Translator: Theresa Ranft
Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs This right here is a photo of me
when I was 14 years old. Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘Dylan, mate, are you sure that’s not Ryan Gosling?’ (Laughter) But, unfortunately, no,
this is a photo of me. Now, for a long time, I tried to delete
this photo from my memory, and to be honest, do you blame me? Firstly, what the hell
is going on with my hair there? I remember my mum’s a hairdresser. I used to sit in the front seat of her car
with a tub of gel and a hairbrush, and on the way to school every day,
I’d sit there thinking, ‘Dylan, you have absolutely nailed it!’ (Laughter) I still don’t understand
why she let me leave the car. Also, secondly, where the hell are my eyebrows? (Laughter) Now, unfortunately for me, I didn’t grow any eyebrows
until I was 17 years old. Now, I understand that I had
completely no control over that, but, as you can imagine,
it wasn’t really helping my cause, was it? I also had braces. I also had my bed in the pantry, and I was a little bit
on the overweight side. This was really the first time in my life that I was really struggling
with my disability. Up until this age, I’d never really cared
about the fact that I was in a wheelchair. Everybody was young,
nobody really noticed it, and everything just
went along pretty smoothly. But, at this time,
things started to change. People started going to house parties. Boys started kissing girls,
girls started kissing boys. Girls starting kissing girls, and occasionally,
boys started kissing boys. But, absolutely nobody was kissing Dylan, I can tell you that much. And it was also about the first time that I really thought about myself
as being weird because I had a disability. And, to be honest, that really sucked, and had a really big effect
on absolutely everything that I did. I started having a crap time at school. It really started affecting
my sporting career as well. For the first time in my life,
I was really, really down on myself. And then, the next year, in Year 9,
something happened. A mate of mine was having a house party. Now, this was a really good mate of mine. And previously, I’d never really been
invited to that many house parties, and I thought, ‘What a perfect opportunity
to go to your first one. I’m absolutely going to kill it, and everybody will invite me
to all the parties coming up ever since’. Now, the invites for the party came out,
and what do you reckon happened? I didn’t get one. I didn’t get an invite. And I remember thinking to myself, ‘That is bullshit. Like, I’m actually
really good friends with this guy, how could I not be invited to his party?’ I was sitting at home
the day of the party, and I went to myself,
‘I just really, really want to go’. Now, back in the day when you’re 15,16,
it was super uncool and lame to text the person to ask
if you can come to the party. The far more badass thing to do
was simply turn up and jump the fence. (Laughter) Now, as you could imagine, jumping, it’s not really my forte. And unless I had some kind of crane
or, like, trampoline device … (Laughter) there was no way in hell
that I was getting over that fence. The only way to get in was to knock on the door
and go through the front. Anyway, I sat at home
and I’m like, ‘Stuff it. I’m going to go and see what happens’. I go to the front door, knocked
on the door, and my mate answered. And he had this really weird, shocked look
on his face, like I was there. I remember thinking to myself,
like, ‘What have I done? Why didn’t I sit at home and play N64,
like I did every other Saturday night?’ Anyway, he looked at me, and he said, ‘Dyl, mate, I’m so glad that you came. I didn’t know if you could
get in my house because of the stairs, so I didn’t invite you’. I remember thinking
to myself, ‘Is that it? Is that genuinely the only reason
that I wasn’t invited?’ Anyway, I went in that house party, absolutely crushed it,
had an awesome time. (Laughter) I remember the next day, I woke up,
and I was really bloody mad at myself. I was really mad at myself that I let my insecurities
and my embarrassment about my disability I was really mad at myself
that I believed this thing, this negative stigma
that having a disability makes you weird, makes you different, and that’s the only reason
people don’t want to hang out with you. I’m really mad at myself
that I didn’t just grow a set of balls, have some confidence, talk to my friends
and educate them about my disability. Now, the only reason
I wasn’t invited that night wasn’t because they didn’t like me, but it was because I didn’t tell them
about my disability. I didn’t tell them
I could get up the stairs, and it’ll all be fine. I sat at home for a whole year
thinking these people didn’t like me. The only reason that they did was because
they weren’t educated about disability, and I really didn’t do anything
to educate them on it. So, after that night,
things really changed for me. I started being more social, I started getting a lot fitter, I started going out a lot more, and I even started kissing
the odd girl or two. (Laughter) After that night,
I made a pact with myself. I made a pact with myself to never, ever let my disability
get in the way of what I wanted to do. I made a pact with myself
to not be scared of my disability, but rather to embrace it
in everything that I did. Because of that, I’ve been able to live
a truly, incredibly awesome life. In 2008, I was lucky enough to win a gold medal
at the Paralympic games, playing basketball for Australia –
wheelchair basketball, believe it or not. This was incredible for me. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to go
to the Paralympic games. The Paralympics –
for those who don’t know – is the pinnacle of elite sport
for people with disabilities. But a lot of people don’t know the true meaning
of the word ‘Paralympic’. The word is actually split in two: the ‘Olympic’ part –
which represents the Olympics, the pinnacle of sport – and the ‘Para’ part. There’s a common misconception that the ‘Para’ part
actually means paraplegic or paralysed, but this isn’t the case. The ‘Para’ actually represents ‘parallel’, meaning the Paralympics runs parallel,
or alongside, the Olympics. Same gold medals, same venues,
same elite athletes, same time. The only difference is obviously we all
have disabilities at the Paralympics. Now, this was awesome in Beijing for me. I was 17 years old at the time, so I was still doing my HSC or VCE
while I was over there. To be 17 years old and sit on top
of the podium with 12 of your best mates – guys that had lost limbs to cancer, other guys that had horrific accidents
on their worksites so were left up in wheelchairs. Other guys who had car crashes
and never be able to walk again and lost loved ones in the process. To sit on top of that podium
and so proud of what we had done, singing that national anthem
with tears in our eyes – it was the best thing
that ever happened to me. It really was incredible
and something I’ll cherish forever. I’ve also got a bit of a name for myself as the dude that crowd surfs
in his wheelchair at festivals. (Laughter) I’ve been very lucky
to travel around the world attending different music festivals. Everybody knows me as, ‘You’re the guy that
crowd surfs in his wheelchair!’ To be honest, the first [time]
that I ever did this was completely out of necessity because I was sick and tired
of sitting in the mosh pit and looking at all your asses all day. (Laughter) You don’t understand how much
that sucks after a while. But from the first time I did it,
I was absolutely hooked. It’s an incredible feeling,
sitting on top of that crowd in what I like to call
the best seat in the house. It really is incredible. I think it’s a really cool metaphor
for people with disabilities as well, what they can really do, getting out there, breaking the mould,
doing what’s unexpected of them. On a side note,
I’ve only fallen out once. And don’t worry, I didn’t get
any more disabled from the fall, so it’s all good. (Laughter) Now, when I reflect on my life,
I think back to when – I’m really happy that I can sit here now and think that all this stuff
almost didn’t happen to me. I remember back when I was 14,
I think of 14-year-old Dylan, and I think I had these really low expectations
of myself of what I could achieve. And I let that dictate
what I did in everyday life. I think back to 14-year-old Dylan who thought of his disability
as this really shitty burden that was really hard to overcome. I think back to 14-year-old Dylan, and I think I’m so lucky doing
what I’m doing these days. I’m so glad that I could challenge
my own perception about what I thought about disability. And to be honest, I can sit here
in front of you all today and tell you 100% honest truth: if I ever had the chance
to go back in time or eat some kind of magic pill
and walk again, there’s no way in hell
you could pay me enough to do it. Because I absolutely love
everything in my life, wheelchair or not. I wouldn’t change it for the world. But, unfortunately, there are so many kids
across the world, all around Australia that are really struggling socially
because of their disabilities. Disability remains this thing
that nobody wants to talk about. There’s still this negative stigma that having this disability
is this weird, unlucky, really ugly thing. And for kids with disability
that don’t have any confidence, it’s really hard
for them to get over this and get into the world
and do what they want to do. And it really restricts everything
that they want to achieve. There are heaps of problems in the world: poverty, refugees,
same-sex marriage, gender equality. They’re all very, very important things. But when the hell do you ever
hear anything about disability? Or when do you ever turn on the TV and see the first news story
about somebody with a disability? Or when do you turn on your TV
and see a wheelchair TV presenter – sorry, a presenter in a wheelchair? Or somebody with cerebral palsy
in our parliaments? Or an actual blind actor
playing a blind actor, as opposed to some bloke
who’s just closing his eyes? (Laughter) Now, I remember when I was a kid, when I was struggling, when I was 14, I just wish I could have
turned on my television and seen a guy in a wheelchair achieving. Because it would have
made me realise that, ‘You know what? I could do that too!
That, one day, could be me’. I wish I had a positive
role model in the media where I could have seen somebody
absolutely killing it, and that would’ve instilled
the confidence in me to get out there and do whatever I want. I think it’s really important
moving forward that we, as a society, change our perception of disability
away from this idea that it’s this really bad,
unlucky, weird thing, and stop being so scared to talk about it. We need to realise that it’s okay
to have any disability, and we need to further our expectations
of what people with disabilities can do. Moving forward,
I think in order to do that, we need to mainstream disability. Get people with disabilities
into our mainstream media, and that will increase
the visibility in a positive light. We need to make disability
heaps more commonplace. We need to start
the conversation about it, which will go a long way
in normalising it. And then, who knows? Maybe one day, if we can do that, these kids, like me, like I used to be, won’t be going through such a tough time. They won’t be embarrassed
about their disability ever again. They’ll have the confidence
to go out there and do whatever they want. But, as a society, we really have to hope
they pick a much better haircut than that. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers)

Tagged : # # # # # # # # # #

Dennis Veasley

43 thoughts on “The Truth About Growing Up Disabled | Dylan Alcott | [email protected]

  1. Great motivational speech. I have a disability to. Hahaha that is NOT me in my pic. Maybe its apart of you but sitting still is mine. As you relate the story of not being invited to that party I was crying cause I have been there. I am older than you and could walk until I was 50. BUT that story gives me a jump in my thinking.

  2. him rolling back and forth is distracting and unnatural. i know he does it so hes not just sitting in one spot but he actually doesnt have to do it. just be more expressive and you can still pull the room in. great speech though.

  3. Dylan is exactly right, disability should be visible in mainstream media. People with disabilities should also embrace it where they need to and go out and enjoy life.

  4. I think it s different being born disabled then getting disabled during your life. I was an adult when I suddenly started to have way more problems from EDS then I was justed to, and from being able to run for an hour every day, working 40-46 hours a week, etc etc,…to being unanble to walk, and having subluxation,luxation ans extreme pain from them… Getting able to walk again, is not my future unless they find a cure for EDS 3 and EDS 4….the EDS 4 will make that , unless I m am the exception, there aren t much people that are in EDS 4, to each 70,..with that exception, all the others, won t make 50 years old and die before that age, am 38 now. Walking or hoping to be an exception and that very very slight chance, of maybe reaching 70? Hoping they finf a cure before I die of it…

    I understand that he looks different at what he has, is used to the wheel chair, but every second that I am able to stand, I do so, every step, I can walk, 5 steps,….some days 50 meters total,…I cherise it and do it, hoping that I can walk a couple of meters daily in a few years? maybe not, caue it s not known to get better, but only get worse. I dream of being able to walk! to be able to celibrate my 50th birthday,…I really pray to reach it, or be one of them, that get older then that, who knows?

    Beside this load of hoping and sadness, that I think also needs a place to stay, it s part of my live, most of the day I am a bundle of joy! Believing in God, having a very positive attitnce birth , loving friends and sweet, supporting people who although it s also their work,in which I come in contact with them, some weekly, they also brighten up my life with their presence!

    I do think it s great to see someone in this video talk bout not being a sad little handicapped person, but learning that he could behelping others understand what he has, that makes him more handecapped then his friends, and what he can or can t do, get s him in with group of friends to enjoy life!

  5. Dylan You are not quadriplegic! .. you have more advantages than the real tennis player with quadriplegic!
    You are a cheater!!!

  6. you have inspired me to push my friend to the limits and to get her to try new things like sport thank very much Dylan

  7. I was one of those kids that had a really hard time growing up, and I have to thank you for this video. I would love to see more on this topic because it IS so important.

  8. Great talk👍🏻hopefully it helps to start a conversation between disabled kids and their friends about their situation and how to assist them to achieve their goals and to live a normal life as much as possible. I'm sitting in a wheelchair myself and my dream is to become an actress, but it's a lot of work ahead of me, to change the producers view on disabled people in the media. It's a normal practice to get a healthy actress instead, who then takes a course to learn to drive a wheelchair, for example. Mostly they learn it from a wheelchair driver, and that's kind of crazy. But I think to change something in this business, they first have to learn, that having a disabled actress isn't combined with more work and a bigger time effort. Mostly disabled people know exactly what they need and are great at planning all those things, because it's their daily life. It would be so helpful to see people with a disability on tv, especially for younger folks and for freshly new injured ones, to find a rolemodel, not only at competitive sports, as nowadays. To everyone out there who struggles with their situation right now, you can do it and embrace your abilities and not only your disabilities.

  9. I definitely think that as disabled people we need to stand up to those who resist the visibility of disabled people. The more disabled people that are visible in day to day life and in mainstream media, the quicker perceptions will change.

  10. With the huge amount of Shaming done in our society now a lot of people are afraid to say Anything. It is frustrating to see people like Dylan Alcott trying to tell others "speak up" when so many are yelling "no! you cannot say this OR that! It is Unacceptable!!". I once cracked up a man who was blind…but it took him a few seconds to realize I was teasing him. I will not forget his explanation: "I'm sorry…being blind I don't get teased much". I wish so many of the Shamers would get over themselves and let humor through–it would make a Lot of things easier for All of us.

  11. you are one cool bloke . I would consider it a privilege if your ever in north east England you would allow me to buy you a pint or even enough to get you smashed . never change .

  12. Greetings from the USA! Such a powerful and empowering video. I'm grateful to have come across it. Thank you Dylan for your hard work. This is coming from someone who's Autistic and had to (and still) have to go through a lot of adversity. Thankfully, I'm at a state where I know who I am and am proud of who I am. It took many years to reach that point, but is worth it. I think I too would've owned my uniqueness sooner if I had come across role models with disabilities when I was younger. My goal is to be one for youth so that they don't have to experience as much personal conflict as I once did. Thank you again and keep up the great work

  13. Growing up as a wheelchair user I can empathize with most of what he said. It is hard never seeing anyone like you. I 100% agree that we need more people with disabilities in mainstream media. Not just characters with disabilities played by able-bodied actors, that drives me crazy! The idea that disability is a bad thing is very pushed by the media, and part of reason is that disabled characters are either looking for a cure, miserable, or suicidal (Me Before You, I'm looking at you!). Thankfully things are starting to change with shows like Speakless and movies like Wonder, but we need more representation.

  14. There are some people on tv with an obvious disabilities, I can think of 3 straight away,there is plentyy more i know who have a hidden disability , sure there are more, but arent there many more able bodied people then obviously disabled people ? Cant expect there to be someone in a wheelchair in every tv show ever thats ever made can you ? and face it many able bodied people couldnt become an actor either,,, surely its about talent and some luck too who you know ect ect

  15. The only way I can jump is with a trampoline even with that is hard I want to be a dancer. I am shy and a lot of people don't know that I have cp

  16. The other major difference is we don't get to see the Paralympics in main stream Olympic coverage. Now commercials prior and during, they us Paralympians, but the games, find a special channel maybe, why can't they cover that instead, or "Parallel" with it.

  17. I grew up physically and mentally disabled, with neither being diagnosed until I was 19. This meant being forced to run the mile run and nearly having a heart attack afterward. This meant severe hip and back pain every day with no aid. This meant being considered weird or a problem child with behavioural issues and not an overwhelmed autistic child.
    Knowledge is power and so is empathy. Disabled people NEED to be represented in media, and not only that, but we need to show more ambulatory wheelchair users and mobility aids other than wheelchairs. Every time I see a wheelchair user in media, they are either paralyzed or turn out to be an able bodied person faking it. But around 80 percent of wheelchair users aren't paraplegic and can at least stand or take a few steps. People who know nothing about my disability have harassed me because I can get out of my chair and use it as a walker in circumstances where it's necessary, such as getting up a steep hill or set of stairs. If disabilities other than paralysis were shown to the general population in an empathetic light, this would not happen. I wouldn't have to explain myself to every single stranger that can't mind their own business.

  18. If you don't like ADA laws, simply more out of American… then you can discriminate. If you are in America and you don't comply with ADA law, you deserve felony charges.

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