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University of Birmingham student to spend a week in wheelchair

Ms Thomas, a volunteer on Back Up’s Skills for Independence course, is doing her wheelchair challenge in the first week of June

Karen Thomas, centre, and the Back Up team

A University of Birmingham student is aiming to spend a week in a wheelchair to raise awareness of people who are paralysed.

Karen Thomas, a Physiotherapy MSc student, is raising funds for spinal cord charity, Back Up.

The 21-year-old discovered Back Up in 2013 when two of her closest friends were told they might never walk again as a result of severe accidents.

“It was a tough time for my friends and in the early stages of rehabilitation they were told about Back Up, so I became a volunteer,” she said.

Ms Thomas, a volunteer on Back Up’s Skills for Independence course, is doing her wheelchair challenge in the first week of June.

During the week, she will complete a series of ‘mini challenges’ around the university and Birmingham.

“Many able-bodied individuals don’t think about wheelchair access so I am hoping to make people aware of it but also to show what improvements have been made in Birmingham,” she added.

She said it’s important to show her peers the challenges faced by wheelchair users everyday.

“Students are not made aware of what spinal cord injury is and its implications. This means that young people with spinal cord injury may feel anxious about going to university,” she said.

“I really want to see how students react to me being in a wheelchair and I hope my challenge will help them to feel more comfortable around wheelchair users. I also want to use this opportunity to inform and educate as many students as possible about spinal cord injury.”

Karen also started a blog (pursuingphysiotherapy.wordpress.com) where she will share her experience of being in a wheelchair for a week, as well as informative articles about spinal cord injuries.

According to Karen’s Just Giving page (www.justgiving.com/Karen-Thomas18), she has already raised £220 for Back Up but has plans to raise even more money.

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