MP’S COL­UMN

South Waikato News - - NEWS - By LOUISE UPSTON

Ev­ery hour of ev­ery day there is some­one out there achiev­ing some­thing amaz­ing. When a New Zealan­der achieves these great feats we all cel­e­brate the pride that flows out of that in­di­vid­ual and on to their fam­ily, their home town, and of course upon us all as the na­tion who proudly claim own­er­ship of that per­son, that vic­tory.

Cel­e­bra­tions of suc­cess can bring us closer to­gether as a community.

I thought about this over the last few days as news started to come in about the awe­some vic­to­ries of our Olympians who are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Lon­don Par­a­lympics. As a team they have al­ready hauled in an im­pres­sive num­ber of medals, in­clud­ing at my last count 4 gold medals in swim­ming and cy­cling, and I was so proud when I picked up the Do­min­ion Post on Mon­day to read about the great vic­tory of So­phie Pas­coe on the front page of the pa­per. Just to make this an even more su­per Mon­day, was the break­ing news that Nga­puhi swim­mer, Cameron Les­lie, has won gold and set a new world record in the in­di­vid­ual med­ley. Ae Marika!

What was so in­spir­ing to me, was not only read­ing about her suc­cess but also shed­ding light on her jour­ney to­wards pre­par­ing for the games. It gave me great joy to see and hear about her path­way in pur­suit of ex­cel­lence in her sport and also to read about the at­ti­tude that she has taken in life. I thought about how won­der­ful it is that these ath­letes have achieved these great suc­cesses, and yet how amaz­ing it is that most New Zealan­ders did not even know their names and had never heard of them be­fore this week. Many of our Par­a­lympians have over­come huge bar­ri­ers to achieve at an in­ter­na­tional level, and I am not talk­ing about phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties, I am talk­ing about the at­ti­tude and aware­ness amongst our com­mu­ni­ties, the chal­lenges they face ev­ery day in or­der to par­tic­i­pate, to achieve ex­cel­lence and to pur­sue their goals.

I am for­tu­nate in that I get to ex­pe­ri­ence sto­ries such as this as part of my role as Min­is­ter for Dis­abil­i­ties. I love to hear the em­pow­er­ing lan­guage that is used within the dis­abil­ity ser­vices sec­tor, and hav­ing seen and ex­pe­ri­enced this I know that one of the big­gest bar­ri­ers that dis­abled peo­ple face, is not their dis­abil­ity but the bar­ri­ers put up by the so­ci­ety in which they live.

I am very dis­ap­pointed that we are not see­ing more cov­er­age of these games on tele­vi­sion. I think its ab­sence from our screens does show that there is an at­ti­tude held by some peo­ple that these achieve­ments are not as im­por­tant as oth­ers, and that is ter­ri­ble. Un­til we see the suc­cess, value and nor­mal­ity of dis­abled peo­ple our so­ci­ety will not move for­ward to em­brace and ul­ti­mately sup­port the suc­cesses and achieve­ments of us all.

Watch­ing the Par­a­lympics is more than just watch­ing elite sports­peo­ple, it is a cel­e­bra­tion of ev­ery­thing that we should all as­pire to be – happy, healthy, and par­tic­i­pat­ing in life. It is also a re­minder that we can play a role in sup­port­ing the suc­cess of ev­ery­day peo­ple, by be­ing an en­abling so­ci­ety for all.

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