BEING born with cerebral palsy has not prevented Kara Ellis from living a happy, independent life.
But, shockingly, the 27-year-old Winshill resident has to endure the taunts of teenagers as she goes about her business.
She spoke to Mail reporter TIM FLETCHER about her plans to go into schools to educate youngsters about the condition, and to tell her story in a book.
WE like to think that we live in an enlightened age when people with disabilities are accepted and valued members of the community.
But sometimes the truth is less savoury, as Kara Ellis, born with cerebral palsy, has discovered.
The 27-year-old moved from her parents’ home in Denstone, near Uttoxeter, to Epworth House, a supported living complex in Wyndham Crescent, Winshill, in 2008, but the independent life has come at a cost.
The condition affects her speech and means she has to walk with a frame, exposing her to the ignorance of certain members of the community.
“If I’m out on my own, going to the local shop or into town, I have to put up with name-calling,” she says.
“It happens all the time and it’s mainly from teenagers – high school students. They just call me horrible names and make nasty remarks.”
Kara has already delivered a talk to youngsters in Cheadle, in north Staffordshire, and hopes schools in her adopted home town will offer her the same opportunity to educate their charges.
“I think the reason they call me names is because they don’t understand it, and if I can do talks with them maybe they will start to understand a little bit more,” she says.
Cerebral palsy is a physical disability in which impairment to the immature brain affects movement, posture and co-ordination.
Kara was nine months old when her parents received the diagnosis.
She says: “When I was born, my parents just thought I was a poorly baby.
“It was only when a health visitor noticed I couldn’t sit up independently they realised something wasn’t right.
“I was referred to a paediatrician, who diagnosed me straight away.”
Since taking the initially daunting step of moving to Epworth House, where she receives twice-daily visits from carers, Kara has blossomed.
The next step is moving out of supported living and into her own flat with fiancee David, a former Epworth House resident whom she plans to marry at St Peter’s Church, in Stapenhill, next year.
“It was a very big step moving because I didn’t know anyone here and I had to get used to having carers, as my mum had done all my caring before,” she says.
“People can’t get over how much my confidence has grown since I’ve been here.
“I go to my mum and dad’s every weekend, but much as I love going there, I always look forward to coming back to my own space. I love the independence.”
Kara hopes to find a publisher for the book she is currently halfway through writing, which she hopes will be a source of education and enlightenment for others.
She says: “If someone has a baby with cerebral palsy, hopefully my book will help them to understand a bit more, because it’s something you can’t really write about unless you’ve had it yourself.
“I need a walking frame to walk but I still do everyday things like going into town on my own and going to a gym. I’m just like any other person, like my sister or my cousin or anyone else.”
As for the hurtful taunts, she refuses to let them get to her.
“It makes me feel really upset,” she says. “It’s hard – but I just walk on by.”
Any schools who would be wiling to allow Kara to talk to their pupils are asked to call her on 01283 742832 or email firstname.lastname@example.org