Local students have been having a wheely good time learning what it takes to be a paralympic champion.
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On Wednesday, November 1, wheelchair tennis player David Johnson was at Dubbo West Public School teaching students basic wheelchair sports skills and sharing his experience of living with a disability.
"Trying sport in a wheelchair gives students a whole new perspective around disability and inclusion and it's also lots of fun to move at speed on wheels and direct a ball," Mr Johnson said.
"[It's] a good hands-on learning experience for kids, it's something they've never previously had the chance to do."
Mr Johnson lost a leg in a car accident when he was a teenager and went on to represent Australia in the men's open singles and doubles wheelchair tennis in the Sydney 2000 Paralympics, taking home a silver medal.
Now, he works at not-for-profit Social Futures and travels from school to school teaching children how to play wheelchair sports.
"I cover basic wheelchair skills, and also go over different types of wheelchairs then I begin with basic stuff, like moving in a straight line," he said.
"Next we move to manoeuvring around cones, and I remind the students that people in wheelchairs have to learn how to avoid feet or dogs paws - you just can't run them over, people!"
Before students take the wheelchairs for a spin, Mr Johnson talks to them about their understanding of disability, inclusion and the benefits for people with a disability when they enjoy and play sport.
"I break it down for them and show them how they can play their part in building an accessible and inclusive community that welcomes everyone," he said.
"Kids get really engaged, and I love it, and they want more time doing the sports.
"They're really open to the idea - and they get comfortable around people with disabilities. I make it fun and we talk lots about accessibility and inclusion for people with all types of disabilities."
Joining Mr Johnson on his visits to schools in Dubbo was Richard Clarke, a proud Ngemba man from Brewarrina whose grandfather was a wheelchair user. He told students the wheelchair did not stop him from playing a vital role sharing cultural knowledge.
"That's the message I emphasise in schools - we may be different, but everyone is still valued, has role and is needed by their community," Mr Clarke said.
Mr Clarke explored ideas around disability and difference through dances, demonstration, songs, and storytelling.
"I always leave schools with a sense of pride because the students have learnt something from me, and I also get to see the Aboriginal students step up and share their culture with their class peers," he said.
"I witness them explaining, 'This is how you do that' and then I again feel so proud. I thank those students for sharing. I am grateful to have this opportunity to share my culture and demonstrate how it is so inclusive."
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