Suc­cess in sight

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By DANIELLE STREET

A YOUNG wheel­chair user is out to take the broad­cast­ing world by storm.

Olivia Shivas was born with mus­cu­lar dys­tro­phy, but isn’t let­ting it get in the way of her mis­sion to in­crease the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of dis­abled peo­ple in the me­dia.

‘‘Since I was young I wanted to be a news pre­sen­ter,’’ the 20-year-old says.

‘‘It’s now about want­ing to be a role model and be­ing seen as a per­son with a dis­abil­ity who can have an ex­cit­ing job that peo­ple would as­sume I couldn’t have.’’

The Pt Che­va­lier res­i­dent is well on the way to achiev­ing her goal. She is study­ing broad­cast jour­nal­ism at Auck­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy.

She knew she wanted to study com­mu­ni­ca­tions dur­ing her fi­nal year of high school but was afraid to leave her com­fort zone.

‘‘I was the one that lim­ited my­self at first. I thought I might have to do a cor­re­spon­dence course be­cause it’s eas­ier,’’ she says.

‘‘But my par­ents, physio and teach­ers were the ones who told me not to go for the easy op­tion.’’

Miss Shivas’ con­di­tion means all the mus­cles in her body are weaker than av­er­age.

The big­gest is­sue she con­sis­tently faces is ac­ces­si­bil­ity. Get­ting around phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers like stairs is tricky.

How­ever af­ter some re­search she found it would be pos­si­ble to go to the school of­fer­ing her de­gree of choice.

‘‘Grow­ing up I never saw any­one with a dis­abil­ity on TV, or just in the me­dia in gen­eral, so I thought it would be re­ally cool to be a role model for young girls,’’ she says.

‘‘Grow­ing up as a girl you have so many in­se­cu­ri­ties, but when you have a dis­abil­ity it is an added in­se­cur- ity. That is some­thing like to change.’’

Miss Shivas’ con­di­tion is hered­i­tary and her fa­ther and brother also live with mus­cu­lar dys­tro­phy. But she is the only wheel­chair user.

‘‘In a way it was good be­ing brought up in a fam­ily with dis­abil­ity be­cause I didn’t feel so iso­lated and we could un­der­stand each other. I think that has al­ways en­cour­aged me.’’

Her can-do spirit is what has seen Miss Shivas se­lected as a fi­nal­ist in the youth

I’d cat­e­gory of the 2013 At­ti­tude Awards.

The na­tional awards cel­e­brate the ex­cel­lence and achieve­ments of Ki­wis liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties.

Miss Shivas was nom­i­nated for the award by StarJam, a non-profit group that gives dis­abled chil­dren an op­por­tu­nity to per­form on stage.

She has been a StarJam mem­ber for about nine years.

‘‘Find­ing out about the award felt weird, be­cause I know about the At­ti­tude Awards, and I feel like all th­ese peo­ple are just so in­cred­i­ble,’’ she says.

‘‘I just felt hon­oured in a way.’’

Photo: DANIELLE STREET

Rolling suc­cess: Olivia Shivas has been se­lected as a fi­nal­ist in the Youth cat­e­gory at the 2013 At­ti­tude Awards.

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