A Limavady wheelchair user has made a heartfelt plea to politicians to do more to help people living with disabilities.
Raymond Tracey, aged 53, has had Spinal muscular atrophy, a rare genetic disease, since he was 28.
The father-of-four worked as a baker for 28 years until he broke his leg in August 2014.
Since then, he has been confined to a wheelchair and said he has struggled to live a “normal life”. He says everyday tasks are a challenge. For example, going into shops where often the doors aren’t wide enough for his electric chair to fit through, or going out for a bite to eat means having to ring ahead and see if the restaurant is accessible for wheelchairs.
“You try to live as normal a life as possible, but it’s not easy,” says Raymond. “When you are out you have to watch with the chair. You feel out of place.”
Raymond says there needs to be a better understanding of people living with disabilities and more activities for people locally.
“It’s not until it happens to you, until you’re in the system, do you know what it’s like,” Raymond told the ‘Journal’.
Raymond said he would be helpless without his wife, Michelle, and their children.
“It has been very hard,” said Michelle. “Between trying to get Raymond home, getting the house adapted and ready for Raymond to come home, it has been very stressful and I do get angry.”
Raymond spent close to a year away from his family, between spending time in hospital and receiving rehabilitation.
The family are grateful for the help they have received over the past two years, and the people that have helped Raymond to socialise out of the house, including those who help him attend a healthy living programme at the local leisure centre.
“Raymond is only 53,” says Michelle. “He needs a life outside the house, something to challenge him. He might have lost the power of his legs, but not his mind. People with disabilities shouldn’t have to ask for things. They shouldn’t be seen as different.”
The family urge politicians to do more for people living with disabilities and stop making people who have disabilities feel like they are a burden.
“Politicians need to get their priorities right,” says Raymond.
Michelle’s uncle, SDLP councillor Gerry Mullan, said: “Raymond and Michelle have had a difficult time dealing with Raymond’s condition and securing the resources he needs, but they’ve stayed the course, and that down to their determination and doggedness.They’re a gleaming example to others.”