Sunday, 2 February 2020

My relationship with disability

This week the nominations for the Melton Times sports awards were announced. It was nice to find my name on the list, however to find myself in the list for sportsman of the year rather than the disability sportsman of the year got me thinking again about how I feel about my disability.

Whilst I do not try to hide my disability and I accept it as being a part of who I am, I do not want to be defined by my disability. I want people to see who I am first, someone trying to be the best shooter they can be, with my vision impairment just being another fact about me. So in a way its quite pleasing to be nominated and considered for an award where disability is not in the title. It feels like a step towards equality where I can be considered against everyone else and not just in a disabled category.

Those who have followed what I have done probably already know how I shoot in national competitions against sighted shooters. In these competitions I think I place more pressure on myself than at international vision impaired shooting competitions. This is because I feel in the sighted competitions I am someone different, may be even someone who others will view as being at a disadvantage, facing more challenges and may be even pittied. So I feel I need to shoot as well as I can to show people what i can do and so that when complements are given to me I feel I have earned it. It can annoy me when people are saying well done to me when I feel I have performed much worse than my best, it can feel patronizing even if that is not the intent.

When I compete in a vision impaired specific competition I feel more comfortable as I know that people will be comparing me against other vision impaired shooters. If I have a bad day, then people will see its not the best a vision impaired shooter can manage as they will see what the other competitors achieve. So in a way the disability is less defining about me in these cases.

Also the vision impaired specific competitions are required as you do need to create an equal playing field for all competitors, particularly when you are trying to find the champion. There are certain aspects which may be harder for someone with a vision impairment to do and so it may either require more work to achieve the same level of performance as their sighted opponents or it may not even be possible to reach that level of performance. In my case the competing in national competitions against sighted shooters is to give me a challenge and experience of shooting competitions, I know that in some of the competitions there is very little chance of me winning.

So whilst I do like it when I can achieve things in non-disabled categories, I do feel it needs to come with some caution as the disability specific competitions and categories do have their place. Sometimes when aspiring to break out of the disability world, it can lead to people feeling you view the disability specific categories as a lesser category, something we really should not do.

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