Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Story of Jason Ballerini

I have a real treat for the readers of this blog today. I was lucky enough to get a contribution from Jason Ballerini who is an inspiration and prime example of a strong person with a disability. Let him represent all those who are feeling like the challenge is too much. I think that his story really represents the common saying that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. He is truly fabulous and I am very happy to share with you his story!

Jason Ballerini

As a fit, active 16yr old, with my life ahead of me, social work or having a career in the disability sector were the last things on my mind. After a diving accident in 1996 left me a quadriplegic, not only did I lose the ability to walk, I felt as though all my options, dreams and aspirations washed away down that creek as well.

It was not long into my rehabilitation that I began to feel this passion inside of my stomach, the passion to overcome the social attitudes and barriers I was now facing. From that day on it was my mission to never let anything stop me from achieving what I wanted. Although motivated to achieve, I was still uncertain in what? It wasn’t until the last month of my rehab, my rehab lasted 4 months when I was told I’d be there for 8-10, that I realised a lot of the other patients were coming to me for advice, a chat or for guidance and hope. It was then I realised that social work, in particular, the disability sector was my calling.

After completing a bachelor of Social Work, I began working in the Disability Advocacy field. Through my experience, study and work I have had the opportunity to gain an understanding of the demands on the disability sector, but also to advance the rights of people with disabilities in our community. In trying to set an example that we are only limited by our own imagination and that the possibilities are endless to those who work hard to achieve their dreams.

Often we see people with disability who attempt to "pass" in the non- disabled world, who want nothing to do with disability groups, especially consumer-run groups. Of course people who have invisible disabilities are more able to hide their disabilities, if they choose to do so. It's a bit ridiculous for a wheelchair user like myself to consider hiding the fact.

But it leads me to wonder why I would want to. Why wouldn't I want people to know that I have a disability, that I accept it as part of who I am and that I am proud of who I am? Why wouldn't I want anyone to know that I confront physical and attitudinal barriers every day of my life and that I identify with strong individuals who are part of the disability rights movement?

I don't hide my disability and I don't "overcome" it either. It's just something I live with. I am not handicapped. Society is handicapped when it shuts out people like me. I am not physically challenged. Tri-athletes and mountain climbers are physically challenged. And I'm certainly no more differently- abled than anyone is from anyone else. No. I just simply have a disability. I don't deny it, or hide it.

Being "seen" as a person with a disability is a conscious choice, whether or not one's disability is visible. For the way others view us is closely connected with the way we view ourselves. Choosing to see disability as a part of who we are and recognise our strengths and abilities, is all part of a process. We need to recognise that having a disability is not a negative thing.

Looking back at the last 14yrs, I can acknowledge has been mighty tough, but it has also been the best 14yrs as well. I have grown so much, and the passion to succeed in this industry is as strong as ever. I have loved every minute of studying and working in this field, and the feeling of helping someone, advocating for change and changing attitudes and policy still drives me to get up every morning and go to work.

1 comment:

  1. I don't mean to be self promotive guys but Jason and I have recieved part of a business nomination for the City of Sydney Business Awards. If anyone could quickly vote it would be greatly appreciated. You can vote no matter where you are and you could win $1,500, simply visit and vote for IDEAS NSW.

    Thank you all.