A BASINGSTOKE student is proving that disability is not a barrier to getting gold.

Zoe Barnes, 22, will be making a trip to Buckingham Palace to collect her Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award on Wednesday, 22 May.

The Basingstoke College of Technology student completed all three levels of the Awards while studying at a specialist college for young people with disabilities and learning difficulties based near Cheltenham, National Star College.

Zoe has cerebral palsy and uses a power wheelchair to get around.

Zoe is now getting merits and distinctions in her assignments at her first ever mainstream educational placement at the college.

She has also moved into her own assisted living flat where she can live as independently as her needs allow.

She received help during her time at National Star College in Cheltenham, and wouldn't be where she is now without its help and taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh awards.

Zoe said: “It has helped with team work, commitment and self-discipline.

“It made me push myself and I felt out of my comfort zone. I really enjoyed it and am proud of myself.”

Richard Brand, DofE Award co-ordinator at National Star College, said: “I have known Zoe for three full years as I was her Course Tutor as well as delivering the Award programme to Zoe.

“She has grown like a flower over the three years blossoming into a very confident and independent young woman, passionate about young people’s rights with disabilities championing on this, whilst part of the student union committee at College.

“Zoe is one of my most accomplished navigators and could be trusted to lead a group safely to their destination. I am very proud of her for all her achievements so far.”

As part of her Gold qualifications, Zoe supported other young people on respite at National Star, volunteered at the charity’s animal club and worked with other DofE members to investigate the accessibility in stately home gardens and make recommendations.

Zoe added: “The expeditions were the most difficult part of the Award because the terrain was difficult and uneven which is a challenge if you use a chair.

“But it was all worth it and I am very excited about going to Buckingham Palace. I have never been there before and I am looking forward to meeting others who have got their Gold Duke of Edinburgh.”