Great Smeaton Primary School

Inspirational Person Assembly


Inspirational Person – Sue Austin and ‘Portal’                                                              

After a long illness, when Sue Austin had not been able to go anywhere or do anything she wanted, she was thrilled with her new ‘powerchair.’ She loved the excitement and freedom it gave her, as she was no longer at home or in hospital all the time and was thrilled to be able to go out and about and do whatever she wanted. However, she was shocked at how people, even those that had known her for a long time, started to treat her differently, and saw her wheelchair as something limiting which they thought she found frustrating. That wasn’t the case at all!


So Sue decided to show everyone how positively she truly felt about it, rather than them guessing (wrongly) that it was linked with negative feelings. She started to paint and decorate her wheelchair and began leaving chalked pathways from the wheels,  showing how free she felt being able to get around on her own and do what she wanted to do independently. She was interested by how surprised people were and how quickly it changed their view of the wheelchair and of her. She loves scuba diving and decided to combine the art work about her wheelchair with diving.


She describes scuba diving as the ‘most amazing experience she has ever had with an ecstatic sense of joy and freedom. Other people also have responded positively and Sue says she enjoys that ‘moment of completely new thought’ when their faces light up and they see the possibilities, rather than losses, and creates a freedom that can spread to the rest of people’s lives. ‘They are seeing the value of difference and the joy it brings and the power and joy of seeing the world from a different perspective’

She calls her underwater wheelchair ‘portal’ because it takes her to new places and experiences.