This blog post was written by Founder and Director of CUSP, Rod Paine.
I must confess a weakness to movies that have a basis in history and an underdog theme that sees a much maligned and disadvantaged hero overcome adversity and the ‘bad guy’. Movies such as ‘The last of the Mohicans,’ and ‘Brave Heart’ are good examples.
One of the themes that keep reoccurring is bravery.
For some time now, I have been operating in the NDIS environment and I have come across a very different approach than I’ve experienced elsewhere. It seems to me that the people I meet have a much more important view of bravery than a Hollywood blockbuster.
In my younger years I grew up with a terrific guy, Steve, and we formed a friendship that saw him become best man at my wedding and me at his. We ended up batching in our first flat, mess and all. I’ve had a front-row seat and seen his career start up and his beautiful family grow. Despite living in different cities, we are still best friends.
About 15 years ago he was diagnosed with MS. He has had a number of episodes that have meant he has gradually gone from very mobile to now riding his wheelchair. What I have witnessed is real courage and grit as he went from being angry at the world, to accepting that this is how things are, and in the process continuing to deliver for his family, his friends and to society. I think he is an inspiration. What is unsaid is how easy it would be for any of us to end up disabled, whether it is through a condition like MS or an accident. I wonder whether we would face the challenges with the same determination.
Now that I am spending time in the sector I see those inspirational stories everywhere I look. Not just the people with a disability, but their family and friends, and the people that make up the organisations that turn up and sort this out every day. It is a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes real dedication.
However, I write this not just to acknowledge the difficulties and adversity people with disabilities face but also to respect a desire to see their achievements normalised.
I recently read a blog by Lisa Cox the Australian author and public speaker who become wheelchair-bound after a brain haemorrhage and stroke at age 24. In an article entitled “Please Don’t Call Me Brave Just Because I Am Disabled” she says this:
“I want to live in a world where we don’t have such low expectations of disabled people that we are congratulated for getting out of bed and remembering our own names in the morning. I want to live in a world where we value genuine achievement for disabled people.”
Tackling the everyday takes reserves of strength, but I appreciate what Lisa Cox means when she asks that such praise be reserved for extraordinary achievement from those with disabilities. They simply deserve that respect.