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For Gold Coast man, Zac Kimber, this year’s Disability Action Week (11-17 September) theme - Inclusion: it's a game changer – couldn’t be more apt, as he prepares for the 2016 Special Olympics Trans Tasman Tournament.
The athletic all-rounder’s mum, Tanya, says that disability can make for ‘a lonely life’, but that sport and employment have made a huge difference for the 27 year old.
“When he was younger he existed in almost total seclusion – separate from everyone and everything. He did have support from specialists and teachers at primary school and high school, it was just that there was nowhere he could fit in with the other students and, as he got older, it got harder and harder and the gap got wider. His peers couldn’t relate or understand and that’s not their fault - helping Zac was huge learning curve for me too. It can be a lonely life for people with a disability.
“Zac wants to be just like everyone else. He knows his limitations, but he wants to be included in life – to be treated just like everyone else.
“I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”
For Zac, work and sport have been literal ‘game changers’ in his life.
“Swimming has been good for me and I like doing it. I’ve met lots of people – even Ian Thorpe. I like running too, but my dream is to swim in the Olympics.”
With an impressive medal count to his credit, Zac will be taking on the 1500m Freestyle, 200m Freestyle and 100m Fly, as well as relay races, in the November tournament.
Having started swimming in 2003, Zac’s mum says that, at that time, he could swim, but ‘not particularly well’.
“He wasn’t always sporty, but he joined the Gold Coast Rec and Sport and they introduced him to all these activities. He got better and better at them, grew in confidence and then started to compete.”
Zac was picked for the Special Olympics Junior Nationals in soccer, and it was suggested that he should find another sport to compete in as well.
“His sports master at school – who was absolutely fantastic – gave him additional lessons. Before long he was picked for the Special Olympics Nationals as well qualifying for the mainstream multi-class events at Nationals. This was a huge achievement for him,” Tanya said.
“He recently went to Melbourne, having been picked to play with the AFL Inclusion Team for the third year. That, in itself, is an amazing opportunity – getting to play at half time during the main game makes the team feel really part of the whole experience. Included, rather than on the sidelines – literally.”
Work is another area where Zac has found his niche. A supported employee at Endeavour Foundation’s Southport site, he assists in recycling electronic waste.
“I’ve been there ten years – I like getting up and going to work. Earning a wage.
“They’re nice. They like to help me and I like to help them. I pull apart TVs and things and give a hand to anyone who needs it.”
Endeavour Foundation South East Queensland Area Committee Chair Bernie Scobie OAM, said that we all have a part to play in building a community and a nation that respects difference.
“True and lasting change must come from the grassroots. Each and every one of us can play a part in building a more inclusive and disability friendly community, by removing barriers and changing the way we think, talk and act.
“At home, over a coffee, at the pub, in church or at work there are opportunities to build acceptance and challenge discrimination.
“We need to think about how we can improve access within communities, combat isolation and ensure that the opportunities many people take for granted are available to people with a disability.”
To find out more about Endeavour Foundation, visit www.endeavour.com.au .