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Lack of recognition for disabled athletes

Published: 
Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Akeem Stewart won two gold medals at the Para Athletics

Let me repeat! T&T’s Akeem Stewart won two gold medals in the javelin and discus throw events at the Para Athletics Games. In both instances, the young man set new world records in the events.

And oh, you are asking, “What is the Para Athletics Games?”

It is very similar to the Para- Olympics, which is that all participants have disabilities of one kind or another, but compete in their respective categories, all seeking success and joy, but none without any chance to earn the major money that exists in sports for able body persons.

Last year, after Stewart had won a gold and silver in the Rio Para Olympics, he was virtually ignored by those in authority in terms of support and funding. Now that he has won two gold medals, his return to Trinidad and Tobago to say the least was–low key–and tinged with neglect, more than anything else.

Remember, this was not a gold medal by Keshorn Walcott in the Olympics javelin. No this was a gold medal by a disabled man–Akeem Stewart—so clearly those in authority believe that the treatment has to be different. However, I have to ask, why is it that, as a society, we do not care for those with disabilities? We may talk all the nice words, but in our actions, it is obvious, there is not equal treatment.

Anthony “Storming Tom”, a blind radio operator at I95.5 FM, made a startling revelation on Saturday’s Isports, when he stated, “If a disabled person kills someone, does he get treated differently to an able person, or is the same sentence …uhmmm”

And yes, he is absolutely correct, because it would appear that when it comes to punishment, everyone is treated equally, but when it comes to measuring success, able body persons are rated higher than those with disabilities.

Perhaps, part of the problem is you—and me —all of us who consider ourselves to be able body souls, with good minds, but because we have no first hand knowledge of respective disabilities, treat them with scant concern.

Anton La Fond, who has spent the better part of 25 years fighting for the causes of disabled persons, is not giving up, even if he believes the coalition body established to look after disabled persons, needs to be a given a greater attention by those in authority. La Fond is passionate and still does not understand how persons do not realise that one day they could become disabled through many unforeseen circumstances. “It is only when people are personally affected, it seems they understand the plight and suffering of those with disabilities …from lack of provisions at offices to facilities,”

Ministers come, ministers go, but as a society, we continue to neglect those that need our help the most, and this is not about pity, but rather fair treatment, and reward for excellence.

There is another school of thought as well, that this country has now become selfish and people have become self-centred, due to the unfortunate influences of outside forces, as many seek power and wealth at any cost. In fact, how many persons remember the two youngsters from this country, who were part of the 2016 West Indies Under-19 World Cup winning team, Kristin Kallicharan and Jyd Uri Goolie. Both these players appear to have been forgotten by the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board and the Ministry of Sports, who promised so much.

Something is amiss at the sports management level in this country, and unless it is corrected, the harm it will continue to do will leave many not only in pain but angry and with anger comes a lot of problems.

So all we can ask, is that somebody out there prove, calypsonian Lingo wrong and start to care, start to care for citizens of this country no matter there abilities. We need to become a much more caring society in action not in mere political words.

Akeem, I apologise to you and all other disabled athletes for the lack of sincerity that exists in this country at present.