In light of Webster’s definition wouldn’t that mean if you can’t snap your fingers, or do a cartwheel or whistle you have a disability? It is an inability to do something right? To me I just see it as you being differently abled and we are all differently abled and that is what makes us all unique!
I just got back from competing and representing Bermuda at my second Paralympic Games in Rio De Janeiro Brazil in wheelchair track racing. In attendance at these games were 4,333 differently abled athletes from 159 countries from around the world. Each athlete having a completely different life story, culture, values, beliefs and backgrounds. 4,333 different ways of living life. 4,333 different ways of completing tasks. 4,333 different ways of communicating. 4,333 different ways of moving, and the list goes on. But why am I telling you this? Because there was 4,333 differently abled people coming together for one common goal: to represent their country on the world stage of sports and not 1 of them focused on their limitations, or the limitations of others. They looked at and interacted with each other with respect focusing on their abilities and didn’t bully anyone because of their limitations or differences. Sport and life involves constantly improving, changing, and developing to be the best you can be and I can tell you that can be done without bringing others down. It’s done by focusing on your abilities and doing everything you can to improve them and using them to help other people and seeing people for their abilities.
If I focused on this label of being “disabled” and only saw my limitations do you think I would have gotten to one let alone two Paralympic Games? We need to get away from these negative labels and stop limiting ourselves and other people because of them. We can learn so much from one another if we have an open mind and stop jumping to conclusions when we see people.
One of the things I love about the Paralympic Games is being able to watch other differently abled people show what they are capable of doing in a world that sometimes doesn’t focus on that. You see a person like me racing with their arms instead of their legs. You see a person with one arm and one leg cycling. You see a person with no arms competing in table tennis holding the paddle in their mouth. You see a person who has a hard time controlling their bodies because of muscle spasms throwing a ball with precision. You see a person who’s all 4 limbs are affected playing rugby. You see a person with one leg doing high jump. You see a person in the dining hall with no hands eating with their feet. You see people who are paralyzed from the neck down maneuvering their chairs with their chins or mouths. You see people who are blind playing football. You see an archer with no arms shooting the arrow with their mouth. You see a person who is unable to see the track running with another by their side guiding them. In the men’s T13 1500m final at the Paralympics in Rio the top 4 finishers ran a faster time than the gold medalist in the 1500m at the Olympics. The T13 competitors have a visual impairment. You see the person for their capabilities not their limitations. It just shows that by not limiting people or brining them down anything is possible!
So let’s accept everybody and their differences and not limit them with a negative label. The limitations that we all have, be it not being able to snap our fingers, or in my case, not being able to walk, should not be held against anyone because that is who they are and that is the life that they are here to live. At a young age I accepted what I couldn’t do and started focusing on what I could do and never let a DIS be put in front of my abilities and that is why I know use the term differently abled!
Here's to 21 kilometers' tomorrow morning! I think the Pink Panther is ready for it! :)
-Desire, Dream, Vision-