Cerebral Palsy Awareness day has been and gone again. I wonder if the world is any different. Is every building accessible? Can any adult with CP access meaningful activities/employment? Is positive language being used (I’m looking at you “R” word!)? Have folk stopped staring?
I cannot answer yes to any of these questions (yet). They are all aims to keep striving for but are they a measure of lack of achievement? I think not. I reckon progress can be gauged in smaller increments.
My getting-bigger-by-the-minute girl has two applications pending for some kick a**e technology. One to cruise independently (and add to my grey hair!) in a powered wheelchair. The other will enable her to use her eyes to talk (I know right…amazing)! If there is such a thing as a time to have cerebral palsy, now is it. Amazing technological advances are becoming cheaper and allowing for new levels of involvement and independence right across the disability sector.
Positive role models are more prevalent then ever too. Skilled athletes gave their all at the recent Paralympics shining a light on the “ability” in disability. Kids of all abilities are regularly popping up in chain store advertising. Social media platforms allow many more voices to be heard. My kid doesn’t have to look far to see people like her living life well.
There’s lots of good stuff going on for people with CP (in amongst the crazy everyday juggle) that I can recognise when I pause and reflect. It may be pertinent to remember that people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities were routinely institutionalised until only 20-30 years ago. That is a big shift in attitude in my lifetime. The world is not perfect for my girl and the extra challenges she has but it is perfect-er.
Sport is not really my thing. I take a passing interest but participated only when I had to at school. I acknowledge that many people are passionate about it but sometimes I feel saddened that a person who can run really fast gets more recognition than one who has to use all their willpower and effort to communicate their thoughts and share their ideas. It seems unbalanced and unfair. They both work so hard to achieve their goals. Still, such kudos for physical skills is harder to swallow now I have a child with Cerebral Palsy. This week though the weight seems to be more evenly placed.
I have watched some of the Commonwealth Games and, like many of my unsporty compatriots, have jumped on the Aussie bandwagon. It seems to be a friendlier competition than the Olympics. Even more so when I saw an unexpected event…para-swimming. Para-sports are at the Games. Not afterwards, not separate, not a “demonstration” as per the Olympics but a part of the action. How fabulous. Better still the medals earned are included in their national tally. And so they should.
Apparently I haven’t been paying attention because this is the fourth Commonwealth Games at which para-athletes have been included. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if the Olympics could follow suit? The practicalities of two such big events merging to one may be too challenging…but hoping for it is a good start. Cerebral Palsy Awareness Week began Monday here in Australia so I’m pleased to be feeling hopeful. Pleased that such a public event is modelling inclusion and acceptance and celebrating the capabilities of our top athletes (even in my capacity as a self-confessed non-sporty person). My hope for my own child and her friends this week is recognition of their capabilities. Isn’t that what we all want? To be recognised for abilities rather than the lack of them? Some champions swim and some switch. I am inspired by a young man who is paving the way in assistive technology…check out his story.
The future looks bright. Aussie Aussie….oi oi oi.