Paralympic athletes remind: All our barriers are ‘in our head’

The Paralympic athletes told how to overcome barriers in sports and in life and how to destroy stereotypes about persons with disabilities at the opening of the photo exhibition "People of Unlimited Possibilities. Sports" in Kyiv.

The pictures show the success of athletes with disabilities. As the exhibition organizers commented, the Ukrainian Paralympic athletes are stunning: they set records in swimming having no hands, win ski race moving in a wheelchair and become leaders in cycling with fractured spine, the Human Rights Information Centre correspondent informs.

Beyond sports, the Paralympic athletes have to overcome many obstacles, both physical and informational, every day. This, particularly, applies to the athletes who use sign language.

However, the persons with disabilities mostly have to destroy stereotypes about them.

"It is important that we are perceived not as only those who ask. We live and live a full life," Olena Akopian, Paralympics champion, mother of two children, commented.

"Human abilities have no limits. All limits are in head. We are no different from ‘normal’ people, we just must use our will power in our life circumstances," Paralympics champion Svitlana Trifonova said.

The photo exhibition was organized in order to boost the joint meetings of different people in different spheres of life - not only in sports, but also in art, culture, life, interpersonal communication.

Author of the photos, Valentyn Karminsky, said that he neglected the topic of sports before his first trip to the XIII Summer Paralympics Games in Beijing in 2008.

"Games in Beijing changed my outlook," the photographer commented. So, he could not miss the next Paralympics Games in Vancouver in 2010 and in London in 2012. The photo exhibition tells about the victories of athletes.

As Oleksandr Kharchenko, the Director General of the Ukrinform national News Agency, said, "these people often downplay the laws of logics and mechanics and achieve the victory."

"The purpose of our photo exhibition is to tell about these people. The same way as the Queen of Britain meets the Paralympics athletes and thousands of Britons welcomed them to the Buckingham Palace, we want to make Ukrainian athletes known and recognized," Kharchenko said.

President of the National Paralympics Committee of Ukraine Valeriy Sushkevych noted that the Ukrainian government even considered in December 2015 suspending Ukraine's participation in the Paralympics Games.

"There was a serious discussion whether we need to spend money on this. Fortunately, this did not happen. A powerful and purely Ukrainian direction - sports rehabilitation – has been formed over significant period of time. It needs developing," Sushkevych said.

Kostiantyn Kuzmin, the President of the NGO "Equal Opportunities", agreed with him: "In times of Nazism, when Churchill was given the budget which cut all spending on culture, he said: 'Then what are we fighting for?' We should have the same stance."

The organizers also announced the launch of a creativity competition for everyone: send photos, videos, publications about the extraordinary achievements of people with disabilities in various spheres of life. The finals will be held on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December.

The photos of Paralympics athletes could be seen in the windows of the Ukrinform News Agency (8/16 B. Khmelnytskoho Str., Teatralna metro station) throughout a week.

Photo credit: Iryna Vyrtosu, Human Rights Information Centre

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