A TEENAGER from Radcliffe has become the first person in the region to benefit from a “lifechanging” project to help special needs students become more independent.
Emily Riley, aged 17, of Chapeltown Road, is the first wheelchair user to complete a Travel Training scheme which assists disabled young people across Greater Manchester to use public transport alone.
She suffers from epilepsy, cerebral palsy and a visual impairment and after completing GCSEs at Radcliffe Riverside High now studies catering and hospitality at Bury College.
Emily said: “I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to travel independently to college on the bus just like other young people my age do.
“Being able to travel independently will make a big difference to my life and will give me freedom.”
Before starting the training, Emily had never got a bus alone or been out in her wheelchair without accompaniment.
She said one of the hardest parts of her journey was just getting to the top of her own street because of numerous obstacles.
She added: “I would like to say thank you to all my neighbours who have helped me with my training by moving bins and not parking on the pavement – I could not have got this far without you.”
Emily initially undertook the whole journey accompanied by a Travel Trainer, before doing parts on her own, and is now fully signed off to do the full trip by herself.
The project was set up in August last year by Bury Council’s children’s services team and Pure Innovations, an organisation which supports people with disabilities and disadvantaged groups to work and access leisure activities.
As the training is an alternative to dedicated home-to-school transport, there has been no cost to Emily or her family.
Emily’s mum Karen Turner-Riley said the skills her daughter has learnt have “set her up for life” and is proud of how she has encouraged neighbours and community members to support her.
She added: “At the beginning of the process we couldn't visualise Emily doing the whole journey to college by herself, but after just three months she is at the final stage.
“It is amazing to see how far she has come and how she has grown in confidence over this time – she has matured so much and the skills she has learnt are truly life-changing.”
Lynne Barry, Bury’s school and college transport manager, said: “For those young people who become independently travel trained, it widens their life opportunities for future training, employment and social inclusion.
“Our target is to successfully train 20 young people per year and we hope Emily is the first of many.”