Nathan Popple wants to “open people’s minds” into what life is like for those with disabilities, and after spending years at the forefront of access campaigning in Yorkshire’s biggest city, he is doing just that.
In 2012, aged just 14, Mr Popple, who suffered catastrophic injuries at birth and has cerebral palsy, was inspired during a bowling trip when steps stopped him from reaching the alley to found Accessible Leeds, an award-winning website which rated the city’s shops, leisure activities and public transport for the ease of which disabled people can access them.
Now 21, Mr Popple, of Adel, speaks and types through a computer operated by a foot pedal on his wheelchair.
He volunteers at Leeds charity and social enterprise the William Merritt Centre (WMC), which will soon relaunch the Accessible Leeds site.
He has been very much involved in the process, reviewing shops and facilities on how wheelchair accessible they are.
“I want open people’s minds to how people with disabilities may live and how difficult it can be to access places,” he said.
“I want to make a change for people with disabilities. I went to a mainstream school, I work like everyone else but I just have to do some things a bit different.
“Often shops aren’t accessible, which just isn’t fair. Automatic doors, lifts and ramps all make a huge difference for someone who uses a wheelchair. It can give someone so much more independence and it changes an experience for them.
“You are more likely to go back somewhere if you’ve had a good experience.”
He is often on the receiving end of “frustrating” situations when out and about, but hopes attitudes towards disabled people will change – and believes Leeds could be one of the pioneers of change.
Mr Popple said: “Often people will speak directly to my support staff rather than me. It is very frustrating. Give people the chance to speak and don’t make assumptions. Having changing places – accessible toilets with specialist equipment such as hoist and bed - around the city also makes a huge difference.
“Leeds is a great city with lots of diverse people. I hope it will be one day fully accessible with equipment available for those who need it.”