Even minor health problems, like a finger cut or a workout-induced strained muscle, make us immediately think about our disability. We assume it will affect our habitual actions, so we focus all of our attention on the thought of how to overcome the injury, disease, or trauma as soon as possible.
Do we ever think how it feels to born with disability? Or, if by terrible fate, there is no chance within your lifetime that science will find a solution for you to become healthy again? This lifelong challenge can’t be compared to any problem we freak out about everyday – this is something requiring wisdom and incredible strength of mind to survive and, moreover, be happy. Despite the challenges, some people with disabilities find inner strength to be stronger than even the healthy people, and make their life a real success.
Coming to the U.S. I was impressed with the infrastructure suggesting equal access to transportation, administrative, medical, educative and shopping facilities, houses and places of entertainment for all people disregarding their physical condition. This makes the life of any person going through health problems easier and does not cause any sort of isolation from society. However, in my home country it doesn’t look the same way.
Cities in Ukraine were constructed many centuries ago and the bulk of facilities and transportation have been created in the XX century when nobody thought about accessibility requirements. Stairs and curbs appear to be a huge obstacle for many people in wheelchairs; making them imprisoned in their apartments. They can’t be self-sufficient and become dependent and vulnerable like small kids. Pharmacy, school, university, bus, supermarket – a majority of these facilities are hostile to people with disabilities.
It generates intolerance in society because you don’t see people on the streets in wheelchairs or kids with mental problems studying at public schools, and consequently this problem becomes invisible to the country, and every new generation grows intolerant and careless to people with disabilities.
However, there’s an interesting paradox in this. In 2016 at the Paralympic Games in Rio, Ukraine ranked 3rd with 92 medals, 27 of them gold. Just imagine this!
Overall medal table at the end of day six at the #Rio2016 #Paralympics pic.twitter.com/iPqm997Pkh
— Paralympic Games (@Paralympics) September 14, 2016
For the country, that literally doesn’t recognize these people, strong and powerful Ukrainian athletes with disabilities did everything possible to make a breakthrough in global sports. This became possible due to the unique system of sports schools for children with disabilities. These can be found in all regions of Ukraine, where they get the best training even without sufficient funding. These schools function as rehabilitation centers where kids can ease their disease. Furthermore, if they show athletic potential, well-trained supervisors who are committed to their important mission, will engage them to practice sports and provide special methods of physical and psychological training.
This specialized training births champions and strong personalities.
The Paralympics Games are so important for humanity because they show the power of every person and prove that impossible is nothing. Champions with disabilities are much stronger than average sportsmen because they have to go through an everyday battle with a disease and keep training to be stronger physically and mentally. Sometimes fate can be cruel to each of us, but we must decide for ourselves if we should give up or keep struggling for success and recognition.
I’m proud for the accomplishments of the Paralympic sportsmen from my country because they show the world and, what’s more important, the citizens of Ukraine that people with disabilities exist and they are worthy of the best treatment and support. I hope the sports community will advocate for legal support and infrastructure changes in the cities of Ukraine so that people with disabilities have the opportunity to live a normal life. It is a personality inside, not the physical embodiment, which makes us equal and identifies if we find happiness and joy in our life.