For the Inaugural meeting of the Disability Awareness and Accessibility Society, Eton College welcomed Mrs Jane Holmes to Upper School to speak about the challenges of caring for and being a disabled teenager. Jane is the Chief Executive of a parent-led charity Building for the Future, based in Wokingham, that aims to provide care, support and therapy for disabled children and their families.

Being the mother of a child with cerebral palsy, a key aim of her talk was to compare and contrast the schedules of daily life at the school her daughter attends with the lives of students at Eton. Jane went on to talk about the biggest struggle in her daughter’s life: communication. While most parents are concerned when and where their child will walk, the real challenge for her daughter is communicating with others, of which one way is using their hands to convey messages, another being pointing to letters on an alphabet board.

Jane concluded her talk by saying that for her teenage daughter, most issues that come up are those that any ordinary teenager faces, whether it be boyfriends and girlfriends, schoolwork, or sexuality. Everyone was immensely humbled by her ending note: her daughter has never come home upset about being disabled, and as such, we should all be grateful for the chances we are given, and seize them at every opportunity.

There was also the opportunity at the end to talk about the up and coming project of starting a PHAB club at Eton, with DMB and MPM MiC’s; Janine Williams, Chairman of PHAB, briefly spoke about how they aim to help disabled children receive the chances at a normal life outside their daily routines.

Nathan Swidler