When I was four years old I fell down some steps. At that moment I realised what it meant to be blind. This experience created a fear I had to challenge in my life. Before I started school I was scared I would not learn to read. When I started to learn Braille I was full of joy. I was scared to run and walk quickly. But I became frustrated and decided to start athletics. I overcame my fear of catching public transport and of moving out of my parents' home. I learned daily living skills. I learned to be independent.
I was once in a serious car accident on an outback road in Western Australia. I was with two friends when we hit a turning road train at high speed. I was lucky to survive the accident. I tried to help the driver breathe again but he did not survive. I helped the other passenger out of the car and supported him as we walked along a road. I learned many things from this terrible experience. I learned about letting go of anger. I also discovered the benefits of learning emergency first aid, and the horrible results of drink driving.
Stuart Tripp was in a car accident in 1994. No one thought he would survive. He had many operations and part of his leg removed. It was a difficult time for Stuart. A friend introduced him to handcycling. This kind of cycling uses the hands instead of the legs to turn the pedals. Stuart really enjoyed the freedom handcycling gave him. He has already represented Australia in international competitions. Now he is going to race in two events at the Paralympic Games in London. Whatever the outcome of those races, Stuart has had an amazing journey.
Bry has a vision impairment. Six years ago she broke her left leg at university. But the pain never stopped. Bry was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome. She has ongoing pain in her left leg. It swells around the knee and ankle and the skin is cooler than her right leg. Bry takes medication each day for the pain and swelling. It can be hard for her to meet friends and plan activities. This is because the pain comes and goes. Bry likes baking, performing in theatre and having dinner parties. She tries to enjoy life.
In 2005, 51-year old British man Tony Nicklinson had a stroke that left him unable to move or speak. There was no cure for his condition. He wanted to die. He went to the law courts to try and get permission to be assisted to die. On 17 August this year the court decided he did not have this right. Some days later Nicklinson died after refusing medical treatment for pneumonia. I became a quadriplegic after a spinal cord injury in 2004. I started thinking about what I would do if I were in Nicklinson's situation. I have decided there is no easy answer.
When I'm asked if I work I would love to confidently answer, yes. The truth is that I do work. But like many other people with a disability, working does not always mean a paid job. Living with and managing my disability involves much work. It can take me three hours to get out of bed, shower, do some exercises and eat breakfast. A lot of my day is spent managing my care needs such as seeing doctors. All this leaves me with less time and energy to work. Work is a great thing. But it is not something everyone can do.
Ludwig Guttman was a specialist doctor for people with spinal injuries. Working at a hospital in England, many of his patients were soldiers injured from war. Guttman believed sport gave his patients strong upper bodies and made them mentally strong. He made up a game called wheelchair polo. His patients also played wheelchair archery and wheelchair netball. In 1948 Guttman held a competition at the hospital at the same time as the London Olympic Games. These games for people with a disability would later grow to be a popular international competition. Today they are known as the Paralympics.
Glen Findell is a talented tennis player. He has played tennis from the age of seven. Glen was one of the top 10 players in junior tennis in Western Australia. But he knew it would be very hard to become a professional tennis player. He went to university. At the age of 22, he met the Deaf tennis community. Since then he has played in international competitions including the Deaflympics. He has won gold medals. He also works as a medical scientist and loves to play tennis on weekends and in the evenings.
I start my own cabinet making business. I am full of fear that I may not be good and cannot succeed. I get my first customer who is a man that understands great quality work. He wants me to build him a large wooden and glass cabinet. I start my work but am too scared to continue making it and I am running out of time. I hire tradesmen to do it for me. They do not do a good job. But their work makes me realise I can do the work. I build the cabinet. The customer likes it. I am confident I can have a cabinet making business.
How do students with a disability manage their study needs at university? There are people who can help. Universities have staff that assist students with a disability. They help the student to write a plan that explains what they need to study and have equal access. A student who is deaf may need an Auslan interpreter. Or a student with a vision impairment may need study notes that can be read aloud by a computer program. Some students need extra time during tests and exams. Support for the students from their teachers is also very important.