This week Dylan Alcott became the first wheelchair athlete in history to win the Newcombe Medal, the highest individual award in Australian tennis.
The award capped off an impressive year for the 25 year old, which included winning his third Paralympic Games gold medal – from two sports – and an Australian Open triumph.
But perhaps what’s more important – is the potential for the award, and Dylan’s rising profile, to help break down the stigma around disability in Australia.
Around 4 and half million Australians have a disability
Speaking at Medibank place today, Dylan said that around 4 and half million people in Australia have a disability—either intellectual or physical. So it’s important for us all to help break down the stigma around disability.
“Disability is not sexy and that sucks. No one really wants to talk about it, which is hard. But around 20% of the population are disabled. Around 1 in 5 Australians.”
Dylan, who has been in a wheel chair his whole life, also said it’s important for everyone to treat people with a disability as normal as possible.
“The biggest thing is, just be as normal as possible. Try and make (people with a disability) feel as comfortable as possible. And remember all disabled people are different—they might want you to help them, they might not—but just ask,” he said.
Advice for young people with a disability
Despite tasting success at an early age – Dylan won his first gold medal playing basketball when he was just 17— the Paralympian said his school days were tough.
“I had a really tough time when I was at school,” said Dylan. “I was really embarrassed about the fact that I had a disability when I was about 13 to 15 years old. And people called me cripple. It was kids just being kids. But it hurts. And it’s hard.”
“You’ve just got to hustle through it. There might be some ups and downs but the quicker you can find your niche, the better life will be.”
International Day of People with Disability is celebrated on 3 December each year. It is a day to celebrate the many contributions people with disability make to our community.
Getting involved in celebrations for this UN sanctioned day is a chance to challenge myths, improve awareness and take positive action to change inclusion and accessibility for people with disability.