Lee - Lightwriter
Hello, I’m Lee Ridley and I'm 36 years old from Newcastle, in the north east. And I do stand up comedy as a job. That's right, I get paid to mess around on stage. I still can't believe I get away with it. I'm not even very funny!
And if you're wondering why I can't speak. It is because I was very ill, when I was 6 months old, and I developed cerebral palsy as a result. In my case, it meant that I lost my speech, I walk very funny, and my right side of my body is weaker than my left. In fact, as you can see, I would the perfect candidate to be one of the zombies in the walking dead.
People often ask why I decided to try stand up comedy when I can't even speak. The truth is that I'm just a bit mental.
I guess I never really saw my disability, as something that could hold me back. Don't get me wrong. I knew that being a comedian would be harder because of my disability. I didn't see that as a reason, not to try though. I guess I just had my heart set on it. I was lucky to have very supportive family and friends too. I wouldn't be here today, if it wasn't for them. They never stopped me from doing what I wanted, and were always the first to help out. My disability is a big part of me, but I've never let it rule my life.
Of course, I wouldn't have survived without having a communication device by my side. I think I got my first one, when I was about eight, and it was pretty massive. All I can remember is having to carry this suit case around with me, when I wanted to speak. I still can't work out why I don't have bigger muscles from lifting it all the time.
Thankfully, technology has moved on since then. I currently use a Lightwriter for my day to day communication. I think I got my first Lightwriter when I was a teenager. And I haven't really looked back since. It really did help change my life massively. It made me so much more independent and social.
For the first time in my life, I could communicate properly and that helped open up a whole new world of possibilities for me. For example, I could talk to my mates, ask girls out on a date and, of course, swear at my parents.
The Lightwriter is so easy to use as well. And obviously that really helped when I was growing up. I had enough on my plate already without having to worry how I was going to communicate. So the fact that it was so easy to operate made things a whole lot simpler.
I've used one ever since. And trust me, I am very old now! So we are talking a very long time. If I'm honest, the Lightwriter has just about everything I need. I'm not looking for anything fancy. As long as I can communicate effectively, then I am happy. The speech on it is good too, it is pretty clear and understandable. It would be nice to make it more personal, but maybe one day that will happen. I especially like the fact that it has two screens, so that other people can read it if they need to. This feature is especially good when I'm in a night club and no one can hear anything anyway!
Oh, and seems to survive, all the times I have dropped it by accident, which is handy as well. Not that I drop it very much. I take very good care of it. Honest.
So, I guess I'd just like to thank the people who make the Lightwriter, for helping to change my life so much for the better. Keep doing what you're doing and hopefully more people will benefit from your work. We all really appreciate it!
Photo courtesy of Caroline Briggs