Toby Morrison was repeatedly discriminated against through life because of his disabilities, even in higher education — yet found his calling as an independent legal advocate.

The 32-year-old from Enfield has been sharing his story during UK Disability History Month, which runs till December 16.

“I have a history of complex needs,” he tells you. “So I have a lot of empathy for the people I work with.

“I had a stroke before I was born and developed a condition called hydrocephalus, which is ‘water on the brain’. I had to have brain surgery at about six months old.”

The Coventry University graduate, who grew up in Hornsey and now works as a trained advocate in Redbridge, also has other conditions like hemiplegic cerebral palsy and is partially sighted.

One barrier he faced was at school: “I was told when choosing my GCSEs that I couldn’t do sport or do art — so I didn’t. It was a real knockback.”

The discrimination continued when he studied for a BTec in health and social care, with a tutor telling him that he “shouldn’t be in education”.

It led to a discrimination complaint and the tutor later resigned. Tony got to university and now speaks up for people’s rights as a professional advocate since 2018, working in Redbridge for the Voice Ability legal rights charity.

“I was aware of my rights,” he says. “Okay, I’m disabled but need to make sure my voice is heard.”

Toby was influenced by his wife, who was detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act.

“There was some pretty awful stuff happening in hospital,” he recalls. “There was no-one to speak up for her, apart from me and her parents.

“I realised that if my wife has been through that experience then others have. I needed to help them understand their rights, to have a voice.”

One person he was advocating for in hospital threatened to end their life. But Toby set goals and worked through an action plan with the person.

Six months later he received an email saying because of his impact at the hospital that person was now doing national advocacy qualification to do what Toby was doing supporting others in similar situations.

“You get to make a difference in the world that no-one else can,” Toby adds. “You are truly the person’s voice.”

It’s what gives him the energy to carry on being that voice for others.