From one to one,to one for all

5th December 2003 at 00:00
Students arriving by bus at Weston college have for years battled with traffic in the town centre or along the sea front. But now, thanks to the efforts of a fellow student, the council has provided a safe pull-in outside the Weston-Super-Mare college's main complex in Knightstone Road.

The person responsible is Nick Coles, who, has not allowed cerebral palsy to undermine his enterprise and determination.

"I'd thought about it in the holidays, asked students whether they wanted it and when they said yes, went to the council," he said.

Nick, 22, is justifiably proud of his success. It typifies his transformation from heavy dependency on others to finding part-time jobs and successfully standing for the students' union. His six-year effort earned him a National Training Award. The days of one to one tuition on how to catch a bus seem long ago.

Learning to get from A to B single-handedly has meant a great deal. "I used to go to college in a minibus with other people and I didn't like that," he said. "Now I come on my own and get to see my friends."

He was recently re-elected to the union where he helps organise social events and represent other students with disabilities - 50 full-timers and 140 part-timers. One practical result is visible at the college entrance where Nick lobbied for the revolving door to be replaced by an automatic sliding one offering better wheelchair access.

"When new staff come, I tell them about disabled students' needs," he said.

"I get things done."

Indeed he does. At the National Training Awards ceremony in Plymouth, Nick, realising a photographer had accidentally missed taking a picture of his party, politely summoned him back and made sure the Weston contingent was snapped for posterity.

Latterly, Nick has been on an access to work course and been tackling basic numeracy and literacy. He is increasingly confident, not only in finding work but deciding what suits him. He has, to date, had a placement at Ottakar's bookshop, held down a part-time job at Burger King, and moved on - through choice - to Costa Coffee.

"I love it there," he said. "My family have benefited because with my wages, I pay for my lunches and some of my clothes and that helps the family budget." Nick lives with his mother and four sisters.

While he finds reading and writing tough going, he has mastered self-projection - twice representing students at People First, a national self-advocacy group for people with learning difficulties. "I never thought I'd be representing people with other disabilities, but I have done," he said.

Weston college principal Dr Paul Phillips said: "Nick joined us aged 16 from the sheltered environment of a special school. He had a positive personality but could be difficult and had a negative image of his disability. The distance he has travelled since joining us is, literally and metaphorically, enormous."

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