I used to feel sorry for people in wheelchairs. I used to wonder how they could enjoy their lives when they looked so different. Then, two weeks before my 18th birthday, I was injured in a road traffic accident. One minute I was planning to go around the world travelling, the next I was in a spinal injuries unit, feeling my life was never going to be the same again.

However, I was still looking out of the same pair of eyes and the world looked exactly the same as it had before my accident. Catching sight of myself in the mirror was a bit of a shock at first – there I was as the sort of person I used to feel sorry for.

For many years I assumed all people had the same feelings I’d had about wheelchair-users. So if they offered me help, it was only because they felt sorry for me and thought I had a pretty sad life. Looking back, it’s funny now to remember how I used to feel annoyed that people had dared to notice my wheelchair. How could they miss it?! Now I realise people just want to connect with other people, and offering help is completely instinctive. Seeing this has been the most liberating experience of my life.

The world looks exactly the same as it did before

I look at the things I can do and not at the things I can’t. I’ve had amazing relationships, and only one girl has said she would never go out with someone in a wheelchair again; she didn’t like the attention it caused when we were out. Believe it or not, I’ve found being in a chair can be an advantage when it comes to going up and meeting new people, although I’ve still embarrassed myself countless times! When it comes to sex, okay, I can’t stand up, and I don’t have much hip movement, but I’ve had very few complaints, so I must be doing something right!

It’s now seventeen years since my accident and life has continued to be good. I have worked in the City and in television, playing long-running characters in The Bill and Casualty, and I’ve run my own property lettings business. With so much going on, it’s rare not to have something needing to be done or somewhere to be but if I have a down time, I get out into the fresh air, go to the gym or ring a mate.

It’s still a shock when I see another wheelchair user in my part of town, though - I like to think of myself as the only chair in the village!