Oiling the wheelchairs of industry

17th May 1996 at 01:00
Matthew Smeed was left in a coma after a motorbike accident 10 years ago when he was 18 and is mostly confined to a wheelchair.

After a grammar-school education in Tonbridge Wells, Kent, he found he had to learn everything again after his head injury. "My legs still haven't learned. " When he was fit enough, Mr Smeed decided he wanted to take a course in welding and set up a business manufacturing wheelchairs to his own design.

"I tried 10 institutions which said 'no' before Norfolk College, King's Lynn, said 'yes why not?'." In the meantime he'd tried courses in hairdressing, beauty therapy, running your own business and watch and clock repairs. "You name it, I'd tried it."

He gained national vocational qualification level 2 in welding in six months and is now studying for NVQ level 2 in bench joinery with the help of a modified wheelchair and funds from the Prince's Trust.

"The teaching here is excellent - honest and straightforward. They tell you exactly where you've gone wrong!"

Mr Smeed has ambitions to win the record for the wheelchair race from Loch Ness to Land's End next year and hopes to give some of the proceeds to the Prince's Trust, among other charities.

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