OPEN water swimmer Mark Thompson refuses to let disability prevent him from pushing his body physically in sport.
Thompson adds an extra open water event to his calendar each year, trying new beaches and increasingly dangerous beaches each time.
But this is about knowing what he can do.
New research shows discrimination and exclusion is taking its toll with Victorians who have disability 40 per cent less active than able-bodied people. This gap widens with age, according to VicHealth findings released on Monday, coinciding with International Day of People with Disability.
Thompson was injured in a sailing accident while crossing Bass Strait in 1995. He almost drowned, trapped under water for 14 minutes, and the accident has left Thompson with an acquired brain injury.
One of Thompson’s carers helped him make a gradual return to the water. Thompson helped launch an all-abilities sailing program in Ballarat but now the Lorne Pier-to-Pub regular is focused on his open water swims.
- READ MORE: Thompson ready for Pier-to-Pub plunge again
“Disability doesn’t stop you, you’ve still got to get out there and do it,” Thompson said. “You’ve got to achieve certain goals in life and I’ve set myself 10 swims for the year.”
The VicHealth study also found people with disability were half as likely to feel safe walking alone during the day, compared to people without disability, and were a third more likely to eat takeaway food.
VicHealth chief executive officer Jerril Rechter said the research showed the critical need to improve inclusion and accessibility and that we all had a responsibility to create positive change in the community.
Victorian Advocacy League for individuals with Disability’s Ballarat peer action group, of which Thompson is a leader, celebrated people with a disability taking the lead and making a difference in the region.
This included the Shane Everard and Matt Mattson memorial inclusive awards, in honour of tireless Ballarat disability advocates.
Thompson said it was vital to keep their legacies alive, and encourage more people to make a positive change in what they could do.
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