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Specialist wheelchair has been life-changing for campaigner Josh

When he was 19-years-old Josh Davies took delivery of a specialist wheelchair that supports him to stand.

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It has changed his life for the better in so many ways he wants others to be given the same chance.

Josh, who is now 26, is a volunteer at the Swansea Vale Resource Centre which is a Swansea Council-run service for people with disabilities.

He and other service users, along with their families and staff in Swansea Adult Service Provision, have been taking part in a programme called 'Magic Moments' supported by the Wales School of Social Care Research in Swansea University.

The aim has been to share stories so they can learn together, improve practices and understand what it is like to be in another person's shoes.

When Josh took part he spoke about how eight years ago he stood for the first time and how that led to many opportunities to do things he had never done before.

"When I had this chair it was like having a whole new body," he explained.

His muscles are much stronger, he is more subtle, his skin is less fragile and sore and he experiences less pain.

As well as greater independence his digestion is better because he is not sitting or lying all the time.  This means the pills he had to take that made him feel drowsy are no longer needed.

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"I don't think I would be able to cope to go back to my old life," he said.

"I do cookery classes on a Tuesday and I can do it standing up - I went from being able to do 20 percent to 80 percent of the things I need to do.

"Although I still need help for some things it has taken the pressure off my teacher who supports me. It takes the pressure off my parents as well.

"Having a drink standing up - although a basic thing people do every day - I did not have that chance when I was younger but now it is normal to me."

Josh was born with physical cerebral palsy and growing up he underwent countless operations on his legs and then his arms.

The specialist wheelchair that has changed his life did not come cheaply. He and his family had to raise £6,500 but usually they cost nearer £15,000.

After Josh, who now works in the IT and print room at the resource centre, told his story as part of 'Magic Moments' he was then invited to  become a trainer to help staff explore the power of storytelling. He went on to speak in front of senior officers at Swansea Council.

He has also recorded his story on the BBC's Listening project.

Next he has date with Welsh Government officials because he believes that by hearing directly from him the difference the wheelchair has made decision makers will understand how it could benefit others.

"My job now is to show people what it is like to be in my shoes and to convince as many people as I can that it would benefit people with different health problems," he said.

"Why shouldn't people have their freedom? There are other wheelchair users like me, who have the same condition I have got, that would benefit.

"I just want to try and get others a better quality of life."

Jane Thomas from Swansea Council' Adult Service Provision, said the Magic Moments project had really helped all who took part and storytelling was key to the learning and development of the service.

She added:  "Josh has an inspiring story and since he shared it as a magic moment he has been working with us on a number of projects.

"His confidence has grown, he is now a trainer and works alongside us with research projects and he is a strong voice for others in similar situations to him."

Cllr Mark Child, Swansea Council's Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: "The Magic Moments programme is a great example of how we are engaging with our service users to improve what we do.

"Josh is a remarkable young man who is using his experiences to help improve life for others."

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