19-year-old India is dancing and climbing her way to success one stride and pirouette at a time. Having right side hemiplegia cerebral palsy hasn’t stopped India competing in dance competitions, and she recently did a 11 km run with her dad.
Coming from a sporty family and having benefited from various therapies with Cerebral Palsy Alliance from a young age, exercise is in India’s DNA. In fact, her mum says she can run better than she can walk!
India loves a challenge and can’t wait to tackle the Krazy Kosci Klimb; an annual fundraising event where people with cerebral palsy scale the summit of Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko. India’s already in training, getting inspiration from her Pink! playlist and friend Mickey, the Co-Founder of Krazy Kosci Klimb.
India’s family are her biggest cheerleaders; both her parents have climbed Mount Kosci and they compete in ultra-marathons. India’s mum, Belinda hopes that Kosci will help improve India’s confidence and help her feel like she can conquer anything.
“Comparison is the thief of joy, and when she’s standing next to her peers, who are also conquering Kosci, she’ll feel equal,” says Belinda.
One of India’s greatest heroes and mentors has been her long-time dance teacher, Fiona, who has been part of India’s life since she was four years old. Fiona taught India if things are hard, it doesn’t mean you can’t do them. India dances modern, ballet, jazz, acro (which combines classical dance technique with acrobatic elements) and musical theatre and recently won a dance award. Belinda says watching India perform is amazing.
“It wasn’t about winning, it was about the love of dance and competing with her dance family, as a team and having each other’s backs.”
Socially, dance has been wonderful for India too (she has a multifactorial disability; meaning complex conditions caused by many contributing factors; helping her to trust, open up, express herself, work through difficult emotions, and improve her communication skills.
What’s next for India after school?
India has left school and now combines work at a gym with studies at the University of Sydney’s Centre for Disability Studies, where she is enrolled in a program called ‘Uni 2 Beyond’. She has also done work experience at a play group and is planning on doing a self-paced course towards her dream of becoming an early childhood teacher.
India’s confidence is improving monumentally, and with the right people and environment, Belinda believes she will thrive.
“We need to do that with all people with disabilities. Being inclusive and part of society – everyone deserves that. You just need one person in your corner believing in you.”
Inclusive employment and advocacy
Belinda is passionate about inclusion and believes that India could also be a great advocate for people with disabilities. Belinda recently attended a CPActive event to learn, as an employer, how to be able to do things better in the employment space. Belinda owns 2773 –a café that brings together people of diverse abilities and strengths.
“We have a range of people who work for us, we want to make it inclusive and a good representation of community. Advocating for people with disabilities to have power, be heard and have jobs is so important. Exclusion can be so heartbreaking for people with a disability.”
“I believe in working to someone’s strengths and tailoring tasks and roles to their abilities. India has different abilities. I’ve never said to India she is disabled. I don’t personally see being disabled as being a negative but historically there’s the perception that disabled is ’less’. The way I see it is, she has a disability but she’s not disabled,” Belinda added.
It is those different abilities and unique perspectives that enable incredible outcomes for people with cerebral palsy. Belinda and India are two of the great minds of the Cerebral Palsy Alliance community, contributing to creating even better opportunities for people with cerebral palsy, and their families.
India’s philosophy is:
“always have confidence in your ABILITY, you can achieve a lot more than you think.”
This is the magic that can happen when great minds think differently.