id=”Michaela” title=”Michaela’s Story”]

I wasn’t particularly sporty when I was growing up, just went along with the flow in PE but I did join a girls football team with a friend when I was 9. As you can imagine, it wasn’t the ‘norm’ for a girl to play football and the boys would often make fun and say that we weren’t as good as them! It wasn’t until I reached secondary school that I really got into sport and fitness. The academic side of things didn’t come naturally to me and I really had to work hard but sport did. I continued to play football until 16, even took my refereeing qualification – not that I used it! I was too scared of the abuse IMAGE 3 - MICHAELA 4th AugustI would get for being a female ref it’s hard enough when you’re male. But what I really enjoyed was netball! I made some amazing friends through netball and without bragging, I was good at it! Even won our schools Sport Personality of the Year, #justsaying. So after uni I joined a local netball team and have been playing with them for 5 years now. I love being part of a team, for one it gives me motivation to get up and work out, but it also gives me a network of friends and a break away from everyday life! We’ve been on tour, go out for social events and have our own end of season do. Don’t believe what people (or even yourself) think you can’t do.
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[abbie_expander id=”Brian” title=”Brian’s Story”]

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When Brian, a twelve year old boy with severe multiple disabilities, was brought to the workshop, he was literally plonked in a corner of the hall and isolated. One of the instructors thought this was unfair and gave him the special treatment of having him as her dance partner. As time went along during the workshop, Brian had become more animated and vocal with extended arm movement.

The next week, when Brian was brought into the hall, he was more animated and excited than ever, making a lot of gestures and vocals. He was even improving in his school work. Everyone could see the difference that this workshop had made to this young boy. Even the headteacher, who was so interested in the transformation and inspiration that wheelchair dance provides its participants, decided to undertake the training instructor course in order to apply wheelchair dancing to the curriculum for the school. As she said “it really benefits the children to unlock certain sections of the brain and most importantly its enabled Brian to be active and have fun and join in with his class”.

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[abbie_expander id=”Ross” title=”Ross’ Story”]

RossI was very tall from an early age and quickly outgrew my strength. As a result I lacked the speed and agility of a lot of boys my age and ended up experiencing ‘last to be picked’ syndrome when it came to school sports. At 14, partly tired and embarrassed by being told I wasn’t good enough and partly inspired by a Betamax copy of Rocky 2, I started running and weightlifting every evening. I soon started to address the physical (and mental) imbalance.  By 16, I was picked to represent the Isle of Man in Athletics in the European Island Games, received my ‘Full House Colours’ as a result and ended up captaining my ‘House’ in school sports for the last 3 years I was there. I ended up training with the UK decathlon squad for 4 years and choosing a career in the fitness industry. My experience was a valuable lesson for me and was instrumental in me judging people by their actions and intent rather than how they look or are perceived to be.

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[abbie_expander id=”Eileen” title=”Eileen’s Story”]

Eileen photoEileen is an 82 year old lady in the Solent area, and is herself able-bodied although she had worked for years as a teacher at a special needs school.  She had a group that met each week where they danced purely for pleasure.  Most of the people going to the group came from care homes in the area and needed assistance to propel their wheelchairs. Eileen attended one of the workshops in the area and decided that she wanted to learn the different style of dance that had been done at the workshop, and so arranged to take the instructors course at the next opportunity.  She attended the course and despite finding it physically tiring, she was mentally eager to learn all that was on offer during the course.  She was particularly excited to hear that pushed couples and groups would be allowed to take part in medal tests and competitions, something that they had never been able to do before as they all need assistance to push their wheelchairs. She took her training back to her group and the group rapidly expanded and now has a regular 20 dancers each week, who do all styles of dance and have since competed and won medals at competitions both nationally and internationally.  The group are always excited when Irene attends extra training sessions as they know that she will be taking back new dances, steps and techniques that will make their dancing experiences even better.  The group have also decided to try taking the medal tests that are available to wheelchair dancers and are currently training to take their tests at the first opportunity.

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[abbie_expander id=”Elaine” title=”Elaine’s Story”]

All my life I have faced people saying “you cannot do that”, the reasons have been wide and varied. Often I have been too short, too fat, too slim, too busty, not busty enough for parts in plays or shows. I have never had a problem with my body image but, to fit in for what has been required, barriers too often went up.

Our perception of beauty changes with time. In the 60s we were ‘in’ if we were stick thin and boyish like Twiggy, but the 50s with the coming off food rationing, favoured a full figure like Monroe who was generally a size 16. Even my ex-husband was constantly remarking on my size, by the way I have been mostly a 14/16 most of my adult life. Not so big really but fairly average. You will note he is my ex!

ElaineSo beauty to me is how you are as a person. Size and looks are transient in as much as looks will fade and our bodies will age.

The most beautiful of my friends are the ones who smile and think well of themselves and others.

In my later years, as my body falls prey to various conditions, there are those barriers there again but this time, very different. I was diagnosed with terminal lung disease 2 years ago, I am riddled with arthritis and now after a fall and a break in my back, I learn I have osteoporosis. So, do I give in, take to my bed and shut my life book? Not on your Nelly!

I am currently directing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat with a theatre group of the most inspiring disabled adults, I run a wheelchair dance group as a WDSA UK instructor, I am in talks and plans for another big show next year, organising more classes and possibly taking the drama group on tour!

Me now? Well I am not the glamorous young woman I was, but, I love my life, I love my family and friends, I love the people I have the privilege to have work with me in the groups I run and I have a partner who loves me just the way I am. Every time someone says to me that I cannot do, I just say “well then I will find a way to make you see that I can and I do!

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[abbie_expander id=”Sam” title=”Samantha’s Story”]

I did it, my way……

SamanthaI am 32 years in age and for most of my life I’ve been bullied, made to feel different, even had my school marks downgraded as I was labelled by the teacher. This was before my illness was really visible. I’m not your stereotypical beauty. I have EDS, a syndrome very misunderstood.

I worked through all that. Came out with good grades despite my health issues, trained ready for, in my eyes, a  job that suited me working in sport provision services.  But, my life took a dramatic turn for the worse. My health rapidly went downhill. I ended up in a wheelchair, I spent just under a year in hospital, where at one point they talked about putting me into a home.

I eventually got my own place but I hated what I had become. I wouldn’t let people take photos of me or look in mirrors. I had put weight on due to illness but except rehab I didn’t leave my new place.

This all changed after I joined an Extend based exercise group for ladies a lot older than myself. They accepted me how I was without judgement. So, slowly I built my ability up and with a lot of support adjusted my diet and lifestyle. I joined new group disabled bowls, wheelchair dancing and drama.

Very slowly I lost the weight and now nearly half the person I was without medical intervention. That wasn’t what changed me. The wheelchair dance did. I felt free, I forgot the chair and splints as a burden and after being told, started feeling the music and letting my spirt fly with it. I wasn’t a burden, this is somewhere I didn’t just fit in, I was good at it. I even received an award for disability sports personality for my efforts in bowls and wheelchair dancing.

Every time someone praises me, or say I’ve moved or inspired them. I feel more accepted, and that I am making a difference in the world. It makes me feel happy to be needed and although challenges lie ahead and my condition will not go away. With the correct support I can fly again and know that I can do what I was told I would never do, and I am someone that inspires people to get active, in whatever way you can.

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[abbie_expander id=”Fran” title=”Fran’s Story”]

FranFrom a very young age I’ve always felt an overwhelming sense of belief in my ability in every aspect of my life, from my career to fitness to my own personal development and beyond. However this isn’t to say that my journey so far hasn’t been interrupted by moments of doubt and fear, which I consider perfectly natural and part of the process we need to endure to reach our end goal. When I hear the words ‘you can’t do that’ my brain immediately enters into its own internal dispute, where I have to pause and think ‘can I?’ What’s important is the bit that comes next, challenging that voice, talking back and coming to the decision that actually ‘yes I can and I’ll show you I can’. Adopting a positive Growth Mindset and applying it to any challenge in my life has been the key to my success.  And you know what, on the occasion you don’t achieve what you set out to, don’t fret, instead use that experience to learn from your mistakes and improve the next time round. Ultimately this will help make you an all-round stronger, more positive, determined and inspiring individual. Remember, there are no such words as ‘I can’t’ you just have to believe in your ability of ‘I can’.

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[abbie_expander id=”Marj” title=”Marjorie’s Story”]

Marjorie PictureMarjorie is a 76 year old woman with primary progressive multiple Sclerosis (MS) who now uses a power chair at all times. Since she was 19, Marjorie has been a member of the (British Society for International Folk Dancing, and when she discovered wheel chair dancing in 2011 she was thrilled.

Just 6 months dancing with the WDSA UK she then registered to become an instructor. She was the oldest student, and even though the intense course was exhausting, she found it very exciting and enjoyed the challenge. Unfortunately the intense course had exhausted her but she was really pleaser that she found out she still passed with flying colours, and a year after decided to form her own dance classes.

Marjorie found a venue and funding and a year on her classes are as successful as ever. This independent woman is not only a great instructor receiving many compliments but she also helped with research regarding dementia and how wheelchair dance is beneficial.  Marjorie is an inspiration and puts many younger people to shame with her endless energy.

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[abbie_expander id=”Mel” title=”Melissa’s Story”]

MelissaAt 18 I was told so many times that I wouldn’t get into drama school because I was disabled and that I would never be an actor because of the way I looked. Although I proved people wrong with that, my confidence about the way I looked was never great. Up until recently I would wear long sleeved jumpers in the summer to hide my arm, I would always turn the other way in photos so that people couldn’t see and I’d be too self-conscious to fully involved myself in class workouts like dance fitness which I love. Through going to the gym, joining more classes, Poundfits #highwaytowell and just throwing myself into my dance classes (African dance at local gym) I have gained so much confidence and really changed the way I see my body. I even put the photos below on social media. This is something I had never done before.

So your campaign has really got me interested. It’s a great campaign that I think so many individuals will benefit from. And as a young girl with a disability, it fills me with a lot of hope for change 🙂

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[abbie_expander id=”Sharon” title=”Sharon’s Story”]

Sharon pictureSharon aged thirty was brought to an established group of dancers by her care staff. At first it was clear that she was uncomfortable as she had stayed in a catatonic foetal position, with her knees right up to her chin, constantly sucking a towelling cloth. For the first few months into the classes, Sharon remained in her foetal position, however, her carers admitted that she was showing signs of entertainment.  Nevertheless, she started to gradually show improvement in her posture, unwinding from the foetal position and began holding a tambourine as replacement of her towelled cloth.

Sharon also began to start socializing more. At first she refused to make eye contact or even let any body touch her. However months into the workshops she began looking at her peers, opening her arms for cuddles and instead of sucking her cloth she would take peoples hand and gently plant lots of kisses on them. When she was ready, she and her other pushed wheelchair partner were entered into a competition where they had won.

Observing such an improvement in her behaviour and posture, her carers decided to take up our instructor course and now have an established wheel chair dance sport workshop available in the residential home that Sharon lived in. Sadly Sharon passed away following a brief illness unrelated to her disability. However her strong character and improvements had touched the lives of many. Thus, a dedicated trophy for the best fully pushed couple at the National Championship has her name engraved and at her funeral her favourite dance song was played with the whole dance group rattling a tambourine.

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[abbie_expander id=”Stephen” title=”Stephen’s Story”]

Stephen PictureStephen was invited to a workshop by an acquainted established wheelchair dancer. This 49 year old man’s confidence was very low and when he had arrived at the meeting he had brought both parent s as moral support and refused to attend the meeting without them. He had enjoyed the meeting and had attended the following weeks meeting, but again, in the company of his parents.

Stephen and his mum began training for competitions, and even his sister had come along. As rime went along, and Stephen had participated in several competitions, his confidence began to rise. He gained so much confidence through dancing that he even applied to become an instructor and had passed with flying colours despite his problems in written communication.

Stephen is now a successful instructor and the fact that he himself is using an electric wheelchair allows his students to build the confidence that he had obtained himself. Stephen now competes internationally and supports others to show what you can do when you believe in yourself.

You can also see an interview with Stephen on the WDSA (UK)’s YouTube channel

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#MoreThanYouSee