Tweed ambassadors inspire students to reach for stars
THREE inspirational Tweed residents have been chosen to represent the shire as ambassadors for the 2012 International Day of People with Disability which this year has the theme removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.
Tracy Barrell, Paul Mauchline and Tim Thomas will visit schools in the area to talk about inclusion and their triumphs over every day challenges.
Mr Thomas gets around with a walking frame but dislikes being called disabled and prefers to be regarded as having a number of beatable challenges.
He certainly has the proven ability, will power and attitude to overcome almost any challenge he faces and is a diving instructor, first aid instructor and is studying for his master's licence which will enable him to skipper his own vessels.
Mr Thomas said he aimed to talk to school kids about the concept of dignity of risk which meant people with physical challenges could achieve anything they put their minds to as long as they had the right support, will power and resources.
"My basic message is that nothing is impossible.
"What I really want to do is train people with challenges to enjoy the environment and introduce them to things they thought they couldn't do," he said.
Ms Barrell was born without legs or a right arm and although some who encounter her treat her differently, she believes just like Tim she is simply someone who has some extra barriers to overcome.
"I live a fulfilled and totally independent life.
"I want to tell kids about my condition and that there's nothing I can't do.
"I cherish life more and put more back into it.
"People assume I should be at home, being cared for, but I'm a single mum with two young boys and take care of everything for my family."
Ms Barrell said she has achieved a lot.
"I'm quite capable of doing things," she said.
Mr Mauchline, who was born with cerebral palsy, will join the effort and although speaking unaided is difficult, he will interact with the school kids through his iPad.
The trio will address kids from a number of Tweed schools with the support from On Track Community Programs and Tweed Shire Council.
The council has been working on a 10-year plan to allow people with challenges to access and enjoy amenities which are supposed to be available to all.
The council's aged and disability development officer Karen Collins said the council had completed the community consultation part of the plan.
Ms Barrell said there were toilets from which a person with challenges could not escape and many parking spots which were utterly inappropriate due to a number of design faults.
"We're a million years behind places like America where people with challenges have more options and receive better care and equipment.
"We miss out on a lot of things.
"To achieve inclusion and to break down the barriers, perception, awareness and acceptance need to be changed first," Ms Barrell said.