The word “inspiration” has been used a lot lately to describe people with a disability; I am a believer that not everyone in this world is an inspiration and that people with a disability are no different.
I am now out to educate the general public on this issue, to effect change and for people to stop telling me I am an inspiration for filling the car up with petrol or doing other everyday tasks that people think are fantastic for a person with a disability to be doing. I do not see these things as fantastic as they are ordinary daily activities for me.
I am also not an inspiration as an athlete for just taking part in sporting events or fun runs. Athletes with a disability are elite athletes and train full time, spending their lives trying to be the best athlete they can be. Over the past 20 years so much development has occurred in the disability field and Paralympic sport which is now becoming mainstream around the world for elite and junior sport.
In able-bodied sport we don’t expect that all juniors will become Olympians, and the same goes for para-athletes; not all will become a Paralympic athlete, but I am out to help as many achieve their goals in sport and life as possible, whatever they maybe. The general public need to be aware that, just as not all elite senior athletes are Olympic athletes, not all para-athletes will become Paralympians. Something I have noticed in recent years the is public thinking all people with a disability are athletes and are Paralympic athletes, even if they are not involved in any sport. I am not sure why this is the case but we need to celebrate the very elite achievements of all people and make the public aware how hard it is to reach the top in any field.
Now that I am coaching and involved in a number of junior teams as a team coach I am seeing things from the other side of the fence a little more. I truly believe that there is no difference between any junior athlete, para or able-bodied, and therefore they should receive no different recognition. I do not like hearing parents and supporters discuss how inspirational it is to see para-athletes compete when they don’t say it about any other athlete competing at that event. I would love to hear people talking about how a vision- impaired athlete competed in the able-bodied division and won, now that is inspirational.
I get a little uncomfortable at events when the para-athletes receive the public clap at the start or finish, as people think they are an inspiration for just participating, the applause increasing as the last athlete nears the end. I wouldn’t mind if this happened for every event but it only occurs for the para events, let’s change this, as they are just another athlete trying to achieve their best.
So please have a think of what you think makes someone an inspiration and what makes them just another person trying to achieve their dream, and what dream you have which could make you an inspiration to others. Until next time keep searching the world for your dream.