Chairperson of the Victorian Disability Advisory Council, Dr George Taleporos, speaks out after Paralympian and Australian of the Year, Dylan Alcott, in his acceptance speech, described his disability as “the best thing” that has happened to him.
Dylan Alcott, made history on Tuesday, in becoming the first person with a visible disability to ever receive the Australian of the Year award, as a recognition for both his sport and his disability awareness work.
“Dylan is an amazing athlete, an entrepreneur and a great public speaker. He deserves this – no doubt about it!” Dr Taleporos says in his post.
However Mr Alcott’s comments about loving his disability in his acceptance speech, did not sit well with the Greek Australian advocate for the disabled, who feels that such statements do not reflect the experience of a large number of people living with a disability, like himself.
Because he himself, like so many others, are not “in love” with their disability, Dr George Taleporos wonders what the “heartwarming” comments made by Australian of the Year, Dylan Alcott might mean in the next 12 months.
Will the fact that he, and others, who don’t love their disability make them less evolved in their disability journey? Dr Taleporos wonders.
“Does it mean that I am yet to reach my ultimate destiny of fully embracing and celebrating my disability? Some may presume so.”
But no, Dr Taleporos states.
“It reflects the severity of my disability and the fact that my disability makes my life really hard. Depending on others for the most basic things. Struggling to eat, drink and breathe is no picnic. Neither is the pain of extreme scoliosis that I experience on a daily basis.
I don’t want sympathy. I want people to understand that we can’t all “love our disability”. For me, there’s really not a lot to love. I hate it and always will.
Hating my disability doesn’t mean that I hate my life. I love my life and I feel proud of what I have achieved and of the work that I do. I feel proud of and love the disability community that I belong to.
So as we spend the next 12 months listening to Dylan and his inspiring, “feel good” story, don’t forget that there are many other stories that might not be quite as heartwarming but that represent the daily reality of disability in its many forms. We can’t all love our disability. We don’t have to.
But what we all need to do is work towards a society where accessibility and inclusion are front and centre of social policy so that there is more to love and less to hate about being disabled.”