The Paralympic Games is the multi-sports event involving athletes with a range of disabilities. These disabilities range from impaired muscle power (dystrophy, quadriplegia, paraplegia), limb deficiency(amputation), reduced the passive range of movement, short stature, and leg length differences.
The Paralympics have grown since its inception around 1948 by a group of World War II veterans. Paralympians strive for equal recognition with non-disabled Olympians. There are winter and summer games.
The Paralympics Games is a focused platform on capabilities that allows for the accurate localisation of obstacles to empowerment. This movement promotes a wider, more realistic and more accepting notion of the understanding of sports performance of impaired bodies, whose banner is ‘empower, inspire, achieve.’
There is one individual who strives by that dictum, who has dedicated his skill and life to promoting a positive message about ‘disabled people’ through the lens of his camera.
Kirk Norman is the Founder and Chief Photographer at Kirk N, a sports photography expert who specialises in showcasing sportsmen and women living with disabilities. Kirk has identified a niche in sports photography, focusing on bringing out to light the good stories within the disability community.
Kirk’s inspiration for sports portraiture is driven primarily by the challenge and motivation that surround sports personalities, similar to what draws him in with his photography.
“Ability Within Disability’ is the campaign banner under Kirk N Photography, an initiative that aims to inspire and motivate, based on the stories of sports persons living with a disability, who push past their limits beyond what able bodied persons can do.
The real motivation and inspiration, according to Kirk, is overcoming the mental barrier that society builds in the minds of individuals, let alone those living with a disability, whether acquired or natural. There is little coverage given to issue around disability; this is the driving factor in showcasing the ability within capability campaign.
Ability within disability draws on the disability as an asset rather than a setback. The idea is to surround yourself with people who live with a disability who have the right motivation and drive. Everything starts in the mind. Getting everything right starts by aligning the mental power to work alongside with the physical.
In the physical world, deep thought and self-belief when focused on goals create the very goals we desire. The belief has to have a certain level of intensity and burning obsession that one can feel it emotionally and be able to visualise it. This level of intensity overcomes any obstacles put in the way of achieving those goals.
Kirk shares a story of an off road hand cyclist, where an accident left him paralysed from the waist down. Despite not being able to ride a stand-up mountain bike, he has found and modified, a hand ridden trike bike to a point where it’s made it possible to be the first disabled body to compete in such events as the Cape to Cape. It’s the positive attitude of this rider that makes them a champion among equals.
Society had matured a lot with how they perceive minorities nowadays. There has been a paradigm shift in how people look at others with different circumstances in life, and this is attributed largely to new technologies. Social media has played a pivotal role and helping with this education.
Social media are technologies that allow governments, organisations, companies and other individuals, to create, view and share ideas, information and other forms of expression via virtual networks and communities.
Social media has helped improve our sense of connectedness with real and virtual communities. It is a useful communication tool for advocacy groups, governments, not-for-profit organisation, and entrepreneurs.
Kirk N Sports Portraiture utilises social media honeycomb framework’s high points to spread the ‘Ability Within Disability’ campaign to the wider community. For instance, Kirk N uses Facebook or Instagram to start a ‘conversation’ among individuals and groups to build a following, which in turn raises awareness in that same group setting.
One of the fundamental concepts of social media is to lose control of your message posted on the various platforms and simply begin to participate in the “conversation” expecting to achieve a significant influence in that conversation.
This process builds social authority, and it is critical to creating social authority with credibility if the message is going to be well received. People trust information from ‘people like us.’ This confidence is what has given rise to social media and networks.
How we respond to the situation is dependent on the state of our mindset. A mindset is a group of ideas and attitudes that shape the way we think and react to different circumstances. The kind of mentality we possess determines how we approach our everyday life.
Paralympians possess a great mindset that has accepted the challenges life has thrown at them and resolved to do something positive about it. They have determined to overcome their present circumstances and bring significant meaning to their lives. They have gone ahead and done some hard yards with realising their dreams.
Most importantly, Paralympians are open to doing the ordinary things in a new way. They have asked they question why it won’t work the normal way and have worked out better and innovative ways of approaches. They are determined not to let their setbacks get in the way of their dreams.