It's very hard when you have a speech impairment.- Southwest Speak Out CEO Dawn Whitehead
Warrnambool's Dawn Whitehead is testament to the saying 'don't let anything hold you back'.
The 58-year-old was born with cerebral palsy and has a speech impairment.
But you won't find her at home asking 'what if?' or 'why me?'.
Mrs Whitehead, who has been married to her husband Geoff for three decades, said she doesn't let her disabilities get in the way of achieving her goals.
She's a daily customer at Better Bake at Gateway Plaza, where owner Ben Singh has her coffee order down-pat.
Mr Singh said he loved chatting to Mrs Whitehead each day.
"She's here every day, we have to make sure we are always open for Dawn," he said. "I call her the boss," he laughed.
Mrs Whitehead's infectious personality and zest for life has the same effect on many others in her daily life.
She can't go far in her mobility scooter without someone stopping to say hi or ask her how she is.
Over the years, Mrs Whitehead has used her talents - which have included acting and writing - to advocate for other people with a disability.
Her latest role is as the chief executive officer of the Southwest Speak Out advocacy group. She is passionate about educating people to ensure they treat people with disabilities with respect.
When it comes to her own disabilities, all Mrs Whitehead asks for is patience while she articulates her sentences.
"It's very hard when you have a speech impairment," she said.
Hearing difficulties make it even more difficult, particularly during a global pandemic in which people are required to wear masks.
Mrs Whitehead enjoys her independence, but is also grateful to her husband and carers who help her with household tasks.
She is happy to provide advice to anyone who has a speech impairment.
South West Speak Out was formed in 2021.
Mrs Whitehead, who has been an advocate for people with disabilities for many years, said its aim was to give people with speech disabilities a voice.
Mrs Whitehead also offers advice on communication devices which can aid people with disabilities.
She can be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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