Rhys Evans is an IT specialist and Pupils’ Aide at Craig y Parc, Scope’s school based in Cardiff. Rhys has cerebral palsy and is a former student of the school. He shares his story here as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.
I grew up in the Rhondda Valley, a South Wales ex-coal mining community, in a close family. I wasn’t sheltered – I had a BMX bike like everyone else, we just locked the wheels and my dad pushed me as I couldn’t pedal. I might have fallen off a few times, but you spit the leaves out and get on with it don’t you? I think I bring that same attitude to my job. In my workplace I see a lot of disabled students leading a protected lifestyle and I understand that, but I want them to see that they can do more.
When I was at Craig y Parc, many people thought that if you were disabled you should be appreciative of the fact that you had a school to go to. There was no focus on what was next. Students now have qualifications when they leave here; I never had that. Technology really helps disabled students these days – as it puts them on an equal footing with everyone else.
I aspire to be like everyone else. I wanted to be Michael Schumacher but that wasn’t going to happen, so I was happy to settle for a 9 to 5 job! I work 26 hours a week as a Pupil’s Aide, specialising in IT. I prep the IT centre for classes, arrange with teachers about what equipment they need and also work with the students on an individual level. I work with up to seven students a day.
I love my job. I feel it is one of the very few jobs where I could turn my disability into a positive. Everywhere is ramped, doors are big and the IT suite is made for me – the whole setup is ideal for me. For me, working at Craig y Parc is all about the students – about who they are and what they are going to do when they leave here. I am proof that there is a life after Craig y Parc, even though surprisingly I find myself back where my education began.
In 2014 Rhys won an ‘Understanding Disability Award’ for promoting positive attitudes towards people with learning disabilities from the Cardiff and Vale Parents’ Federation.