'I've learnt to thrive with cerebral palsy': Welsh YouTube star nominated for diversity award

A woman from Swansea who has cerebral palsy said she has learnt to "thrive" with her disability and hopes she can be the role model she was looking for, when she was growing up.

Emily Nicole Roberts works as a receptionist in a bridal shop and uses a wheelchair.

The 22-year-old also started her own YouTube channel after she struggled to find people she could relate to or learn from online, with most content tailored to elderly people.

"I was googling 'person with cerebral palsy driving', 'person with cerebral palsy having a job', and nothing came up.

"So when I was 20, I decided to make the videos that little Emily needed to see."

Emily creates vlogs to show people how she completes day-to-day tasks with cerebral palsy.

Emily has now been nominated for an award, recognising the positive impact she has had destigmatising the conversation around disability.

Emily admits she struggled with her condition growing up.

"I used to resent it. I saw it as a disadvantage, I saw it as something to struggle with.

"But as I've grown up, I've kind of changed my opinion on it.

"I've learnt to thrive with it and realised that it's a great power to have."

Emily's channel helps other people with the condition, as well as educate those who are able-bodied to help break down stereotypes around disabilities in general.

Her videos show viewers how to perform certain tasks such as getting up after a fall and driving an adapted vehicle.

"I make little vlogs just showing people, 'yes I'm in a wheelchair, yes I have cerebral palsy', but this is how I live every day.

"It gives me such an immense joy and it's just like oh my god my YouTube is just this big positive train."

Emily is one of a number of extraordinary Welsh role models who will be celebrated this week at the National Diversity Awards. She has been nominated for the Positive Role Model Award for Disability.

The event celebrates the hard work and achievements of charities and community heroes who work to tackle issues in today's society, encouraging individuals across the UK to achieve their dreams, no matter what their background.

The awards will take place on Friday 17 September with a handful of nominees from Wales.

  • Isabella Evans

Another Welsh nominee is Isabella Evans from Bridgend. Isabella is up for the Positive Role Model Award for Age.

The social media start has more than 350,000 followers across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook and teaches sign language one sign at a time through music.

The 15-year-old started learning Makaton sign language to help her communicate with her younger brother Lucas, who has Down Syndrome and is non-verbal.

Isabella has taught the language to Lucas and her other brother Alexander who has cerebral palsy.

With her growing platform, Isabella helps teach the language to people all over the world.

It all started at the age of 11 after Isabella's mum uploaded a video of her signing to Rockabye by Clean Bandit on Facebook.

The clip went viral with more than 30,000 views overnight and people asking for more.

As well as Makaton, Isabella also uses British Sign Language (BSL) which has a larger vocabularly of words.

For signing to songs, she uses Sign Supported English (SSE). This means the signs are in lyric order, which makes it easier for learners to associate specific signs with the relevant words.

In her 'Sign of the Week' segment, famous faces record a video of themselves teaching a new sign to viewers. Celebrities have included actor David Tennant and singer Louis Tomlinson.

Isabella's aim is to have every school in Wales teaching sign to children just once a week and has already started a petition to get the ball rolling.

"A child would be pretty much fluent. They'd be able to communicate with people and that is my biggest goal.

"People would be able to walk down the street and talk to anyone, whether they have learning difficulties or hearing difficulties, you'd be able to talk to them."

Despite her growing presence on social media, Isabella continues to do what she loves to help her younger brother.

"I don't think of it as being amazing and inspiring, I think of it as just doing something for Lucas and something that helps him.

"So when I was announced as a shortlist and then a finalist, I was just mind blown.

"I'm so, so grateful for everyone that voted for me and nominated me."

  • Charley Oliver-Holland

Charley Oliver-Holland came out as part of the LGBT+ community on social media anonymously at the age of 12. People at her school found out and she was bullied.

Since then, Charley has been using her experience to improve rights for the next generation and has sat on the Welsh Youth Parliament and the UK Youth Parliament.

The 18-year-old is passionate in pushing for change and has volunteered over 2,000 hours of her time to transform the lives of vulnerable young people in the area.

Charley has been nominated for the Positive Role Model Award for LGBT.

Coming out at a young age, Charley felt as though she could not fully experience Pride and wanted it to be more of a place of support.

She went on to set up the first alcohol-free youth Pride event in Wales where more than 700 people attended.

"When I’ve been before, when I was younger, there was a lot of drinking and partying. We wanted the entertainment and information without the drinking and alcohol.

"We set up the Pride event to encourage people to come and celebrate, but also a place for young people and their parents to get information and support."

Charley's family were supportive when she decided to come out, but she acknowledges that not everyone has as good an experience.

“My family were pretty accepting of it so that was good.

"Some parents are a little bit hostile about their child coming out, we look down on them, but I think if you don’t understand something then it’s easy to be scared and have a negative attitude towards it.

"The best way to go about it is to educate them. There’s a lot of people in their generation where that wasn’t an acceptable thing."

Charley has sat on the Welsh Youth Parliament and the UK Youth Parliament, advocating changes for the LGBT+ communities.

After feeling like there weren't many other children who could relate to her, Charley set up an LGBT+ club at school.

The club involved some youth workers and helped facilitate trips and safe sex education. It was a place for "young people struggling so they had somewhere to go".

She added, "There are still a lot of people who find it hard to come out to their family. It should be in law really that the government make sure there’s LGBT sex education and support groups inside schools.

"It’s important if people aren’t getting the support at home, at school it could be a big help."

Charley is determined to keep raising awareness of the discrimination that the LGBT+ community is facing.

She has recently started studying Social and Political Science at university.

“People who do stuff, volunteer or work and for charity, they do it to try and help change. I never did it for an award, as much as it’s a nice thing, you don’t expect it to happen or get anything out of it. You want to make a positive change for people."

  • Ally John

Ally John is another Welsh nominee who is up for the Lifetime Achiever Award.

Ally has worked to shift attitudes and improve the lives of disabled people for a number of years.

"I made my first documentary programme in 1981, which was the very first international year of disabled people and that’s where I kind of became politically aware of how negatively people with conditions and impairments were viewed.

"I must have been about 17 or 18 then. There were many stereotypes around disabled people. The negative ways people looked at me, and I’d always considered it to my fault because I didn’t fit in."

Ally soon realised that it was not about the disability, but rather the way society viewed people with a disability.

Ally has worked to improve the lives of young people with disabilities and says they are 'the architects of the future'.

"Helping young people has always been my passion because they are the architects of the future, so if we’re able to set them out with a positive attitude.

"My grandson is now five and a half, nearly six, and he just doesn’t notice my difference. But I know the more he grows up the more he will become aware of the barriers and therefore he will start to challenge them, that’s why I predominantly work with younger people.”

Ally has gone on to establish the first play centre for disabled children in Kuwait, work towards including disabled young people in local clubs and offer training through her very own consultancy business Alison John & Associates LTD.

Despite some improvements since the 80s, Ally feels disabled people are still discriminated against.

"I think people are more accepting of difference in a variety of ways, but I think there’s still this kind of hierarchy of, ‘if you’re not too bad we’ll let you in’, and the more obvious the impairments, the more we still exclude people."

Looking ahead to the Diversity Awards this week Ally said, “I was shocked, I felt very emotional, and I was amazed how many people wrote wonderful supportive statements about my work with them.

"To me, I’ve already won, just to be nominated. I felt very emotional, very privileged."

  • Daniel Biddle

Daniel lost both legs, an eye and his spleen after the 7/7 London terror attacks.

Daniel Biddle is the worst-injured survivor of the 7/7 London bombings and died three times on the day of the attacks.

He became disabled at the age of 26 and suffers with complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The now 42-year-old had to rebuild his life from scratch and dedicates his time to helping others overcome traumatic experiences.

Daniel travels across the country to help raise awareness around disabilities and works closely with police forces to tackle disability hate crimes.

From Abergavenny, Daniel works at a disability organisation, Legacy International Group, in Merthyr Tydfil which helps other disabled people find work.

He believes there's a lot of talent in disabled people who are overlooked because of their disability.

Daniel continues to advocate change and is currently working on a project in the wheelchair safer adaptive boxing programme.

Daniel has been nominated for the Positive Role Model Award for Disability.