"Being in a wheelchair doesn’t take that feeling away of wanting to feel sexy. It’s the fashion industry that takes that away from you."
RONIA HAMZE Q&A
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Ronia, 27 and I grew up in Melbourne. I am from a big family. I have a big family. I have six siblings.
I love listening to music, reading, going to the beach, hanging out with friends, working out and helping people.
I used to be a personal trainer. I became a trainer when I was 18 years of age and I loved it. I stopped it when I could not stand any longer. My disability has taught me how to adapt exercises whilst doing the right technique. A lot of trainers don’t know how to adapt the exercises for people in wheelchairs and people get shy to speak up if they can’t do something. This is why I decided to start an Instagram page with daily videos. I also want to educate people by showing my struggles and how I overcome them. I want to show different aspects of my disability.
If you were to describe yourself in 3 words what would they be?
Fighter (motivated) – No matter what life throws at me, I don’t let it knock me down. I get up and I fight it and I find a way around things.
I’m always smiling and always laughing, that’s just me. Instead of being down and depressed about what has happened to me, I see it as a blessing in a way. Some people think it’s weird for me to say that, but that’s how I look at it from a different perspective. I thank god that with my disability I can still move, and I can do still things. I think it helps using what has happened to you as a purpose. Use your challenges and knowledge to inspire others.
You are not alone in this. Be inspired. Inspire yourself. Because having a disability is hard and some days it can be very hard. There have been days where I did want to give up. However, having those people who remind me I can get through it, is what got me through.
This isn’t the life I chose, or I wanted. This is the life that was given to me. What I do choose is to wake up everyday and fight for a happy life.
What is your health diagnosis? At what age were you diagnosed and how does this impact you?
Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). I was diagnosed when I was in grade 5 (aged 10-11). It has impacted me in many ways. I used to be able to walk and stand. But since 2019 I’ve been in a wheelchair. I am unable to fully stand up straight.
I can only half stand, so I need help to lift up my undies and pants. With the house not being wheelchair friendly I am unable to cook or shower on my own. Having a manual wheelchair is hard at times. My arms/wrists get sore and at times am unable to push myself around in the community, so having someone with me is great as they can push me around.
Before I was in a wheelchair, I was independent, as in walking on my own standing up etc. It took a lot of time to accept that I can no longer do this.
I exercise 4-6 times per week to stay on top of my muscle strength. I was doing group classes, hydrotherapy and personal training. However due to COVID I haven’t been able to do everything. It was devastating not doing hydrotherapy. I loved hydrotherapy as it allowed me to walk in water on my own. This is mentally stimulating when you aren’t able to walk on land.
Because of restrictions I have been creating my own exercise plans at home and being a PT I know which exercises will help target the right muscles.
How do you stay uplifted?
I look at old photos of how I was. I know that I have to keep working as I don’t want to decline anymore. Vision boards, listening to podcasts or inspiring books of people who have overcome challenges. ‘Girl wash your face’ - Inspiring because it makes me look at things from a different perspective.
What is your favourite kind of fashion and why?
There are two kinds of fashion styles I love. Casual and chic. I love casual as it’s relaxed and comfortable, yet fun. I love chic as it can be smart or can be elegant. It’s fun to dress up if you want to give yourself a fashionable look.
Chic is stylish, elegant and it makes you feel sexy. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t take that feeling away of wanting to feel sexy. It’s the fashion industry that takes that away from you.
Do you struggle with finding the right fashion?
Yes, I find it hard as most pants don’t have an elastic waist band and don’t sit comfortably for someone in a wheelchair as I need pants to be high-waisted or be higher at the back for when I lean forward . I struggle finding tracksuit pants and I use to ditch the women’s and buy the men’s because they give more room.
Some tops are hard to wear as they don’t have material that gives so I always need to go up a few sizes. It’s hard to find the right length shirt for a wheelchair user, as if you have it too long it hits the wheelchair and it makes going to the bathroom difficult.
Most dresses have zips at the back and is hard to do on your own and they are tight fitted which is uncomfortable to wear and sit in.
Jackets are usually tight fitted and don’t have enough arm room or stretch so it’s hard to pull your arms in and out. I always have to go up a few sizes. A lot of the time, I don’t even bother as its hard to find one that you can wear without it looking too big on you. Or… it’s too short at the back so you can’t even sit forward with dignity.
If we could design a garment for you what would it be?
High-rise elastic waisted ripped jeans. Someone just design me some JEANS!!!!
What is the biggest lesson your disability has taught you?
Life is like a curve ball. We all have our own ups and downs at times. Life can be steady and the next minute it can go up or down when you least expect it.
In all honestly my disability has taught me a lot of things but most of them are good things. It makes me see the world in a different way.
No one is perfect. There are a lot of people out there that are ashamed of their struggles, but I’m not!
If you could help educate people to make a difference around disability and inclusion, what would it be?
Never judge a book by its cover. Someone might appear to be fine. Before I was in a wheelchair my dad used to park in disabled parking spots as I would struggle to walk long distances. Because I wasn’t in a wheelchair people would glare at me or say things to us. People need to know that disabilities come in all shapes and sizes. Some are easy to see and some cannot be seen at all.
Fabulous women like Ronia are why we created Christina Stephens and the Unique Women Unique Stories series.
Our vision is to provide women living with disabilities and changing bodies with a ‘choice’. A choice in fashion, a choice to be included and a choice to be heard. By shopping with us or even simply sharing our story, you're helping us get another step closer to achieving this.