The Art of Advertising by Jan Ditchfield

(This blog post is personal. They are my real thoughts. Mine and mine alone.)

Advertising is the art of making whole lies out of half truths.  ~Edgar A. Shoaff

It stands to reason that coming out of a Paralympic year we’d see an increase in mainstream advertising using persons with disabilities in commercials and print campaigns. This year my feeds were inundated with spots, ads and conversations about equality and mainstream recognition. Working in the world of para, you tend to seek out examples of this and get lost in the belief that if you are seeing it, then everyone must be; positive examples of persons with disabilities. What we tend to forget is that we have knowledge of this industry and the community which the average viewer doesn’t. We’re actively seeking out this information instead of waiting for it to be presented to us. The average viewer isn’t doing the same. We have knowledge on the backgrounds of the talent who have been cast. The average viewer doesn’t. It’s the average viewer that mainstream advertising is targeting, not those of us who are already converted. And when you step outside of our circle and look at the use of persons with a disability in marketing campaigns from that vantage point, you are greeted with a shockingly different perspective. Continue reading

Equality; It’s Empowering by Leona Emberson

This summer I competed in my first season of triathlon. I was registered for my races. I picked up my race kit including my bibs, bike stickers and the appropriate swim cap for my category. Before the race I racked my bike and set up my transition area. After last minute pep talks, I headed to the start line. I swam, I biked, I ran, I finished the race. I received my finisher’s medal. I will even be receiving recognition for the top finisher for the season in my category.

Does this sound “normal” to you? If it does, then you are most likely not a Para Athlete. Continue reading

Pig First Language Please! by Leona Emberson

At a communal breakfast table at a farmers market, I observed a conversation that gave me a chuckle, and later got me thinking. A little girl at the table started to talk about her pet potbelly pig, and how funny he was. In response, a woman told the girl of her childhood pet pig. The woman said her pig was “all white, no pink at all. She was an albino pig”. I put down my coffee, looked towards the two, and resisted the urge to take off my hat, let my white blond hair flow down, and tell the woman to use Pig First Language!

This endearing childhood pet deserved to be remembered for being a pig! A pig who loved to eat apple cores. A pig who rolled in the mud. A pig who had the cutest little Oink. A pig who had albinism. A pig who first and foremost, was a pig! Continue reading

GIVE UP, GIVE IN, OR GIVE IT ALL YOU’VE GOT by Jan Ditchfield

(This blog post is personal. They are my real thoughts. Mine and mine alone.)

Image of Brian Cowie and Jan Ditchfield

With Brian Cowie at 70.3 Worlds in Clearwater 2010.

I have been asked a million times since I began working in my field why I do what I do and why as an able-bodied person I made my career advocating for persons with disabilities. I’ve answered it the same way a million times; “It’s not about me, so it doesn’t really matter why.”

I’ve stuck with that same line for almost ten years now, but more and more I have been thinking about the “why”. Not why I do it or why I started. But why I stay. Continue reading

The Classification of Disability by John Young

Image of John Young exiting the swim at a triathlon.

John Young exiting the swim at the Toronto Triathlon Festival.

As many paratriathletes are aware, paratriathlon will be included in the Paralympics in Rio in 2016.  Already, teams are starting to get ramped-up, and athletes are continuing to train in the hopes of representing their country in 4 years on an international stage.  Triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports in the world as it is one of the only ones where both amateur and professional often race on the same course at the same time.  Like-wise paratriathlon is growing with both athletes who have been physically challenged since birth or childhood along with athletes who became disabled later in life either from an accident, injury during war, or some condition they acquired. Continue reading

My Mentor, My friend, My Inspiration by Leona Emberson

The most significant and impactful vision habilitation therapy I ever received came through meeting a friend and mentor. This woman, who I had the privilege and honour to call my friend and mentor, had the same visual condition as me, worked for the same employer, and had the generous spirit and love of life I strive to embrace.

For those reading who have had, and accepted, the opportunity to develop this perfect mentorship match, you will understand what this relationship meant to me. For those of you who have not yet had this hounour, this gift of life altering time and encouragement, I will try to explain what it means.

This woman understood the challenges I faced daily, because she had lived them. She understood the things I could not do, because she had already discovered them. She knew how to face the challenges and adversity I faced, because she had already battled them. She knew when to encourage me to fight, and when to stand aside and let me discover the adventure alone. Continue reading

Para-Sports: My Second Chance at High Level Sports By Dave Carragher

Image of Dave Carragher and his guide running to the finish line at Paratriathlon Nationals

Dave Carragher and his guide, Carl Burgess completing the Sprint triathlon for Silver at the Paratriathlon Nationals in Kelowna, BC.

As I rode my bike down the street, or went for a run or a swim as a sighted person, no one thought anything about it. I was just seen as an active kid. As a sighted athlete, I was just another guy on the team; not a superstar by any means.

I know everyone has their place, but like many other athletes, I also realized in able-bodied sports the childhood dreams of making the pros was definitely not a realistic goal for me as my sight began to fade.

Now after I have lost my vision and I have been given the opportunities to get back into sports, my dream of being able to make the Olympic team has been restored. Only now I will have the chance to compete at the Paralympics; where I will be able to compete against other visually impaired athletes instead of fully sighted athletes as I did when I was younger and going through the process of losing my vision. Continue reading

Supporting my Paralympian Friends; It shouldn’t be this hard by Leona Emberson

I am blessed to have a number of inspiring and motivating Paralympians in my life who I call my friends. Some of them I have known since I was in high school, and some I have gotten to know in recent years. I have had the honour of playing goalball with and against the members of the Canadian Women’s Goalball team. I have run on the same path, although a few paces behind, members of the Canadian ParaAthletics track team. These experiences have helped me gain respect for them, and their counterparts as athletes.

What has had a more significant impact on my life has been the time I have spent with these friends out of the sports venue. The time in the coffee shop chatting, or in a theater watching a movie. The time we sit in each others living rooms playing cards or relaxing in front of the television. We have been with each other for graduations, weddings, and first jobs. We have been with each other as we have developed as athletes, and into adults. Continue reading

Swim, bike, run, Paratriathlete by John Young

LP Paratriathlete John Young exiting the Hudson River at the NYC Triathlon

LP Paratriathlete John Young exiting the Hudson River at the NYC Triathlon in 2012

As far as I know, I am the only dwarf who has completed a triathlon. Maybe I’m not, but at least I have never been able to find another like-minded little person (LP). In the recent months I have had two members of the LP community contact me stating that they are training to complete their first triathlons later this summer. This past July I returned to NYC to race in the NYC Triathlon. As a new member of Achilles International, I race with other physically challenged athletes on the same course with able-bodied age group athletes and pros as well. The race itself was a challenge as most triathlons are. It includes a 0.9-mile swim in the Hudson River, a 26-mile cycle up and down the West Side Highway and then a 6-mile run up 72nd Street into and around Central Park. I had a terrific day on the course as the fan support in NYC is amazing.

On occasion, I search the Internet in order to try and find other short-statured people interested in multi-sports. I do so by entering phrases like “dwarf triathlete,” “dwarf cyclist” into search engines. The results I usually find are related to my own blog or online stories about me. Continue reading

Finding Balance by Leona Emberson

Leona (on right) and her sighted guide (on left) racing to the finish line of a triathlon

Paratriathlete Leona Emberson (on right) discusses her journey in finding balance.

There are times in life when everyone needs a helping hand with one thing or another. When you have a disability, these times come more often, and the type of help needed can often be of a more personal nature. As children, it takes us longer to gain each step towards independence. We had to fight to overcome many obstacles and challenges to gain independence. Often we are told we cannot do it, or will never achieve independence.

From a young age I gained a reputation for being “stubbornly independent” I knew I could do it if I just tried hard enough, long enough. Even if it took me 10 times longer, I would do it. I felt I had to prove myself. I wanted to be like everyone else, so if my brother and friends could do it, I was determined I would do it too.  This resulted in a lot of frustration, some bruises and cuts, but most importantly this attitude gained me a sense of accomplishment. All of the small successes as a child gave me the confidence and determination to become an independent accomplished adult. Continue reading