Partying, going to concerts and travelling a lot. You’ll surely have done it a hundred times. But then someone reveals to you: “I thought you were not interested in these kinds of things!” Are you surprised? This is the situation which Marta Llauradó has to face every day. A girl who has functional diversity and tries to explain in her blog the prejudices society has towards her.
Native from Barcelona, 22 years old and a Human Biology student. Marta has recently created the blog Rodandovengo with the aim of sharing her daily experiences. What started as a way to let off steam and explain her love affairs has become a place to speak out and gain visibility for a group of people who are often underrepresented in our society.
“Starting a blog was an idea I had for a long time”, she says. Marta intended to write in a more coherent way the messages she used to share with her Twitter followers in 140 characters. And what was the motivation that pushed her to this change? As well as in many films and books, love: “Many people assume I’m not interested in a romantic or sexual relationship. I used to know a boy who told me once: ‘When I discovered you used a wheelchair I thought you just wanted us to be friends’. And we met on a dating webpage!”
Marta admits that these situations hurt her in the beginning: “Little by little I got accustomed to thinking ‘okay, you’re missing out!’. And it was due to this ‘you’re missing out’ that I reached a turning point and I decided to kill off my insecurities”. However it’s something that can’t be changed overnight, it’s all part of a process. Nowadays it’s still difficult for her to go to the swimming pool with a bikini or to put on short pants. “But gradually I make changes. Before I didn’t wear neither dresses nor tights, and now I do”.
But when did these insecurities start? “It was at puberty because I felt more aesthetically pressured”, she specifies. “I started feeling ashamed of everything. When I was younger I used to go down to the schoolyard at break time in school and I took part in all sports”. However, she has progressively realised that it doesn’t matter what people say, especially people she doesn’t know. “I must do what I want, the others will always hold their own opinion about it”.
Marta particularly criticizes a controversial topic she must usually face: partying. “Many people think that I don’t like it and that I prefer staying home locked up”, she explains exasperated. A cliché she links with the image that the media shows about people who use a wheelchair. “When sales appear on TV there’s no one in a wheelchair shopping. It’s something deep-rooted in society. They don’t see you, and when they do, they get surprised”.
“For example, when I watch films I never see anyone using a wheelchair, and when I do, they always have a tragic story behind. And not all stories are sad, some just have to be accepted. But it’s true that many people have to face this situation overnight”, she explains.
With such a critical attitude she could well have studied journalism. “I love divulgation but I also love science. My malformations were caused by genetic mutations and that’s why I’m interested in cell biology. Back then I asked myself ‘what are you more interested in, investigating or divulging?’, but I don’t rule out the possibility to enrol in a master’s programme in communication in the future”.
Despite the fact she decided for science, Marta doesn’t want to stop speaking out and she insists on the message she wants to convey: “Every person lives their own disability in a different way and everyone decides how to deal with it and what their limits are. Prejudices which people have, make us believe they’re real, when they are groundless indeed”.
On the other hand, even though Barcelona is well adapted for wheelchairs, moving around the city frustrates her a bit at times: “When the bus ramp is out of service I don’t have any effective solution, I just have to wait for the next one”. This example shows a logistic problem, but sometimes people’s lack of empathy also causes her delays. For instance, in shopping centres many customers prefer taking the lift rather than the escalators, a choice that she doesn’t have. “Escalators are usually near the lifts and they can use them but I don’t, no matter how much I’d like to. But I try not to judge them because there are also disabilities that are not visible”.
Marta is an independent girl who has an adventurous spirit, so when she was offered the possibility of studying abroad in Great Britain she didn’t think it twice. “I was in Guildford almost 5 months and I had such a great time there”. Her family faced her decision with fear. Sentences such as ‘you’re going very far away’ or ‘let’s see how you’ll do there’ were their first reactions. However after the initial shock they were the ones who backed her up most. This attitude contrasts with the one of her friends, who encouraged her from the beginning to start this new experience. “Living alone turned out to be very positive for me”, she explains. “It was a way to prove to myself that I can handle things alone and that I don’t need my mom to get ahead. In fact, when I came back from Great Britain I decided to move to a student’s flat. Now I don’t have to bother whether trains come adapted or not”.
Now that she’s about to start the last year of university, which plans does she have ahead? “I’d like to keep writing my blog, or maybe even create a Youtube channel. But so far this is just a hobby. The greatest goal for me would be to be invited to do a TED Talk speech”, she reveals laughing. “I’d like to inspire people with disabilities as well as without them. I still have some insecurities, but I want to help whoever I can, that are in the same situation I was in three years ago”.