Boab's Bio

A colour photo of 'serious' me!

Name: Robert Softley
Date of Birth: 12th June, 1980
Age: 19
E-Mail: robert@softley.co.uk
Interests/Hobbies: All Aspects of Computing Especially (ace?) Web Page Design. Pop/Dance Music plus Groups like Placebo. Drinking, (which normally results in) Falling Over Unconscious and Parties (everywhere and anywhere!).

I now run a company: flip - disability equality in the arts which supports arts organisations in Scotland to embed disability equality and supports disabled artists to develop.

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Please bare in mind that everything on this page is about 11 years out of date! Read on... 

    Welcome to The Ramp Ahead - the web site which I created to give the world a perspective on real Cerebral Palsy. I was born with Athetoid CP due to 'complications' which resulted in a lack of oxygen during birth. I was brought up in as normal a family as I think there is and at the age of 5, I went to a special primary school for children with physical disabilities called Richmond Park. It was there that I was first introduced to computers by my head teacher at the time, Maggie Pollard. She taught me the basics of computing as well as a proprietary on-line system called Campus 2000/Prestel. So I was put through my computing paces over the following years by a team of Educational Technology experts.

    I continued with my normal curricular education in a special secondary school called Ashcraig. Here, I furthered my interest in computers as well as doing Standard Grades (qualifications taken in all Scottish schools from the age of 14 to 16) in which I got the equivalent of five A's and a B. It was towards the end of my third year (when I was about 15) that I started to think about moving to a mainstream school. The reasons behind this planned move are as long as my phone bill for the net - it all boils down to the fact that because I was more than academically capable, there was no reason why I shouldn't be educated with my able-bodied peers.


A photo of me in a pool    So, after going to visit the school that I planned to join - called Lenzie Academy - (which, as it happens, is the one I would have been going to if I hadn't gone in to special education) and meeting with the Rector and some of the teaching staff to discuss the possibility of the move, the ball was set in motion. And it moved v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y! But in June of 1996, over a year after we'd first started looking in to the whole idea, I started at my new school.

    At this point, I want to point out a few people who got me to where I am now. To start with, there were teachers at Ashcraig who gave me just the right prop'n'push to get me to make the move. There's also the the teachers at Lenzie Academy. A couple of teachers there especially knew when to push and when to let me 'ride the tide' which ultimately was how I was able to last the pace. Also, there were a lot of friends and family who gave me a lot of support. But most of all, the one person who gave me the strength to get through it all is my mum. She put up with me when it all got too much and she kept fighting when others were saying it couldn't be done. "Thanks Mum"

    As you might have picked up on while reading through all this, moving schools was anything but easy. Obviously, I didn't expect it to be a breeze, but until you're in there and doing it, you never really know. Besides from the problem of leaving friends, some who I'd known since I was five, the whole 'new school' bit was tough. I knew a few people at Lenzie Academy but not closely (boy, how that has changed now!) - I may have met up with them sometimes outside school (at different events and so on) but we all spent most of our time at school - at separate schools. Mind you, making friends was not much of a problem! After we'd all got over the disability thing (which took about 2 seconds!), I began to feel more normal than I'd ever felt. And considering that I was the only guy in a wheelchair among 1,500 fellow students, I think that wasn't bad going! I think it was the sudden and complete change in my life that made it hard. While I was coping with this sudden change, I found it hard to keep up with normal, everyday things like school work. This is what I mean by the teachers knowing when to push - at times I just couldn't put up with it all - but they just reminded me that solutions could be found. This 'tough time' only lasted about 4 months and now I'm back to my old style - or should I say a new, improved model of my old style!


A photo of my in my electric wheelchair     So now my life is pretty damn good! School is going great - I know I've already said it but to be treated as, and to be (almost!!), a normal person is such a good feeling. In August of 1996 I got the electric wheelchair which you can see me in here. This is just one more bonus which has allowed me to be much more independent. It allowed me to pop up to the local shops every other day and catch the train in to the centre of Glasgow (my nearest city).

   However, when I reached the age of 16, I started thinking about learning to drive. After all, there's only so far you can go in a wheelchair that goes at 4 m.p.h. (down hill!)!! I started driving lessons at the beginning of '97 and while my driving instructor might not have found me the most relaxing of pupils (his hair was white before I started, honest!), I enjoyed it immensely. I sat my first test in June of 1997 but, like all the best drivers (:->), I did not pass first time. I sat my next test at the beginning of July and passed with only 3 minor mistakes out of a possible 50! I feel that passing my driving test is one of the greatest achievements. The only downfall came when I heard that my Motability (UK organisation which provides vehicles for those with mobility problems) car would take over three months to be delivered! I am not the most patient person at the best of times but this was taking it too far! However, in September of 1997 I received my new Vauxhall Astra! [Photograph of car and me coming soon, for now see press cutting] My automatic car can be operated using both the regular foot pedals and specially fitted hand controls. For those who don't know, hand controls take the form of a lever at the steering wheel which is connected to the foot pedals and pushes the accelerator when pulled and pushes the brake pedal when pushed - comprehendi? Anyway, this car has been great - if a day goes by where I don't go out in it, the withdrawal symptoms begin to set in!

   So for the past year and a bit I've been having a ball. As this is my last year of school, it is much more relaxed and so my social life has taken off. So now I guess I have to mention 'the gang' - my five closest friends who I feel as if I live with! There's Micheal Tomsett & Susan Alexander, Heather McCulloch, Philip Roud (a.k.a Disco Phil - long story!) and David Johnston. We're all planning to do a 'joint' web site so you'll find out much more about them on that! These guys are my drinking buddies, my wheelchair pushers (and tippers! Mike!), my lunch getters and general great mates! What do I do for them? Let's just say I'll have to start charging counselling fees soon! A picture of this crew should be appearing soon, but, in the mean time, don't worry, you're not missing much!


    So "How did I come to be 'in your face'?", I hear you ask! As you can see, I've got a reasonable grip on this HTML business and on computers in general. You read about the computing side of it earlier but my Internet and web publishing skills came from the other side of the Atlantic! You see, my family on my mum's side live in the US. My Grandmother (who I call Mor Mor = Scandinavian for Grandma) works for an 'Information Handling' company called Walcoff. Each year, I spend 4 weeks with her and my Grandpa in Washington D.C. and over the years I have been doing some work with Walcoff, mainly as an Office Boy or helping with their computers. In 1996, however, I was put through an HTML course and put to work for a few weeks creating web pages. So when I came back home and got online myself, I started tinkering about and you can see the results here. I have also worked on a few other web sites over the years, including one for 'Article 12' who are a group in Scotland concerned with the rights of young people, especially the right to free speech, as set out in Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Have a look!

   And as for what the plans are now, you'll just have to read the future section!


    Now that you have read all about me and my life, why not tell me (and the rest of the world!) about you and yours? Please click here for information about adding your own bio.


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