There's not always much of an incentive to work again after you've been injured.  You don't really hear about how to plan a career when you are in the hospital, it can be left to you to deal with once you're back at home.  And you know that a lot of people don't go back to work at all.  I think I fell into a bit of a rut of not doing anything and started to get depressed.

I had a lot of friends who were starting new jobs and moving on with their lives and I was embarrassed that I wasn't doing the same.  I actually felt a bit pathetic.  I knew that I didn't want to just sit at home, I'm not like that, and I didn't want society paying for me.

I didn't want to just sit at home

Sports and fitness had always been a huge part of my life so I started going back to the gym, being a bit more like my old self.  Then I looked for work; there's this perception that if you are disabled, especially if you are in a wheelchair, that you'll have to work in an office.  I've always envisaged working in something sporty and I'd be pretty upset if I thought that wasn't now going to happen.  Fortunately, I came across Aspire's InstructAbility programme and it was just what I'd been hoping for.

The content of the course was a bit basic for me, but it got me that bit of paper that said I was qualified as a gym instructor.  And it was good just to meet the other people on the course, to know I wasn't a one off in wanting this sort of thing.  The work placement I did at a local gym was great.  It wasn't just about working again, it was also about breaking down barriers.  People seem to think that if you are in a chair and not a Paralympic athlete then you must be a bit weak.  Yet here I was, showing that disabled people can be in good shape.

Charlie in his wheelchair, working out in the gym

There's always going to be some reluctance about using a disabled fitness instructor, people are just unsure whether you can be any good.  But that improved, and the more people heard me speak then the more they could tell that I knew what I was talking about. Of course it can be difficult to show people movements, but you can get someone to help with that.  So much of being an instructor is about your knowledge and your ability to pass that on and that's not affected by being in a wheelchair.

Gyms can be intimidating places.  But the more disabled people work in them, then the more disabled people will use them, and the less intimidating they'll be.  Opening those doors has to be a good thing.

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