My name is John Tapia and I have a passion for speed – I have been riding quad bikes for three years. I recently got involved in a local campaign to help other disabled people try new things. I am 29 and live with my friend David at the Causeway – a Mencap supported living scheme in Southport. I have cerebral palsy and a severe learning disability, which means I struggle to understand many things, but as long as people explain things slowly I can get by quite well. I only have a few words, but by using hand signs I can get across what I want most of the time.
I like to think I'm like most 29-year-old men. I have an eye for the ladies and a passion for speed, but at times my disability has meant my life has been about safety and not taking risks. I used to do horse riding, but keeping me safe meant I wasn't allowed to go fast. I needed something to quench my thirst for action and speed.
I live down the road from Southport Leisure Lakes, which has one of the top off-road motorbike tracks in the country. My support staff and family looked into the possibility of me accessing such a dangerous activity. The owners were fantastic – they strapped me into the front seat of a Land Rover and we set off over near vertical drops and through deep water passes. I think everyone realised what I thought of the ride by my shouts of exhilaration.
From then on I was hooked. My support staff helped me to choose new motorcycle protective clothing. I now look like all the other young men that roar past on their motorbikes. I felt very proud of myself.
With my new protective clothing, the owners moved me into a double-seated buggy. Unlike the Land Rover there are no sides and you feel the wind and get covered in mud. And then the day came when everyone believed I was ready to ride pillion on a quad bike. This was a difficult decision for my family and support staff, as I had to hold on to the waist of the driver and everyone thought the worst. Well, I proved them wrong. I knew exactly what to do and haven't looked back since.
I recently went to an open day at Leisure Lakes to represent Mencap and other disability providers. We wanted to get planning permission to allow all people with disabilities to access activities that would normally be denied because of health and safety or accessibility reasons.
The day was a great success in two ways. Firstly, planning permission was granted allowing the owners to buy specialised equipment to allow access for disabled people. Secondly, I had the time of my life – the week running up to the open day had been wet, which meant it was a mud fest. We had so much fun sliding around in the double buggy.
Being allowed to take risks and do something that would normally be out of reach is amazing. I'm so proud of my achievements and so lucky to have people around me who understand what I want. I would love to see more people like me having fun and doing different things that are thrilling.
My supporters are now looking to see if I can afford to buy my own off-road double buggy. This would be a long-term investment, but would give me access to follow my dream whenever I want. Like any young man buying his first car, this would be a new adventure for me.
If you have a dream then go for it, whether it is parachuting out of a plane, or riding on a big dipper, as long as you are safe and you enjoy what you are doing, then anything is possible. Believe in yourself, as like me you can achieve great things.
John's profile was written with the help of his support worker and mother
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