BEING the only kid in a small town who uses a wheelchair wasn't always easy for Mat Earley and he spent his childhood trying to find ways he could fit in.
Now he's realised we should all be trying to stand out, be ourselves and not try to fit in to what people might call "normal".
The 29-year-old, from Old Bar is speaking about his experience living with Spina Bifida as a new client ambassador for disability service provider Northcott.
"I've had so many people over the years all focus on the things I can't do but I graduated high school, moved out of home, went to university twice and TAFE once."Mat Early, new client ambassador for disability service provider Northcott
"The message I want to get across is for people to see beyond the disability and look at the person,'' Mat said.
"Look at our skills and focus on our strengths instead of what we might not be able to do.
"I've had so many people over the years all focus on the things I can't do but I graduated high school, moved out of home, went to university twice and TAFE once."
Encouraging other people with disabilities to aim big is also another of Mat's goals as ambassador.
"I hope I can help the community better understand people with disability while also raising the profile of Northcott so it can continue the great work it's been doing for so long now.
"I have used Northcott services on and off for the past 29 years. I went to the outreach clinics and had a case manager from Coffs Harbour do regular house visits when I was younger.
"More recently I have been involved with Northcott's Spina Bifida Adult Resource Team who have helped me do things like my get my latest wheelchair a few years ago."
Mat said living with Spina Bifida and using a wheelchair for mobility has not stopped him from dreaming big and doing whatever he could to achieve his dreams.
"Sure things haven't been smooth sailing but really whose life actually is?
"As a kid I played many sports including wheelchair basketball, tennis, swimming and athletics,'' he said.
"But my main love has been music. I started learning the guitar when I was 5 and vocal lessons when I was 14.
"I've done an audio engineering diploma and completed an event management diploma at TAFE.
"I'm currently doing a communications degree, majoring in public relations. And I recently started hosting a radio show one day a week on 2BOB Radio."
Northcott chief executive officer Kerry Stubbs said Mat is just one of three clients Northcott chooses each year from across NSW and the ACT to represent the organisation and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.
"Mat is the first client ambassador we have chosen from rural NSW,'' he explained.
"Hewill spend the next year helping to raise disability awareness by sharing his experience of disability to dispel common myths the community has about disability."
For more information on Northcott visit www.northcott.com.au or call Northcott Taree on 6552 1300.