BLOG - BRISTOL IN FOCUS: Nathan continues to inspire
Back in September 2011, I met a remarkable young man. Nathan Fernandes was then a 19-year-old business enterprise student at the University of the West of England.
He was throwing himself into his studies, enjoying an active social life at the university’s Frenchay campus, and in his spare time was running his own website development business – employing 11 computer programmers
All this frantic activity was in defiance of the severe cerebral palsy condition that dramatically impeded his movement and speech.
But in spite of his busy life and personal challenges, Nathan was finding time to help others in a similar position – by giving seminars and workshops aimed at reassuring freshers with disabilities and younger disabled students considering whether university was for them.
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This week I was delighted to hear that Nathan’s progress is continuing apace. He has now moved out of his wheelchair adapted Halls of Residence room on the campus, and is living an increasingly independent life in a student flat in Redland.
His passion for helping others has also extended out of the UWE site – Nathan has taken to travelling around other universities to lend his voice of experience to those facing the academic life in spite of their disabilities.
Earlier this week he even spoke at Oxford University, where he was able to offer help and advice to Oxford’s disabled student community.
Nathan knows all too well how intimidating it can be to arrive at a large university campus with a disability. He has had cerebral palsy since birth. However, Nathan’s achievements, in spite of his physical disabilities, are truly remarkable.
“My ethos is that I won’t let my physical disabilities to get in the way of doing the things I want to do – academically, professionally and in my social life,” Nathan told me.
“If I can provide some inspiration to other people in a similar situation along the way, then that certainly has to be a good thing too.
“I want other people with disabilities to know that you can do this – it absolutely is possible to have a normal university education like everybody else. The facilities are here for you.”
Feature writer David Clensy writes The Post's daily Focus features