South Coast Register

International Day of People with a DisabilityAdvertising Feature

Getting involved in sports and recreation builds confidence and friendshipAdvertising Feature

Sport is an avenue for building confidence and growing social connections within your community. Picture Shutterstock
Sport is an avenue for building confidence and growing social connections within your community. Picture Shutterstock

Confidence, new friends, and fun - involvement in sports can open a world of enjoyment and new possibilities.

Not only does it benefit our physical health, it boosts our wellbeing and helps enhance a positive sense of self.

It's no wonder, then, that 75 per cent of Australians with disability want to take part in more sports or active recreation.

Through Disability Sports Australia's national Abilities Unleashed program, children as young as five and adults above 18 have the opportunity to get active in their local communities.

"We had 70 events scheduled across the country, and we've already had over 5000 participants come through the program this year," Abilities Unleashed national program manager Kristy Rohrer said.

In partnership with local councils and the State Sporting Organisation, Abilities Unleashed events allow people living with disability to try new sports.

"We have a heavy focus on ensuring that the sports delivered are by local providers, so we're creating a pathway from the day into community sport for our participants," Ms Rohrer said.

Creating an environment where people come along, try different sports, and feel safe and connected with the other participants, is really important.

- Kristy Rohrer, Disability Sports Australia

Sports include anything from AFL and NRL to netball, tennis, baseball, cricket, badminton, golf, basketball, bowls, and beyond.

"If a community doesn't have a club that feels like it can be inclusive, the State Sporting Organisation can attend with them and up-skill them so that they can be more confident in terms of delivering inclusive programs at their own clubs," Ms Rohrer said.

Building confidence

Ms Rohrer said the program provides a space for people who don't always get the opportunity to participate in sports and recreation activities.

"One of the main barriers to people with disability participating in sport is actually their own confidence levels," she said.

"Creating an environment where people come along, try different sports, and feel safe and connected with the other participants is really important. It's a huge benefit for them going forward."

Socially, participants create friendships and greater connections within their own community that extend well beyond their involvement on the day.

"Not only with their peers who are there participating with them but also with sports providers and local NDIS organisations," Ms Rohrer said.

Where and when an Abilities Unleashed event occurs is dependent on council and community engagement. If you're keen to participate, visit sports.org.au to register your interest or suggest that Abilities Unleashed come to your region. Programs run across all Australian states and territories.

Solutions to enable mobility in people living with disabilityAdvertising Feature

David Jones, one of X-Tremity's certified prosthetists and orthotists, at the Nowra clinic. Picture supplied
David Jones, one of X-Tremity's certified prosthetists and orthotists, at the Nowra clinic. Picture supplied

By harnessing recent advancements in technology, science and engineering, X-Tremity Prosthetics and Orthotics works to create smarter, better mobility aids for people with disability.

From joint braces and orthotic devices, to full upper and lower-limb prosthetics, bionic hands, knees and more, X-Tremity has been changing the game since Director Jens Baufeldt founded the company in 2017.

Andy Sands, chief operating officer, said they are inspired by the philosophy that the limitation of a limb's function should not result in the loss of one's passions, hobbies, and independence.

"When we create our devices, each of these personal characteristics are considered so that our products go with the wearer throughout life's journey, instead of limiting where their life's journey goes," Mr Sands said.

"In our modern age, with the incredible advancement of medical knowledge, technologies and manufacturing methods and materials, we've achieved some astounding results for our clients."

X-Tremity's methods are guided by Mr Baufeldt's innovative spirit and desire for excellence, traits which Mr Sands says make him widely respected in the industry.

"He cares for his clients like no other and his commitment to doing the job right has gained him a great deal of trust in his circles and allowed the company to grow significantly.

"Our focus has been, and will always be, our customers. When we're entrusted to give them the gift of mobility and independence, we do so with great honour," Mr Sands said.

This International People with Disability Day, X-Tremity celebrates the achievements, contributions, and resilience of each individual with disability, as opposed to focusing on what they are physically capable of.

"We strongly believe that a person's level of ability has absolutely no relevance to their value, what they have to give, and how they can influence those around them. This day is important to everyone as it highlights the fact that those living with a disability should be celebrated just as much as those around them without disability," Mr Sands said.

X-Tremity is NDIS, DVA and EnableNSW registered and has supported hundreds of people across Queensland, NSW, ACT and Victoria.

"Many clients are surprised to discover how easy and affordable it is to have their orthotic or prosthetic needs reassessed, and an updated device created to suit their current needs," Mr Sands said.

"We get so much joy from the stories of our clients. To hear about the hurdles they've overcome, the goals they've reached, and the way they simply refuse to give up, inspires us every day."

This international day aims to make the world better and fairerAdvertising Feature

One in six Australians - or 4.4 million people are living with disability. Picture Shutterstock
One in six Australians - or 4.4 million people are living with disability. Picture Shutterstock

On December 3, International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) will highlight the diverse talents of people with disability across the country.

This year, 11 official ambassadors have been named the public faces and voices for IDPwD.

Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth said this year's group of Ambassadors is the largest to date and reflects not just the diversity but the intersectionality of disability in Australia.

They are already challenging stereotypes and changing society's attitudes towards disability.

"International Day of People with Disability offers the opportunity to raise the profile of people with disability, and this year, the Albanese government is welcoming a record number of ambassadors from all walks of life to share their stories," Minister Rishworth said.

"From filmmakers and writers to lawyers, actors, and athletes, our Ambassadors will play an important role in demonstrating the strengths and intersecting experiences of people with disability.

"By accepting the invitation to become Ambassadors, these 11 Australians are not just making disability more visible in the community, but providing positive and honest representations of people with disability."

Ben defies early odds with courage and determination

For Ben*, growing up was painful, literally.

The diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the age of two started him on a difficult path of hospital stays and bed-ridden days. This lasted for most of his childhood and a lot of his adolescence.

It all began with excruciating pain from a swollen elbow and knee. Within 12 months, the disease had spread through his whole body, from his jaw to his little toes.

At age four, while taking massive doses of aspirin and steroids, Ben had a curious conversation with his mother after an appointment with a rheumatologist.

"She said that the rheumatologist felt that by the time I was five, I would probably be in a wheelchair and unlikely to get out of the wheelchair after that, which was not great news," he said.

"And then Mum said, 'He also said that it's unlikely that you're going to live past your 10th birthday'.

"That was mainly due to the drugs - that wasn't due to the disease itself.

"Juvenile arthritis is not necessarily life-threatening in most circumstances."

Ben not only made it past his 10th birthday and got out of his wheelchair; he is now in his early 50s and has packed in a lot between then and now.

As a proud family man, radio announcer, consumer advocate, West Australian Football League Colts coach and avid golfer, Ben has defied all expectations of those early days. He credits starting exercise with a physiotherapist at age 12 for a major turnaround. "She helped us design a program that specifically worked on my core strength, hips, and knees," Ben said.

"I was able to get out of the wheelchair and walk, and I managed to get back on my feet and be able to walk at school, unaided, which was really quite wonderful.

"It felt good to prove the experts wrong.

"At the time, it was the greatest achievement in my life; I was so wrapped to gain that independence, which I still value most highly today.

"My brother and my sister were champion swimmers back in the day, and they had trophies and ribbons all over their rooms, and we were all obviously very proud of them.

"I knew that I wouldn't ever get a trophy or a ribbon for anything, but my mum decided that this was worthy of a trophy, so she went out and bought me one.

"She had it engraved for courage and determination in being able to walk, and I've still got it on my shelf here."

While still having ups and downs since, Ben said the disease has been in remission for many years now, but as far as the future goes, he takes every day as it comes.

*Last name withheld for privacy.