It’s my life: Chris Neophytou-Standing out
By Jill Campbell Mackay- Cyprus Sunday Mail "Seven" magazine 19.12.2004
C & A Hotel
OUR airbrushed world has become increasingly obsessed with achieving the perfect body shape, with us judging, and being judged by what we wear and how we look.
Chris Neophytou represents a massive, in-your-face fingers up to all that nonsense. Chris, now 42, has been confined to a wheelchair for the past 14 years after being diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia, a rare genetic and progressive neurological disorder that attacks the nervous system, wasting away the nerves and muscles.
Asked how he would define the word ‘disabled,’ he answers that “disabled means wheelchair, means can’t cope. That sadly is the perception nowadays and little is being done to change it. I prefer the word impaired, but disabled is certainly better, than being described as handicapped, that should only refer to golfers.
“A physically disabled person has a physical disability, there is no mental impairment. Neither are they contagious, and not all of a sudden invisible. They are just like any other person except they use wheelchairs, they love, they laugh, they care and importantly they also think”.
Despite his body slowly turning on him, Chris has heartily embraced the title of ‘Wheelchair warrior’ and is committed to raising the level of awareness regarding the needs of the disabled.
“Now we are in the EU, I hope there will be improvements; these will include ramps to be put in place outside public buildings, with the Bank of Cyprus taking the lead recently and fitting a wheelchair ramp at their building in Polis.
“To date, we have managed to persuade the Polis municipality to fit a wheelchair friendly walk way down to the sea at the Polis public beach. We now offer a fully operational mini bus which can cater for visitors in wheelchairs, so we can collect those that need this service from the airports, and also use the vehicle to enjoy day trips just like other tourists. We even have a hoist which allows tourists to board a pleasure boat with ease.
“The big thing we still have to do, is to get disabled toilets in restaurants, here at C&A apartments, my family’s holiday complex designed for those with a disability, we have a huge influx of visitors coming to stay, both able bodied and disabled. They just cannot go out in the evening and enjoy a drink and a meal as there are no toilets suitable to cater for a wheelchair user.
“Only when things are accessible will there be lots of disabled people out and about. Attitudes are only going to change once we become more visible, if we cant stand up, we must then stand out, and what’s totally disabling is for us not to be able to move freely along pavements, or go out for a meal.
“We now need to be seen as a welcome part of the community, not some physical embarrassment that has to be hidden away.”
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