doc

A CALL centre worker with cerebral palsy has defied the odds by climbing 1,695ft up Mam Tor in the Peak District — using a wheelchair.

Melissa Dempsey completed the expedition in Derbyshire as part of her Duke of Edinburgh Award in a two-night hike starting on May 8.

She was the first participant from ao.com, the online retailer based at The Parklands, Bolton to complete the challenge using a wheelchair — and it was only a practice run.

On Tuesday, June 24, she will embark on a five-day trek in the Lake District.

The 23-year-old said the challenge was very difficult, but she hoped to inspire other wheelchair users.

A new, all-terrain mountain trike, provided by ao.com, allowed her to carry out the challenge, alongside 13 colleagues as part of an 18-month programme which she has now almost completed.

Miss Dempsey pushes and pulls two levers on either side of the chair to move forward, while the steering is controlled by a joystick-style attachment at the top of one lever. There are also brakes on the levers.

She had help from colleagues to pull her over rough ground and she was held by ropes in order to control her speed during her descent.

Miss Dempsey even completed part of the ascent without the trike, using her hands and arms to pull her over obstacles such as stiles and rough terrain. She said: “It was very difficult, but when I set myself a challenge, nothing holds me back. I am just going to the gym every day at the moment.

“I’m the first to do this in a wheelchair and I’m hoping that it will encourage other people with disabilities.

“There were times when I said ‘I can’t do this’, but my team were great and got me going again.”

Miss Dempsey’s parents discovered she had cerebral palsy when she was six months old and her twin brother was becoming noticeably more mobile.

Teammate Amy Boff, who was also on the expedition, said: “It was inspirational watching Mel on the expedition. Her attitude, determination and sense of humour throughout, what was at times a gruelling expedition, was amazing.”

ao.com funds the award’s business programme for young adults in the company, to help promote teamwork.