Tell us about yourself
My name is Jaimie Topham, I am 19 years old, and I live in Perth WA. I graduated from high school at the end of 2021 and have been working as an Administrator for an international engineering company for the past 8 months. Now I am about to start studying Speech Pathology at Curtin University.
What has been your journey of disability?
I have lived my whole life with a genetic inherited disease called Muscular Dystrophy, my two younger siblings also have Muscular Dystrophy. The Type of Muscular Dystrophy my siblings and I share is quite rare, but that’s what makes us special. Muscular Dystrophy affects all my muscles and has limited me to using a power wheelchair, but I have definitely not let this stop me from doing the things I love, in-fact it has driven me to keep pushing for my goals. The one thing that I love the most is to sing; singing has helped my health a lot by strengthening my lungs and chest muscles which means I don’t get sick as often.
You are a musician/singer, how has having disability in the arts been accepted by others?
I believe that it has definitely made people rethink their opinions on what people with disabilities can still do despite living with challenges, it shocks people when I can sing the way I can and I have definitely been accepted into groups of other talented people where we can share something we all have similar.
“I believe that it has definitely made people rethink their opinions on what people with disabilities can still do despite living with challenges, it shocks people when I can sing the way I can..”
Has it created unique challenges for you?
I think that I have definitely been lucky with the opportunities that I have been given by getting to perform at some incredible events and show off the talent that I have. Some challenges that I have found have only really been about the accessibility of venues but I’m certainly up for a challenge and have always found a way.
Have these impacted on your performances?
No, whenever there has been an accessibility issue, we have always found a way to get around it whether the stage isn’t accessible, we have ramps or move stuff down off of the stage and we just perform in a different spot that I am able to access.
Are there things about you that people misunderstand because of your disability?
Yes, that because I am in a power wheelchair I have no “voice” or opinion on situations, and I am unable to answer questions or think for myself.
What do find is the biggest challenge you have experienced as a person living with disability?
Being a young adult and wanting to go out at night and experience the night clubs and music like most would, most people don’t have to think about where they are going. As much as I am independent, it still seems like it is never quite enough compared to able bodied people who don’t need to put in the planning and preparation to perform a normal task such as getting into an uber or walking up steps and stairs.
“As much as I am independent, it still seems like it is never quite enough compared to able bodied people who don’t need to put in the planning and preparation to perform a normal task such as getting into an uber or walking up steps and stairs.”
Has there been one thing, experience or person you have had that completely changed your life?
There hasn’t been anyone specially that has completely changed my life, however there have been many people that I have met throughout my life that has certainly helped with aspects of my life and to open doors that has led to some incredible opportunities.
Is there a single piece of technology that makes your life easier? Why?
With my disability causing me to have weak muscles I am unable to write for a long period of time, this made it quite hard to complete my year 11 and 12 ATAR exams, as in some of these I needed to be able to write for anything up to 3 hours. I was able to buy a laptop and use this to type out the answers for my exams which makes writing much easier as I can type for a lot longer than getting fatigued with writing.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?
That things are going to be tricky and sometimes hard, but, that there is also going to be so many incredible opportunities that will come. To know to always stay positive even when things can get hard, because you are always going to achieve things you thought where never possible.
Is there something that you would like people to know about you or about people with disability that they might not know?
That my siblings and I are the one of the only families in Australia, where all 3 of us have the same form of Muscular Dystrophy. It may look hard, with 3 siblings all in wheelchairs, but we have each others backs. We get to share all our lows, but most importantly all our highs together.
Best advice that you would like to share with other women with disabilities?
To use our challenges as benefits.
Do you have a way for people to connect or follow you that you would like me to share?