Peter McTavish refuses to let disability stop him

Peter McTavish. Supplied photos.

Intelligent and inspiring, but to the point, that’s how Rachel McLeod's interview with Peter McTavish started.

Peter arrived into this world six weeks prematurely with congenital cerebral palsy (CP) due to a lack of oxygen at birth.

Because of the effects of CP on his muscle development, he spent the first two years of his life in a buggy and thereafter in a wheel chair.

Peter in his bedroom with photos of his family behind him.

For the past 10 years however, he has had an electric wheel chair which has given him the independence he enjoys to move around without someone to assist him.

In everyday life, he requires assistance for basic needs, like dressing and eating because he has limited use of his limbs.

However, his mind is sharper than most, and Peter doesn’t let his physical disability stop him living his kind of good life.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Peter has been supported by ConneXu for the past three years.

Previous to this, he was in rehabilitation accommodation which he felt wasn’t right for him, because residents had to fit in with the organisation’s existing programme.

What he enjoys about his life now is that he gets to make his own decisions about what he wants to do.

“I enjoy the model of community living. I like living with others, but appreciate being able to maintain my own independence and make my own choices. When I lived at the rehabilitation centre, there were strict schedules we had to adhere to. Bedtime was at half six.” says Peter.

“Now I’m in charge of my life. On any particular day, I might like to go to The Warehouse, the bank, or grocery shopping. Or I might go have dinner with my family. On a Sunday I go to Church as my faith is important to me. My ConneXu supporters come with me and support me, but it is my choice what I do.

“I really like the people I live with, but I want us to move to a more central area. It’s not ConneXu’s choice – it’s our choice where we want to live, and ConneXu support us in this even if it’s not the easiest solution for them. With their help, we are currently looking for a house to rent in a different location.

“I want to thank Kate Shaw and Fern Ryan, and all the ConneXu staff, for making this kind of life possible for me. But on any particular day, it is the staff that make the difference – and they are fantastic. I appreciate that they are on the same page and support me all the way: my life is mine to live.”

Peter’s attitude to life and his insight are inspiring. I’ll leave you with the following quote which sums it up:

“I am all for pulling the barriers down. Society’s attitudes about disability have improved over the years as people with all types of disabilities are more visible. We aren’t hidden away – we are a part of the community, rather than being apart from it.”

-Photos and story by Rachel McLeod.

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