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Remarkable Journey: Don Elgin’s Saga as a Three-Time Australian Paralympian

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Remarkable Journey

The remarkable journey of Don Elgin is truly inspiring. According to three-time Paralympian Don Elgin, life is about simply getting on with it. This is exactly what he does and how he does it! Don’s “life mantra” is to give your all to the things that matter and that you enjoy. That is true in his case.

His career, his sport, his family, and the chance to encourage others to live purposefully despite challenges in life.
Don Elgin defied the odds from birth, born without a left thumb, lower leg, and fused fingers. Despite undergoing 25 surgeries, including open heart surgery at three, he transformed into a sporty adolescent. Rising above his challenges, Don evolved into an elite athlete, showcasing remarkable physical prowess.

Remarkable Journey
Three-time paralympian

Don credits the success of his remarkable journey to parents who fostered a positive attitude, emphasizing strengths over physical flaws. He grew up in the country of Victoria, where he played Aussie Rules, swam, and lived an active lifestyle. Sport gave him a place to compete, have fun, and be a “normal” guy. However, it quickly became clear that Don was far more than average; he was exceptional. Don won gold in the 4×100-meter relay at the 1994 IPC World Championships in Berlin. He then switched to the pentathlon, marking a pivotal moment in his career.

His great sporting passion became the pentathlon. Don secured a spot on the Australian team for the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, finishing fourth with support from a scholarship from the Victorian Institute of Sport. Four years later, he went one better, winning bronze medals in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004. Don is still competing and aiming for his fourth consecutive spot on the Australian team in Beijing in 2008.

Beyond sport, being an amputee has given Don a different attitude to life, which is summed up when he says, “I knew I’d been given the short end of the stick physically, but I never wanted it to get in the way of living a great life.” From there, he went on to help many others in similar situations. Anyone who saw his interview on Andrew Denton’s “Enough Rope” program would understand how important it is to him to help others who have suffered the trauma of losing a leg or limbs.

Don receives generous sponsorship for his athletic endeavors and understands that it is rarely a remarkable journey that can be undertaken alone. He devotes much of his time to assisting people in coping with and adapting to a changed physical reality, always spreading the message, “Don’t be afraid to try, even if you think you won’t succeed.” You’ll get it if you want it badly enough. Always strive to be the best you can be.

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Emotions, Victories, and Overcoming: The Unforgettable Moments of the Paralympic Games

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On August 28, the opening ceremony of the Paris Paralympic Games will commence. This event celebrates the skill, perseverance, and passion of athletes with disabilities. All the athletes are currently immersed in rigorous preparation, honing their abilities and mindset to face the challenges that lie ahead. But before looking toward the future, it is essential to reminisce about the most remarkable moments that have left an indelible mark on the history of these games.

Brazil remains undefeated

Paralympic Games

The Brazilian team celebrating their last gold medal/  OIS/Joel Marklund

Football-5, also known as blind football, made its Olympic debut at the 2004 Athens Olympics. This sport is specifically designed for totally blind athletes (B1 classification) who use a sonorous ball. It combines elements of coordination, skill, explosive speed, and teamwork. Brazil’s national team has set a remarkable precedent in this sport, having never lost in any of the occasions it has participated in, securing gold medals in all the Paralympic Games they’ve attended.

Zheng Tao: The Armless Swimmer Who Broke All Records

Paralympic Games

Compilation of photos of Zheng Tao at the Paralympic Games/ Dean Mouhtaropoulos, Adam Pretty, John Walton: Source: UGC 

Undoubtedly, determination and passion can overcome any obstacle. Tao Zheng, the Chinese swimmer without arms, is an inspiring example of perseverance and remarkable achievements. In the 2012 London Olympics, he not only won the gold medal in the 100m backstroke S6, but also set a new world record, completing the feat in 1 minute, 13 seconds, and 56 milliseconds.

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Despite losing his arms in an electrical accident as a child, Tao Zheng has shown that there are no insurmountable limits. His story has inspired thousands of people, and in the Rio Olympics, he not only defended his gold medal, but also surpassed his own world record. A true example of determination, courage, and triumph.

Trischa Zorn, the most decorated Paralympic athlete

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Trischa Zorn The most decorated Paralympic athlete in history with 55 medals, 41 of them gold/ Getty Images

In the 1992 Barcelona Paralympic Games, one athlete stood out above the rest: Trischa Zorn, an American swimmer who set a precedent by winning 10 gold medals and 2 silver medals, an unprecedented achievement. Zorn was born on June 1, 1964, in Orange, California. Her congenital eye condition, called aniridia, affects one in every 100,000 people and is characterized by ocular malformations, such as partial or total lack of iris in both eyes and extreme photophobia. Despite these challenges, Trischa not only broke records but also participated in seven Paralympic Games, earning a total of 55 medals: 41 golds, 9 silvers, and 5 bronzes.

Her legacy is unparalleled, which is why her name has been inscribed in the Paralympic Hall of Fame since 2012. Additionally, the United States Swimming Federation created an award in her honor to recognize the best disabled female swimmers each year.

Birth of a Legend: Beatrice Vio

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Beatrice Vio’s celebration upon winning her latest gold medal/ Reuters

Bebe Vio, the Italian Paralympic fencer, has left an indelible mark on the history of sports. Despite having no arms or legs, her determination and passion led her to win two consecutive gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

From a young age, Bebe showed interest in fencing. However, at the age of 11, she contracted meningitis, which kept her hospitalized for a hundred days. Even though she lost her limbs, her indomitable spirit remained unbroken. At 16, she participated in the 2013 World Championships, achieving an impressive tenth place in the foil category B. But this was just the beginning.

Two years later, her goal was not merely to compete in the world championships but to win. And she did just that. Since her debut in the Olympics, Bebe has accumulated victories, fame, and followers, refusing to let anyone take away her gold medal. Her story has inspired thousands of children and will continue to inspire in the games to come.

By: Álvaro Lago

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Starbucks and its commitment to accessibility: Creating inclusive spaces for everyone

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Starbucks and its commitment to accessibility: Creating inclusive spaces for everyone

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Starbucks Coffee Company announced on February 14th that it will leverage its growing store presence to support and promote the inclusion of partners, clients, and communities it serves. To achieve this, the company has created an Inclusive Spaces Framework, which aims to enhance independence, choice, and comfort for all its consumers and employees: “Building and scaling an Inclusive Store Framework is central to our mission of connection and will lead to greater access for all” stated Katie Young, Senior Vice President of Store Operations.

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One of the first Starbucks customers based on the Inclusive Spaces Framework/Starbucks

Starbucks’s Inclusive Spaces Framework has been developed by a distinctive community of customers, workers, partners, and accessibility experts, with the primary goal of providing scalable accessibility solutions for all commercial spaces. This concept began to take shape during the Covid-19 pandemic, where social distancing and the risk of contracting the disease prompted some branches to create specific time blocks. During these blocks, immunocompromised, elderly, and disabled customers could shop in a less crowded environment.

Starbucks inaugurates its first café supported by the principles of the Inclusive Spaces Framework

On February 16th, Washington, D.C. became the first city to open a Starbucks designed to provide accessible service for everyone. These innovations include a multitude of improvements, both physical and digital, that streamline the entire customer interaction process with the establishment and staff, enabling unrestricted access.

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A new employee at the Washington D.C. Starbucks showcasing the facilities/Starbucks

Among these novelties, the coffee company has highlighted updates to the point-of-sale (POS) systems, which have been transformed into portable devices, making it easier for customers to make purchases and acquire products. Through an intuitive design, supported by a voice assistant and accompanied by visual confirmations, this setup caters to the needs of all customers without any distinction.

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On the other hand, this revamped store features new lighting and an improved sound system, both designed to offer a more inclusive experience by avoiding glare and reverberations. Additionally, the order tracking panels in this store have been updated, allowing customers to easily and instantly know which stage of preparation their purchase is in. Furthermore, multiple communication channels have been enabled to notify the customer when their order is ready.

Finally, the store has been designed to ensure the complete independence of people with disabilities when accessing and placing their orders. This is achieved through electric doors, which can be activated by a button at different heights and angles, reducing the effort required to open them. Additionally, continuous, and obstacle-free pedestrian pathways have been created, and the counters are lower with overhangs to accommodate wheelchairs, making interaction with employees and the store more accessible.

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The new staff at Starbucks in Washington D.C./Starbucks

However, for most retail centers, remodelling their premises to comply with ADA (The Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations poses a significant challenge. That’s why Starbucks will not only begin remodelling its establishments but also ensure that its framework of inclusion is accessible to everyone, just like its stores. This framework will provide a gradual program for designing inclusive spaces that enhance the retail environment, surpassing the requirements of the ADA.

By: Álvaro Lago

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Kevin Williams, An Advocate Of Disability Rights has passed away at 57

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Kevin Williams, a Colorado civil rights attorney who spent his career fighting for the rights of people with disabilities, died on February 10, 2024 after a brief illness. He was 57 years old.

Williams served as the legal program director for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), a non-profit organization that fights for social justice and systemic change for people with all types of disabilities. He joined the CCDC in 1997, shortly after graduating from the University of Denver’s Law School.

Williams was a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down following a vehicle accident when he was 19. He used his personal experience and legal knowledge to combat prejudice and impediments faced by persons with disabilities in a variety of settings, including public transportation, housing, health care, education, and employment.

He was involved in various lawsuits and settlements that led to increased accessibility and participation for individuals with disabilities in Colorado and elsewhere. 

Some of his major cases were:

Filing a lawsuit against his own law school for breaching the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and establishing a wheelchair-accessible graduation site.

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Bringing a lawsuit against the United States Olympic Committee for discriminating against Paralympic competitors and denying them equitable funding and training opportunities.

Requiring the operators of Red Rocks Amphitheatre to provide accessible parking, seating, and tickets for those with disabilities.

Obtaining a court order prohibiting the Denver Regional Transportation District from purchasing inaccessible buses and ordering them to conform with the ADA.

Negotiating a settlement with the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to allow people with disabilities to obtain long-term services and supports in their own homes and communities rather than institutions.

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Williams was also a mentor and pioneer in the disability rights movement, inspiring and educating new lawyers and activists to carry on his legacy. He was known for his enthusiasm, brilliance, and sense of humor, as well as his compassion and regard for others.

Kevin was a brilliant lawyer, a fierce advocate, and a dear friend,” said Julie Reiskin, CCDC’s executive director. “He improved the lives of many people with disabilities and made the world a better place for everyone. He will be deeply missed, but his work will continue.”

By: Rowland Obiosah

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