Growing up with a “mild” disability, I always struggled to find the place that I belong. I felt that some of the goals that I could see my friends achieving were impossible for me. At the same time, I always heard how I “didn’t look disabled”, so felt that identity didn’t fit for me either.
My mild disability has also meant that I grew up privileged to receive the level of support I required. This may not be the case for all people with a disability. We all have our own stories to tell and different barriers to cross.
Characters with a disability on TV fell into stereotypical tropes, often becoming the subject of pity or seen as asexual. Truth is, we do all the things that everyone else does. There may just sometimes be an extra challenge we need to face to reach our goals.
The funny (okay, not-so-funny) thing too was that more often than not, the actors who portrayed these characters on television did not have a disability. In recent years, many advocates have been working to change this.
A consistency that has helped me to push in achieving my own goals is the Paralympics. There is comfort in seeing these elite athletes achieve their goals. So, every couple of years, I tune in to see some of my favourite Paralympians put on that green and gold. It serves as a reminder that we are as capable as anyone else to chase our dreams.
I have a physical disability and I have had the opportunity to play my favourite sport. I have completed a Bachelor’s Degree. I have had my heart broken, but most important of all, I have learned to love the person I am.
The Paralympics has become an important sporting event, with many sports broadcast. It showcases the possibilities for those with a disability, and changes social perceptions.
Dylan Alcott is a wheelchair tennis superstar who summed it up best after winning the gold medal.
“Not every person with a disability can be a Paralympian, but they can be a doctor, a lawyer, a mum, a dad, a teacher, an educator, a politician, whatever it is; but they don’t often get the opportunities that we’ve got here to play sport.”
These Paralympics felt different to the others, and not totally because of old mate ’rona. It felt that our Paralympians were more in focus than ever before. We saw the stories of their lives, their families and their training leading up to the games.
The future for children growing up with a disability looks bright. Advocates continue to break down barriers and open up opportunities. I know I am worthy because of those who have advocated for a more inclusive world.
Disabilities vary from person to person, and we all have different levels of needs. We can continue breaking down barriers by listening to each individual’s needs.
We are all unique and all have different stories to tell. Some of us were born with a disability and some acquired a disability. Either way, we can work together to create a more inclusive space.
Thank you, Paralympians, for helping me feel proud of my disability.
Cover by Disabled and Here