Fatima Ali is a 17 year-old A level student at Ark Academy in Wembley, North London. She is hoping to attend university with the goal of becoming a barrister.
“I was struggling with my studies at primary school, but once I started secondary school at Ark Academy, my grades improved dramatically. I had great encouragement from the teachers. The way they explained things in class really supported me to understand better and helped me with everything I’ve achieved so far.
I have a disability which is a kind of spinal cord injury – it’s very rare and essentially there’s more fluid around my spinal cord than there should be, so the signals going from my brain to my hands and legs don’t come out correctly.
Even though this has made me a wheelchair user, and it’s hard to manoeuvre around, I have found different ways to make life easier. I go to and from school by taxi. It would be really hard to go by public transport - especially at peak times. My school has really helped me feel more comfortable and helped me adapt. I have an assistant at the school who helps me with personal care and with taking notes in lessons, as my handwriting is really slow. When I take exams, I get double the amount of time, and I get rest breaks.
I really admired Dr Stephen Hawking. He was a big inspiration for people with disabilities. Despite his disabilities, he was able to make a real difference in the world. It shows how you have to be persistent.
In the future I would like to study law and become a barrister. I like the way the law helps change people’s lives. As a disabled person, I’ve seen how the laws regarding disability have really helped people to be seen as equals.
I recently had an interview at Oxford University. It really helped my confidence. It showed that all of my hard work, as well as all the hard work that my teachers at Ark Academy have done, it’s all really paid off. They really pushed me to do my best.
I’ll be the first one in my family to go to uni. My parents have been really supportive of me. They tell me that no matter what the obstacles, it’s always possible to do something you love. They help make sure that my disability doesn’t stand in the way of my opportunities.
If I were speaking to someone younger who had a disability, I would say that it’s probably scary now, and even scarier when you think about the future, but as long as you have the passion to persist and continue to work towards whatever it is you want to do, you will be able to achieve it.”