Rebecca Dann studied at the ‘University for the Creative Arts’ in Farnham, Surrey. Her winning photograph titled, “I’m Fine” is a self-portrait which she took for her third year project.
Professor Stephen Hawking called her work “Truly Inspiring” and Melanie Reid (Times Magazine-Spinal Column) said it was, “striking and provocative”.
“I was born in 1994. I grew up in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire and then, after finishing secondary school, I moved to London with my Mum where I attended college for three years. I then left college to attend University.
I was in my third year when I submitted my entry. I graduated a few weeks ago and recently started my new job as Campus President. I believe I’m the first person with a disability to do this role.
I was born with Kyphoscollosis and had constant body braces to try to keep my body straight. I had operations but I could not have metal rods because I was underweight and too skinny. At the age of nine I was put in a wheelchair due to trapped nerves in my spine where it had bent so severely.
By the time I moved to secondary school it took a turn for the worse when I fell out of my wheelchair backwards and discovered that my spine was so sensitive that hitting it paralyses me completely. I hit my spine on gravel and any movement or feeling in my legs was lost.
For over a year I was completely paralysed from the waist down. It was the worst time of my life because I was at an age when teenagers are not the nicest and people didn’t understand how I was walking – and then not. I totally lost all my independence which was awful for me.
I have been in the wheelchair since but luckily after about a year or so I regained movement and feeling. I started University using a wheelchair but I am at a point where I use my crutches to walk certain distances and wheelchair for others. I am still not able to walk 100% but it is a lot more than I have been able to do for a while which is really satisfying.
My new job at University means a lot of my peers voted for me – it also means that I will have to do a lot of public speaking which is both terrifying and amazing.
My condition cannot be fixed as it is too dangerous but University has helped me to accept myself for who I am and how I look and I wouldn’t change myself for anything”.
Since winning Disability Talk’s photographic competition (A World Of Unfairness) Rebecca has been interviewed by Eagle Radio and the BBC. She is also going to receive her prize from, in person, Professor Stephen Hawking.