By: Laura Bennett
Born at 25 weeks, Australian Paralympic swimmer Matt Levy OAM had a tough start to life.
His premature birth caused a cerebral hemorrhage that led to cerebral palsy and legal blindness, seeing Matt undergo 30 brain operations in the following years and receive training to walk, talk and balance cohesively.
Matt, however, went on to become a multi-medalist in the pool, winning nine gold, six silver and 11 bronze medals across five Games inspiring others with his story through his Success Framework Mentoring Program, Pathway Scholarship and books like his latest, Going the Distance.
Matt wants to see people embrace people with a disability without a consciousness of their limitations, so society can get to a place where disability doesn’t have to be singled out for acknowledgement.
“People with a disability should just be assimilated into normal society,” Matt said.
“Making days like World Disability Day obsolete.
“That’s when we as a society can get to a state of normality and a state of growth, when we don’t have days like World Disability Day once a year every year. [Instead] disability is celebrated every day.”
The Paralympics were one of the first places Matt witnessed people with a disability being themselves without hinderance, which he’d like to see in the mainstream.
“Everyone was able to be themselves and [weren’t] afraid to be who they are,” Matt said.
“In society, sometimes you have to ask for help: there might not be a ramp, there might not be accessibility to know where to go or how to get to places.
“At the Paralympics, everyone is different for different reasons, but [you have] the freedom to do what you can do, and what you want to do, without having to ask for help.”
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare more than 4 million Australians – or 18% of the population – have a disability and for 1 in 3 of those people it’s severe or profound.
While it’s important we understand the challenges disability can present, Matt believes it’s more important we understand the full scope of someone’s ability beyond their perceived limitations.
“A lot of times in life we take things at face value [without] understanding who someone is and what they can do,” Matt said.
“It’s really important to not just see what they can’t do, but the ability in what they can do [which] is the biggest thing I learned from the Paralympic Games – disability doesn’t define [us].”
Matt Levy’s book Going the Distance is out now.
Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.
Feature image: Supplied
About the Author: Laura Bennett is a media professional, broadcaster and writer from Sydney, Australia.