Story and video produced by Tiarne Blackwell:
On 22 October 2015, Essential Employment & Training (EET) hosted ‘Sky’s The Limit’ Mini Olympics for people with a disability. Held annually at Beaton Park in Wollongong, this sporting event celebrates the diversity of participants and assists them to develop skills that will help them achieve their life goals, increase their independence and participate as valued members of the community.
EET has been hosting ‘Sky’s The Limit’ Mini Olympics for people with a disability since 2008. This year, the event attracted a record-breaking 250 competitors who were all ready and rearing to showcase their athletic skills.
While the objective of this event was to assist people with a disability to gain life skills, according to spectator Joanne Taylor, it also managed to succeed in other areas.
“My son is a buddy today,” said Taylor. “Every competitor has a buddy from local Wollongong high schools to help them out. I think it’s such a good idea because it allows people without a disability – myself included – to learn about new, underreported and underrated issues. I actually think that the buddies benefit just as much, if not more, than the competitors do. The day kind of advocates for social inclusion because everybody just comes together to celebrate their differences. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Research by the International Labour Organisation found that an estimated 386 million of the world’s working-age population have some kind of disability. “Most people don’t understand that so many people with disabilities can achieve the same things as people without disabilities,” said Taylor. “Sure, it might be a bit more difficult for them, but we need to give them a chance to show us what they’re made of.”
According to an article published by Disability Scoop, kids’ attitudes about disability improve with exposure. In a survey of 1,520 children aged 7 to 16 years old, researchers found that increased familiarity with those who have disabilities led to less anxiety and better attitudes.
“I just like watching him succeed because he’s an awesome kid,” said local high-school buddy, Laura White. She was partnered with competitor, Carl Stone, whom she revealed taught her a lot about community acceptance. “He’s done so well today, and I’m very proud of that. It’s just so much fun being here. He’s a really cool kid. This is my first time being a buddy, but I think it’s a really important thing for anyone to experience.”
To find out more about EET and the work they do for the community, visit their Facebook page.