A very interesting event is taking place this week in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. It’s the 8th International Abilympics.
That strange, made-up word refers to a skills and crafts competition between people with disabilities. It is amazing to see that in our world, dominated by the whining of complainers and special groups, which demand more and more for doing less and less, we can still see people who are more interested in developing their abilities than joining the whining choir.
Watching those people can put your problems in the right perspective. The enormous efforts they have applied to overcome severe physical and sometimes mental problems, can shame anybody who looks for pathetic little excuses to do nothing with his or her life.
The participant, who impressed me the most, was Thomas Veillon. He is a young web designer from France. That wouldn’t be very impressive, if you don’t consider the challenges he had to face to develop his skills.
He is quadriplegic. In a pool incident, which he had at the age of 15, he broke his neck. Then he spent several months in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. Despite the medical efforts, he remained paralyzed. Thomas can move only his head and partially his shoulders, however he can’t use his arms and legs.
For many people, that would be the ultimate disaster, ending all of their dreams and ambitions. Thomas wasn’t one of them – despite the crippling incident, he managed to graduate from high school. Then he continued his university studies in the field of logistics.
He also decided to lead an independent lifestyle by renting his own apartment.
After finishing his studies, he chose to work instead of contemplating his misfortune. He has worked for several sports organizations, dealing with IT support. His current job is in the field of web design, which he does for the Pelotas League (Basque Pelotas is a sport similar to squash) in the French region of Aquitaine.
The years of practice sharpened his designing skills. In 2010 he became a web design Champion of Aquitaine in the business section of the regional final. This success made him eligible for the French National championship in that field.
Of course, you may wonder how he can operate a computer without hands. He uses a complicated communication system – a light attached to the rim of his baseball cap interacts with a device at the top of the computer screen. By moving the light he controls the cursor (the keyboard is displayed on the screen). Then for further action he uses another device near his mouth, which works with air. When he breaths in, he clicks, when he breaths out, he right-clicks.
It was amazing to watch him use this cumbersome communication system to perform the same tasks that we, the able-bodied people could do with our hands without thinking too much. His strong concentration was interrupted from time to time only by one of his teammates who brought him water to drink.
This was one of the most inspirational things I have ever seen. Looking at Thomas methodically completing task after task with his diminished physical abilities made me realize how insignificant are all the excuses we try to find to avoid succeeding.
Of course, there are people who would use their will in similar situation to do evil. Another famous quadriplegic comes to mind – Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas, who chose to direct his will to overcome his handicap toward a sinister goal.
I hope that Thomas Veillon would get more and more publicity in order to inspire other people and eclipse villains like Yassin.
When great achievers like Thomas Veillon, who are dedicated to helping people, receive the recognition they deserve, the world may really become a better place.
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