PARALYMPIAN Tracy Barrell takes issue with the word disability.
Ms Barrell was born without legs and one arm, but don’t dare feel sorry for her.
She feels her life is as normal as any other being that she is a mother of two sons, has a career and, on top of that, won two gold medals at the Paralympics in Barcelona in 1992.
Ms Barrell said she was a fan of the word “disability” as it implied there was something “wrong” with a person. Instead, she prefers to use the term “person or people with a difference.”
Ms Barrell was in Leeton as part of the Festival of Audacious Ideas where she spoke about her life, achievements and her Indigenous heritage.
“I do like to bring some humour to my situation … a lot of people see me visually and freak out thinking ‘oh my God, it can’t get any worse’,” she said.
“But then I tell the story of meeting a person with no arms and no legs, so it does get worse. It is a double edged sword sometimes for me, blessings and not so many blessings, but that’s all part of my story.
“I want to bring a personality to someone’s difference. I’m not big on the word ‘disabled’… disabled is such a disempowering word.
“As soon as you hear the word people automatically think inability and thinks that you can’t do. So when someone says ‘the disabled toilets are over there, I say ‘oh well do you have one that works? It must be broken’.”
Ms Barrell shared her story as part of the festival at the Roxy Theatre on Thursday night.
She was looking forward to checking out Leeton during her brief visit.
Ms Barrell said people’s attitude’s wasn’t something that affected her anymore, but she would appreciate more members of society educating those around them.
“I’m 43 now, so I’m a bit over it,” she said.
“The hardest part is I really don’t appreciate when people see me when they are with their children and don’t explain why I’m different … they shun and turn their children away like it’s a big secret and taboo.
“The kids don’t understand, so when they see another person with a difference they are going to act uncomfortably, so that’s something everyone can be doing in terms of changing perception from a young age.”
Ms Barrell is also a big advocate for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, but said more could still be done.
Her presentation at the Roxy “One Arm, One Skateboard, One Me” was well received in Leeton.