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I want to bring the joy of music and the arts to people with disabilities

Maria Antonia Jolene Dias, who lives with limb girdle muscular dystrophy, tells us how she’s trying to bridge the inclusivity gap in the arts industry

There was a time when I could walk, run, and do things other kids at school did, but I was always just a bit slower than them. My mobility gradually worsened, and I was diagnosed with limb girdle muscular dystrophy at the age of 15. It was confirmed through blood and electromyography tests.
My condition means I now cannot stand or walk – I’m wheelchair bound. It also affects my arms as I find it hard to raise them and carry heavy objects. I grew up in Goa in India, where I enjoyed singing and playing and teaching musical instruments. I now live in London with my mum. 
Shortly after moving to the UK, I decided I wanted to bring the joy of music, dance, drama and arts to other people with disabilities, which led me to found Wembley-based charity Blue Ocean Waves Centre. 
It was not easy for me to set up Blue Ocean Waves Centre as I was very new – and I still am very new – to the UK. I had to learn for myself how to register the charitable company, and get it started. It was tough at times, but I soon made friends, got support from church, and attended business mentoring programmes, all of which helped me to make my dream a reality. 
Muscular Dystrophy UK was of immense help for me personally – not only with providing information and support – but also through providing financial assistance. I was awarded a grant by the charity to install leg raisers and a riser for my powerchair. 
At Blue Ocean Waves Centre, we offer art, music, drama, yoga and dance classes to children, youth, adults and senior citizens with or without disabilities – we don’t leave anybody out. I believe everybody is talented and creative; not just the able community. Inclusivity is a priority for us at Blue Ocean Waves Centre – and we have recently been registered under the ‘Disability Confident Committed’ employer scheme, so we can open up job opportunities for disabled people. 
Inclusivity is important because everyone deserves to feel loved and accepted. For example, as a person who uses a wheelchair, if I’m treated differently from others, I will feel low about myself. People with disabilities need to be accepted by the mainstream society, just as they are. 
I feel that Blue Ocean Waves Centre is an important organisation in the community as people with any form of disability can enhance their performing arts skills, which can help them gain a qualification, and boost confidence and self-esteem.
I want to inspire students at Blue Ocean Waves Centre to pursue the arts full-time. I’ve got big hopes for the future: I’d like to open an examination centre for those living with disabilities so they can sit exams. Also, we plan to hold annual concerts and art exhibitions so that people with disabilities get an opportunity to showcase their talents. 
Beyond this I intend to open a Blue Ocean Waves Cafe, where each and every employee will be disabled. I would also love to open a wheelchair-accessible salon with facilities for people with limited mobility. 
For now, I hope that more students benefit from our services like music, dance, drama and art.

We also looking out for partnerships, volunteers and donations to conduct our services in the best possible way to benefit the special educational needs community along with other abilities.

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