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Paralympian Don Elgin hopes people with disability can get on society's radar during International Day of People With Disability

International Day of People With Disability is the time to start conversations about society's attitude to disabled community.
Paralympian Don Elgin wants International Day of People With Disability to spark conversation. He said the day is a chance for people with a disability to get on society's radar. "It's ridiculously important," he said. "My advise is stuff being scared about the conversation. Have it. If you offend someone or go somewhere you don't intend to, apologise and work through it but have that conversation. "Society goes at a rapid pace, so a day like this gives people a chance to stop and look at what other people are doing (and) have those conversations or meetings and ask how people with disabilities are interacting with us, what impact are we having." Read more: Mr Elgin said about 10 per cent the Australian population - or one in 10 people - live with a disability. He said International Day of People With Disability was a chance to bring that 10th person into the spotlight. "The fact that in your network, one in 10 of people you know probably have disability - that is staggering," he said. "Sometimes we focus on that nine because the 10th person is out of sight. But a day like this brings that person right into focus. And that's bloody awesome." Mr Elgin was born at Donald and grew up in Tocumwal, NSW. He was born without a left leg and thumb and had his malformed left foot amputated at a young age. He said his positive attitude had helped him lead a good life that now sees him in the role as head of Wallara Online, which provide learning programs to people with a disability. "Usually, I have had a positive outlook but you have ups and downs and times where you ask 'how do I cope with this?'," he said. "But by and large, I have had a good life and I see my role now as an opportunity to share that with other people. "What we have found is most attractive part of the Wallara Online program is the accessibility. It can be done from anywhere in Australia. As kid growing up in the bush, this would have set me on my path earlier. Even though my path to the paralympics kicked in reasonably early, this would have been opening possibilities up. "If someone's sphere of influence is quite small, that's where the thinking stops. So what is awesome about this online program is that opens people's level of thinking so people can see outside the box and see what's happening." Mr Elgin competed at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Paralympic Games and won four medals including a bronze in the men's P44 pentathlon in Syndey and Athens, a silver in the mens 4x400m T42-46 relay in Athens and a bronze in the men's 4x100m T42-46 relay at Athens. He said his secret to motivation was using his natural positivity as a way to focus on his goals. Read more: "The key is having gratitude for fact that I have got one good leg," he said. "Yeah, I'm missing half (of my other) but my focus goes to the positive every opportunity it can. "When I find myself not focusing on positives, that's when I give myself that uppercut and say 'what else do I want to do?'. "The thing that was missing for me at Tocumwal was role models I could connect with. I connected with AFL footballers and Olympians because that's what I saw. When got chance to go to the Paralympics and see people with leg amputations it was 'wow, this is that level playing field'." Mr Elgin said he has always been drawing to elite level athletes after watching the Olympics on television as a child. "I loved concept of being best you can be," he said. "When I was asked how I would feel representing Australia at sport, I just thought 'it would be bloody amazing!' That was the bit that grabbed me. "The people that get most out of life are the people that know why they want to get out of bed. As a paralympic athlete, I was really clear on my goals and knew every four years I would have a chance to be one of the best athletes in the world. "As soon as you are clear on what drives you as a person, life is easy." Mr Elgin was in Bendigo on Thursday for the Ready Set Connect Event to speak about the Wallara Online program that launched in March last year. "It's honestly a game changer. We are seeing people who were locked down at home through COVID and found that when we created an online program, people would stay connected and were able to bridge the gap of the learning they were missing out on. "We took the feedback and found out what else people want to do. Even down to something like how to put make up on. I had a 23-year-old woman with down syndrome say 'Don, I just want to learn how to put my make up on'. We help with that. We're not governed by a curriculum other than what people want. "The disability sector is growing at an enormous rate but what is awesome about is has people (are asking) what else can we do and not resting on what has been done in the past. That appetite for change and willingness to listen to people is why programs like Wallara are flying." Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:

Paralympian Don Elgin wants International Day of People With Disability to spark conversation.

He said the day is a chance for people with a disability to get on society's radar.

"It's ridiculously important," he said. "My advise is stuff being scared about the conversation. Have it. If you offend someone or go somewhere you don't intend to, apologise and work through it but have that conversation.

"Society goes at a rapid pace, so a day like this gives people a chance to stop and look at what other people are doing (and) have those conversations or meetings and ask how people with disabilities are interacting with us, what impact are we having."

Read more:

Mr Elgin said about 10 per cent the Australian population - or one in 10 people - live with a disability. He said International Day of People With Disability was a chance to bring that 10th person into the spotlight.

"The fact that in your network, one in 10 of people you know probably have disability - that is staggering," he said. "Sometimes we focus on that nine because the 10th person is out of sight. But a day like this brings that person right into focus. And that's bloody awesome."

Mr Elgin was born at Donald and grew up in Tocumwal, NSW. He was born without a left leg and thumb and had his malformed left foot amputated at a young age.

He said his positive attitude had helped him lead a good life that now sees him in the role as head of Wallara Online, which provide learning programs to people with a disability.

"Usually, I have had a positive outlook but you have ups and downs and times where you ask 'how do I cope with this?'," he said. "But by and large, I have had a good life and I see my role now as an opportunity to share that with other people.

Paralympian Don Elgin hopes people with disability can get on society's radar during International Day of People With Disability. Picture: CHRIS PEDLER

Paralympian Don Elgin hopes people with disability can get on society's radar during International Day of People With Disability. Picture: CHRIS PEDLER

"What we have found is most attractive part of the Wallara Online program is the accessibility. It can be done from anywhere in Australia. As kid growing up in the bush, this would have set me on my path earlier. Even though my path to the paralympics kicked in reasonably early, this would have been opening possibilities up.

"If someone's sphere of influence is quite small, that's where the thinking stops. So what is awesome about this online program is that opens people's level of thinking so people can see outside the box and see what's happening."

Mr Elgin competed at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Paralympic Games and won four medals including a bronze in the men's P44 pentathlon in Syndey and Athens, a silver in the mens 4x400m T42-46 relay in Athens and a bronze in the men's 4x100m T42-46 relay at Athens.

He said his secret to motivation was using his natural positivity as a way to focus on his goals.

Read more:

"The key is having gratitude for fact that I have got one good leg," he said. "Yeah, I'm missing half (of my other) but my focus goes to the positive every opportunity it can.

"When I find myself not focusing on positives, that's when I give myself that uppercut and say 'what else do I want to do?'.

"The thing that was missing for me at Tocumwal was role models I could connect with. I connected with AFL footballers and Olympians because that's what I saw. When got chance to go to the Paralympics and see people with leg amputations it was 'wow, this is that level playing field'."

Mr Elgin said he has always been drawing to elite level athletes after watching the Olympics on television as a child.

"I loved concept of being best you can be," he said. "When I was asked how I would feel representing Australia at sport, I just thought 'it would be bloody amazing!' That was the bit that grabbed me.

"The people that get most out of life are the people that know why they want to get out of bed. As a paralympic athlete, I was really clear on my goals and knew every four years I would have a chance to be one of the best athletes in the world.

"As soon as you are clear on what drives you as a person, life is easy."

Mr Elgin was in Bendigo on Thursday for the Ready Set Connect Event to speak about the Wallara Online program that launched in March last year.

"It's honestly a game changer. We are seeing people who were locked down at home through COVID and found that when we created an online program, people would stay connected and were able to bridge the gap of the learning they were missing out on.

"We took the feedback and found out what else people want to do. Even down to something like how to put make up on. I had a 23-year-old woman with down syndrome say 'Don, I just want to learn how to put my make up on'. We help with that. We're not governed by a curriculum other than what people want.

"The disability sector is growing at an enormous rate but what is awesome about is has people (are asking) what else can we do and not resting on what has been done in the past. That appetite for change and willingness to listen to people is why programs like Wallara are flying."

Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:

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