Don’t Dis My Ability on International Disability Day


Donna Purcell with Hetty  Donna Purcell with her guide dog Hetty

Last week we mused about sympathy vs empathy and switching to a focus on a person’s ability rather than their disability. Today is International Disability Day and a strong theme of recognition of achievement and potential was campaigned by Don’t Dis My Ability.    
The defining theme for Don’t Dis My Ability reinforces the push to redefine how the community interacts with people who are living with a disability  by first and foremost looking at what the ability is: skill sets, experience and ambitions rather than where they are hindered.    
Donna Purcell is the face of this year’s campaign and one 19 ambassadors whose occupations range from stand-up comedians,  musicians, performance and visual artists, athletes, social workers, students to corporate executives. The great connecting factor within the selected ambassadors is both a refusal to be defined or confined by their disability, marking out and achieving goals and a desire to help others.    
As the face of the Don’t Dis My Ability Donna Purcell is an example of the power of persistence and goal setting. Donna talks about the resilience she developed as a result of having as a young girl, to stay in Sydney away from her country based family  for extended periods of time in order to receive medical treatment for her eye deteriorating condition. This strength of character has led Donna through a varied and successful career.    
She has made brave moves, including the move to work outside of the disability industry because she felt she could more effectively advocate for people living with a disability from outside that world. She is now the Diversity Manager at Commonwealth Bank, supporting the career goals of others.    
Everyone should hop on the Don’t Dis My Ability link below and find out more about people who are really busy living and excelling.

Empathy Vs Sympathy and The Other Superman

The Other SupermanTake look at what is actually happening….

Swinging from  a highwire and scaling 50 metre silk ropes with your bare hands while carrying the weight of a wheelchair is not a feat that most people would be able to contemplate. Let alone achieve. So it’s no wonder that Paul Nunnari, Paralympian and aerial artist aka The Other Superman actively discourages pity or sympathy. Although warmly appreciative of the good intentions of these “ity” athy” bearers, he suggests empathy as more appropriate and to focus on the ability over the disability.

This approach encourages seeing first the other person rather than their disability, what they are doing rather than how they are hindered and perhaps what is common rather different. When considering what I share with Nunnari I sadly admit it certainly isn’t steely commitment or achievement of my highest goals…..

When Paul was asked by Peter Greco on 5RPH’s Leisure Link what he had gained from the Australia’s Got Talent experience he said it was the opportunity to change the focus to a person’s ability over their disability and to get the message out there that no matter what happens to you in life you can get up and achieve your goals if you set your mind to it. 

Nunnari crash landed towards the end of his grand final performance – after various aerial activities included spinning from his neck. In typical form he viewed the accident as an opportunity to show not only his character in getting back up and continuing the show but to illustrate what people with disability do day in and day out. Simply getting up and getting on, take a moment to think about that.

His message is salient for all of us living with or without a disability and crosses more issues than is possible to address in a single blog. Just one thought; thinking about where we connect rather than where we don’t leads us to what we can learn from each other. Looking at Paul Nunnari  we can learn that it is possible to achieve what we might fear is unachievable and the great value in simply doing.