Tackling change head on

Blind, with a learning disability, diabetes, a colostomy bag and considerable anxieties, you might be forgiven for thinking a good day for Azrab would be managing the rough hand he’s been dealt.

Not a bit of it. He wants to share his experiences so others are not put in the same situation as he has been.

Azrab Changing communities LDA Leaders' List 2018

Azrab had a difficult time before coming to Dimensions. Bullied at home by a family member, he was then walked out on by an agency staff member from his previous support provider.

Left alone for seven hours with a dangerously full colostomy bag and no means of communicating his distress, this event shaped many of his current anxieties and support priorities.

Campaigning for local change

“Just now I’m campaigning for Sheffield’s trams to wait for wheelchairs to be secured before moving off” – he says, vehemently.

“It’s really frightening when they set off, sometimes even before the doors have closed properly behind my chair.”

Azrab is also compiling a listing of disability friendly cafés and other venues in Sheffield.

“So many think they’re accessible but they’re really not…tables are too high or there’s no wheelchair-accessible route to the toilets, for example.

“Usually the manager is grateful to have this pointed out.”

Azrab has been greatly encouraged in his campaigning work by his local MP Jared O’Mara.

Regulating life

The phrase ‘choice and control’ is used so often it risks becoming a cliché. But both words are vital to Azrab.

“I must have control over my life…and I am able to make all my own choices.”

In fact, Azrab determines the contents of more or less every hour of every day: What he eats, where he goes, who with, and when.

Predictability is vital, he tells me, as he lists his precise schedule for every day of the week, a schedule he insists on his support team writing up ‘for their benefit, not mine.’

Azrab’s house reflects this. Everything is just so. It’s arranged so that everything he needs is within arm’s reach; especially his tablet computer which provides much of the connectivity he needs to regulate his life.

It is spotlessly clean – Azrab knows from experience that infections and colostomy bags don’t mix well. Posters of Sheffield United adorn the walls. To point out that Azrab can’t really see them would be to completely miss the point.

Stop press

Azrab is one of 2018’s Leaders to be featured in The Guardian – read his interview on their website.