The Future of Rehab is Here

Background

After a life-altering accident, husband and wife duo Daniel Hillyer and Maryanne Harris embarked on an eight-year-long journey to revolutionise rehabilitation in Australia. Following the foundation of their initial business tappON (an online NDIS services marketplace), they co-founded Robofit, finally making life-changing neuro-controlled exoskeleton technology available to Australians.

In 2010, avid chef and camping enthusiast Daniel Hillyer (aged 21 at the time) was out and about and unlucky enough to be on a balcony that collapsed, resulting in a two-storey fall. This left Daniel with a diagnosis of incomplete quadriplegia.

Daniel reports he spent ten months in hospital and was only allocated one hour of therapy per week due to the large number of patients admitted at the time. Due to the severity of his injuries, Daniel spent the vast majority of his time in slings. This was a very confronting diagnosis for Daniel and his loved ones.

In the aftermath of this experience, Maryanne became more interested in rehabilitation options not yet available in Australia and found herself on a trip to Germany to attend a major medical trade show. At this conference, Maryanne happened to cross paths with a stall from a Japanese organisation named Cyberdyne, where she was first introduced to the Hybrid Assistive Limb Exoskeleton. This was the beginning of the transcontinental business partnership that would eventuate in the founding of RoboFit.

How it works

Four months later, it was time for Daniel to try out the HAL exoskeleton for himself and see if this technology would help Daniel improve his independence. Daniel and Maryanne travelled to Tsubuka, Japan, to experience the technology for themselves.

This initial session at Cyberdyne HQ was focused on standing and gait training, and to say that the results were impressive would be an understatement. Prior to the first HAL session, Daniel was able to walk 3-4 metres (with a frame). After the third week of training with HAL, he was able to walk a distance of over 75 metres!

After flying back to Australia, Daniel continued walking with a frame and building up his endurance, resulting in a personal best of 200m - a significant improvement over the 75 metres he managed to complete in Japan. However, this record was shattered in April 2014 when Daniel managed to walk for over five kilometres, all the way across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The HAL exoskeleton helps with rehabilitation by reading the wearer’s bioelectric signals (BES), interpreting the wearer’s movement intention and working with them to complete movements. This program encourages the development of new neural pathways, improving motor and sensory function. This process is also known as neuroplasticity.

For wearers with weaker BES or no signals at all, HAL’s intelligence has pre-programmed gait patterns that can walk for the wearer.

Case Study: Elio - Stroke Survivor

One of RoboFit’s clients, Elio (aged in his sixties), had a cerebellum stroke in 2016. Following the stroke, he has been unable to walk unaided. In June 2021, he travelled from Melbourne to North Wollongong and then underwent two weeks of HAL therapy.

Working with RoboFit’s head trainer Kieran, Elio has been able to achieve some great outcomes:

  • Posture improved substantially
  • Walking much more efficiently (this means fewer steps to cover the same distance)
  • Less reliant on upper limbs for gait/balance
  • Walking further and faster

Elio’s carer Kim has been impressed with the improvements, stating in a recent review that “Following sessions with Kieran, we’re certainly noticing a huge difference. I would 100% recommend RoboFit; it’s been amazing”.

RoboFit are currently offering a FREE initial consultation to all active tappON members. To explore what RoboFit can do for you, get in touch at hello@robofit.com.au or give them a call at 0493 055 787


On the road to Tokyo

Last week, ambassador Luke Bailey received the call he’d been waiting for for months: He’d officially made the Australian Paralympic team. We were lucky enough to catch up with Luke and hear how he broke the news to his family about heading to Tokyo.

You may remember, we caught up with Luke a few months ago and chatted through his training schedule and what it felt like to be the fastest wheelchair racer in Australia. Luke shared some incredible insights into staying motivated and keeping your passion amid competitions and pressure. It was incredible that we could follow up with Luke today after discovering he officially made the team. You can find Luke’s article here.

Hear from Luke:

It was the longest day of my life. I was waiting all day for that call, and I couldn’t focus on anything. As the day went on, my coach kept telling me that it was a good thing that they hadn’t called me yet, but I was still so nervous.

Then the call finally came in. I can’t explain the feeling. I was completely over the moon. I knew my times were good, and I had qualified, but there’s still the doubt and uncertainty until you’re officially in. It was really nice because my mum flew down to be with me while I found out. She burst into tears when I told her; she was so happy and so incredibly proud. It was sad to see her cry, but I know it was because she was so happy for me. My dreams had come true after six years of hard work; it was such an incredible moment.

I’ve been keeping it quiet for a while and telling people slowly. My dad wasn’t surprised; he had so much faith that I was in the team anyway. I told my brother almost straight away. He’s been a huge supporter my whole life. He’s been there through all my injuries and races. My best friend was speechless, which was a first! Everyone’s been so supportive; it’s been a really great time.

I’m really excited, but It’s a little bittersweet because my family can’t come with me to Tokyo. You know, it’s my first Paralympics, and it’ll be hard not having that family support, but at least I have a great team and coach with me.

You know, it’s easy to panic about COVID, especially with everything going on right now. I’m really trying to stay calm, but it gets pretty overwhelming at times. I’m just focusing on my training and keeping myself healthy before we fly out on September 1st.

Sometimes I still can’t believe it’s happening. I’m going to do my best, but I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I can get really nervous at competitions, so I’m trying to remind myself to enjoy this time. I’m just here for the experience and to show the world how good I am and how hard I’ve worked to get here.


Make sure you follow us on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with Luke’s journey to Tokyo. We’re all rooting for you, Luke!!


Helping you stay fit at home

With many of us in lockdown and stuck at home, we know that exercise and keeping fit can be challenging. The normal incidental exercise we get from being out and about has gone. Some of you may have learnt to adapt a gym workout to the living room. This can be a little more challenging when you have SCI. So, we’ve pulled together some resources to help you stay fit and active during this time.

For some background information on why it’s important to exercise after sustaining a Spinal Cord Injury, please watch this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoQ1UGn22sk

For tips and advice on how to begin exercising with SCI, please watch this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0EWCQawRbI

We recommend starting with some light cardio, though if you ever feel unsure or uncomfortable, please reach out to us or your physio for specific questions. The video we’ve included below is a 30-minute cardio workout that is divided up by several songs. We recommend starting with just one song for now, especially if you’re not used to cardio training. Over the coming weeks, you can increase the duration of your workout one song at a time until you feel comfortable enough to complete the full 30 minutes.

Have a go at this 30-minute cardio workout:

*Please note: Before starting, make sure you are well supported in your chair (at 28 seconds into the video, they suggest scooting forward or backward in your chair for more stability. We DO NOT advise this and suggest you stay seated normally in your chair for the duration of the workout). Remember, you are looking to elevate your heart rate, not stress your heart rate. You should always stop if you experience any discomfort and contact a health professional. If you have not been exercising for a longer period of time, it is good to speak with a doctor before starting an exercise program.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ew-N5Ux0Ns

If you have any questions about staying fit during lockdown or any other health concerns, reach out to one of our dedicated staff via paraquad@paraquad.org.au or head to our website for information https://paraquad.org.au/.


EveryDay Living with Joel Sardi

This month, we’re introducing a new segment to our Newsletter called EveryDay Living. Here, we will highlight the voices of people in the SCI community who share some of their experiences, insights, and knowledge. We are kicking off this segment with ambassador Joel Sardi who talks about his experiences in restaurants, how to handle tricky situations and tips on how to be prepared.

Hear from Joel:

Preparation has always been high on my priority list. After my accident, it became my number one priority. Down to the minute details regarding the width of the doorways of a venue, I’m attending, steps, ledges, indoor/outdoor, temperature, and clothes to wear to best suit the environment. The list goes on….

Some of the things I always leave the house with are:

  • At a minimum, four catheters
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Baby wipes
  • Mask
  • Spare pants/jocks (Ya never know when you need em!!)
  • Water bottle
  • Muesli bar
  • Headphones for taking calls whilst on the move.
  • The obvious, phone, wallet, keys, Esme + and Elisa.
  • Portable ramp (stays in the van at all times)

It's quite interesting what becomes the new normal. These days if I am heading out to an event with friends or family, out of courtesy, I will contact the venue to let them know I'm in a wheelchair so they can make an allocation or accommodate for my needs (remove the dining chair at the table or place my table away from a thoroughfare). There aren't too many more things that need to change when I make a booking. Unfortunately, I had an experience recently that was not so positive or encouraging. As this was not the first time I had been made to feel uncomfortable due to my injury, I decided to voice my frustration and disappointment. It definitely came at a cost for everybody involved, but the bigger picture of understanding disability and what is right/wrong was spread to over 2 million people.

In the past, when situations have arisen where staff or people are unaware of disability and how to accommodate, having a respectful, quiet conversation perhaps in private with them, explaining the intricacies of my disability, not only educates them but allows for a smoother process for the next person entering the premises with a disability. 90% of the time, people are willing to listen, take it on board and apply this knowledge to their practice. Given that disability makes up 20% of the Victorian demographic, it would be foolish for business owners not to educate or listen to ensure they are better equipped moving forward.

When visiting a cafe or restaurant, I will always find the warmest corner, or place myself in front of the air-conditioner, depending on what time of the year it is! I try to find a table where I can roll my wheelchair under so that I can bring my chest all the way up to the edge of the table, select a takeaway coffee or tea regardless if I'm staying or not, as it is easier to hold than some mugs, if I am eating alone I will choose food that doesn’t require being chopped up if I order toast I ask the kitchen to butter my bread before it comes out. Sometimes when I'm being really picky, I bring my favourite fork (it has a very wide handle at the base and fits in my palm perfectly!) I request my salad, if possible, to be put into a bowl; the side of the bowl makes it easier to stab the food. Food always seems to fall off my fork, so extra napkins are always a must; I bloody hate spilling food on my clothes!

The most important thing to remember is patience. A conversation costs $0.00, sometimes all it takes is 2 minutes to explain ‘why or what’, and you can change someone’s life.


If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell, please reach out to us at editor@paraquad.org.au; we’d love to hear from you!


Up to date on research: SpinalCure

This month, we’re highlighting some of the research done by our friends over at SpinalCure Australia. Committed to making a cure for spinal cord injury, SpinalCure is Australia’s premier national operating NFP research centre.

SpinalCure are at an exciting point with their research in Australia, with their landmark eWalk trial beginning. Here’s an overview of their progress in research.

1. eWalk Neurostimulation trial

The researchers at SpinalCure believe neurostimulation holds the most promise out of current research to bring tangible improvement to people with spinal cord injury in the near future. They explain that neurostimulation is like a hearing aid for the spinal cord. It aims to harness to positive effects of neuroplasticity.

2. Reducing injury damage in the early stages

SpinalCure have helped develop an anti-inflammatory drug treatment for newly injured people. This drug is currently being tested by the University of Queensland and the results of which will be published later this year.

3. Reconnecting the brain and the body through nerve regrowth could soon be possible.

SpinalCure have been able to isolate EphA4 - a protein that prevents neurons from regrowing across the injury site. Researchers have created a molecule that counteracts EphA4 and is now in a Stage 1 safety trial.

4. Intensive rehabilitation and exercise is an essential adjunct to cure-related treatments.

SpinalCure is supporting a clinical trial that is using robotics and video games to improve the amount and quality of exercise therapy people receive. Their aim is to use robotics to improve outcomes in the arm and hand function for people with SCI, particularly tetraplegics.

If you want to read more about the great progress SpinalCure are making, head over to their website.


Travelling the world with a wheelchair (Part 2)

By Julie Halvorsen

Travelling the world with a wheelchair has equipped my husband, Anders, and me with more resilience and resourcefulness than I thought possible. I previously wrote of our travel journeys through the years; however, our trip to Norway in 2019 was the most memorable and deserved a tale of its own.

What can go wrong when we ask all the questions, obtain photos of roll-in showers and ensure all bookings confirmed are accessible? Well, as it turns out, quite a bit!

We began our journey in Gold Coast Airport with the discovery that the allotted seats on our first flight had been changed. We didn’t mind being seated apart, especially as I find myself next to an Instagram adventurer who regales me with stories of remote and unpronounceable destinations.

Once in Sydney, the transfer from Domestic to International is relatively uneventful, apart from an ugly collision with my foot, Anders’ smart-drive and the shuttle ramp. Once we arrive at the gate, however, we’re told that our booking has changed as Anders can ‘apparently’ walk to his seat, so a lift is not booked, nor available! Eventually, staff find a catering lift, boarding us last instead of first.

Bound for Hong Kong, we soon discover that the opening into the seat module provides an unexpected challenge for Anders' tall frame. With the assistance of extra staff, myself, my bruised foot and an audience of passengers, we pull and push until my husband is finally seated, relieved our inflight plan for toileting does not involve having to get him in and out of the module!

To our delight, customs and immigration assistance at all airports is excellent, even if the 'pat downs' for Anders are thorough and a tad intimate at times. After a rather cramped drive to our accommodation, which includes me nursing our big suitcase and one of the wheels after our failed efforts or find a wheelchair taxi, we’re told the cabbie only takes cash—HK currency. In my haste to get to the hotel reception for help, I jam my finger so badly assembling the wheelchair that I need help to get it out. Paying the cabbie, we make it to the room to find, you guessed it, a bath! No roll-in shower as promised.

Exhaustion, jet lag and pain in my foot and finger hit me at once, and I let myself cry. By morning, after a sleep, we form a plan together. He will stay on the toilet, and I will reach with the shower hose to shower him. It will not be the only time on the trip we resort to this, and many towels will be used to stop flooding rooms!

After a 2 day stopover, we are booked to fly to Oslo via Copenhagen. SAS, our carrier, is rumoured to be experiencing a pilot strike, but we’re assured our flight is still scheduled and on time. However, arriving at the departure counter, the news is very different. The flight is indeed cancelled, and we will be put up at the Airport Hotel as many nights necessary until resolved. Our real nightmare in HK has only just begun.

The room is weird; we face another shower on the toilet, and carefully planned bowel routines need to be reassessed; countless calls to our travel agent are made, racing to secure another carrier. All our carefully tailored travel plans are in jeopardy, including our passage on a coastal voyage from the north of Norway. The drama of negotiating alternative flights with a wheelchair is, seemingly, a complication a new carrier does not want to deal with. We seriously consider abandoning the trip and flying home!

Miraculously, when all seems lost, out of nowhere comes the best news. An SAS plane is in HK having repairs, and a crew will come from Copenhagen to fly it. After hours of negotiating, we are on our way through an almost deserted HK airport to board the repaired plane. There were no frills on this plane: No cabin service, horrid pre-prepared sandwiches, no genuine personal care, A Roho that swells up (memo to self, let some air out the next time), and a flight that will terminate in Copenhagen, but we are finally on our way! Anders has found seats to Oslo from Copenhagen at an exorbitant cost with a rival airline. With EU airport assistance, we make it just in time, arriving finally in Oslo where we stay a night near the airport where yet another unusable stupid shower set up awaits.

Early the following day, we board a wheelchair accessible bus to the airport for our flight to Kirkenes, Northern Norway. We are exhausted but entranced, seeing the snow-capped peaks from the air. When we land, Anders is unloaded the old-fashioned way, and together with family, we hire a car to spend an afternoon exploring this town and surroundings close to the Russian Border.

Although it’s spring, a massive snowstorm rolls in, and we suddenly find ourselves in a winter wonderland! Norway does not disappoint, and our senses are bombarded with the endless beauty of the coastline and the isolation of small Arctic villages as we cruise for the next six days. In Bergen, we hire a Volvo wagon, and I once again find a new type of “brave” as we negotiate claustrophobic tunnels through snow-capped mountains and cruise along fjords and through quaint towns towards Arendal, the birthplace of Anders' father.

Spring is bursting forth. Flower boxes, bright coloured houses and ancient churches are all presenting a photographic smorgasbord. The warmth of the extended Norwegian family enlarges our hearts, and we truly wonder at times how Anders' grandparents could have left behind such a beautiful country to start their new life in Australia. Then again, it’s spring, not winter but the desire to return is strong. We just have to see those Northern Lights!

In case you missed it, you can check out Julie’s first article here.


Find your space with WheelEasy

Last month was Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which focuses on access and inclusion for people living with disabilities and impairments across the world.

This year, to celebrate GAAD, we profiled the incredible work of WheelEasy. In one mobile-friendly site, WheelEasy provides information on wheelchair-accessible locations around Sydney for you to view easily.

WheelEasy was born from the lived experience of husband-and-wife team Max Burt and Justine O’Brien after Max was involved in an accident that resulted in him living with paraplegia. At its core, the WheelEasy founders believe that leisure activities should be made available to everyone.

Hear from Max on what WheelEasy is and why it’s such an important project:

In our land of the 'fair go', you would think we all have a basic right of access. But many people are still isolated and excluded. They get stuck, give up, and stay in. And it's all their friends and family who get stuck too. Many of them can't lead the life together that lots of people take for granted.

The biggest problem for anyone with mobility needs isn't just physical access but a lack of access information.

The problem? At the moment, 9 out of 10 people find access information hard to find. It's scattered all over the web, it's buried on different sites, it's often not up-to-date, it can be inaccurate, or sometimes it's not available at all. Mobility impaired people and their families and friends can spend hours searching for the information they need, making many phone calls, just to go for a simple day or evening out together.

So we've built the WheelEasy Access Information web app. We launched it in Sydney and now plan to take it Australia wide.

It's a sort of Tripadvisor for access. A one-stop shop that brings together all access information into one place.

No more researching beforehand - it's designed for your mobile, so you can see what's nearby you, be spontaneous and change your mind, just like everyone else.

Most importantly, we'll grow the site by crowdsourcing the information, asking everyone to share what they find out about access, creating a community of people who share the same access needs.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day seems like the perfect time to begin growing our community.

Please share the news about our new web app with everyone you know who might find out helpful.

Head to the WheelEasy website https://wheeleasy.org/ and start researching what’s accessible near you today.


Dreams of an inclusive world

Last month, we introduced you to Shanon Bates, who founded Push the Limit, a program focused on spreading the message of inclusivity and social justice to as many young children and educators as possible. Shanon shared Part One of his story on how Push the Limit started, and today he shares Part Two. Read on to hear about Shanon’s ambitions and dreams for an inclusive world.

By Shanon Bates

Over the last four years, Push the limit has grown from the occasional daycare to something much more consistent. I talk to kids and educators about the topics of disability awareness, bullying, resilience, mental health and goal setting.

My ultimate goal is to lower the bullying rate for all kids in today’s society. I want these children to have friends who have disabilities so they all feel connected and part of a community.

The earlier you educate kids on disability, the more accepting they can become.

I wanted to intervene as early as possible to ensure no child went through what I went through.

So, I try to change their perception of disability. I’ll start by asking if they know what a disability is, which most don’t. Then, I’ll show them pictures of people living with different disabilities and ask questions like: Can a person in a wheelchair:

  • Play basketball
  • Go water skiing
  • Can they go snow skiing
  • Go swimming in the ocean. Just to name a few.

And I show them how a person living with a disability can all kinds of activities.

We then do some simulations together where I’ll put the children in scenarios where they get to experience what life is like for someone with a disability such as using blind folds & wheelchairs to simulate the type of impairment. They get to know the limitations of people with a disability, so they’re a bit more helpful towards someone living with a disability when they’re going through school. I find that they’re often quite responsive because it’s a physical activity.

One of the most important topics I talk about in Push the Limit is Accountability. You know, in my last article, I spoke a lot about being bullied as a child and how that severely impacted me growing up. The effects of bullying don’t just stop when you finish school; they can last a lifetime.

When I was 22, I was at the pub with some mates, and this guy walked up behind me; I didn’t even see him coming. He tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘I’m sorry’ and then kept walking. When I turned to look at him, I realised it was the ringleader of the bullies from primary school. He was the guy that had caused me so much grief, and there he was, in the same bar as me.

He said sorry, but at 22, I was angry, and I felt that I wanted some kind of revenge. I was bigger and stronger, and I tried to find him and show him that the tables had turned. But when I went looking for him, I couldn’t find him. In the end, It was meant to be.

No amount of physical hurt that I can give him will ever make up for what he did to me. He has to live with what he did to me every day. So, I’m glad that I didn’t find him that night because, knowing what I know today, I wouldn’t be any better than him. And I never want to put myself in that situation or be that person to someone.

They say as you get older, you get more mature. I don’t want kids going through life and regret what they did because of peer pressure. You can say sorry, but that will never erase the things that you do to someone else. If a child takes his or her life and you were a part of that bullying process, you have to live with that forever. And that’s what my bully has to live with every day. That, in my opinion, is worse than anything I could have done to him that night.

So, that’s why accountability in my presentation is so important. It’s tough for kids to understand, but we’re changing how we’re teaching and parenting children. I was speaking to these year 6’s not that long ago, and one weekend I saw one of the young girls from the class. She was nudging her parents and pointing me out. Her mum ended up pulling me aside and chatting with me. She said that her daughter had come home and spoke so highly of my presentation, and she’d never done that about any other presentation before.

She said that I had given this young girl the confidence to go home and talk to her parents about issues that she had been having at school, a lot of which they hadn’t known about. This mum looked at me, and she told me that I had potentially saved her daughter’s life. I still get emotional now whenever I talk about it because I know how hard it must have been for that girl. I resonate back to when I was in school, and I hate to think of anyone else going through anything like that. But for me, I had the physical presence of bruises and whatnot that made my situation well known. Living in a digital age, it can be difficult to see, physically, the results of bullying.

I wish her and her daughter the very best, and I’m so glad that she had the confidence to speak up. I didn’t save her life; she saved her own because she had the confidence to say something. It was a really powerful moment. I felt that I had come full circle since I was her age in school, being pushed out of my chair & physically harmed and it became so obvious why I do what I do and why I started Push the Limit.

I honestly want to work on Push the Limit forever; I want it to become bigger than anything I could have ever imagine.

For inquiries about Push the Limit, please reach out to Shanon through info@pushthelimit.com or through his website https://www.pushthelimit.com.au/


If you don’t try, you’ll never know

In 2015, Shanon Bates founded a program called Push the Limit. His program is focused on spreading the message of inclusivity and social justice to as many young children and educators as possible. Shanon is an incredibly driven and inspiring person, and today he shares Part One of his story on how Push the Limit started.

By Shanon Bates


To understand where ‘Push the limit’ came from, I think it’s essential to go back to my personal story.

I was born in 1977 with Spina Bifida and was initially paralysed from the neck down. The doctors sat my parent’s down and told them there was a 95 percent chance I wouldn’t survive the day. My parents were given two options: operate in an attempt to increase my quality of life, or don’t operate and let nature take its course. With the chance of survival the same, my parents chose to operate.

My parents have always said: ‘If we don’t try, we’ll never know’.

That surgery was a success, because 95 operations later, here I am. Thanks to that operation and all of my rehab, I was able to gather more movement and walk with the help of callipers & crutches for the first ten years of my life.

It’s important to note that my parents never raised me as a child with a disability. They always accepted that I had a disability but didn’t ever wrap me in cotton wool. For this reason, they enrolled me in the local soccer club, where I played along with able-bodied kids my age. I loved it. I played a season, and when I came back to re-enrol the following year, the St. George Federation president told me I had been barred from the club. Apparently, the other parents had thought that their kids were unsafe on the field with me because of my crutches. I was only six. After that, I turned to wheelchair racing.

When I was in year 4, my parents decided to move me to a mainstream school and out of the school for children with disabilities. I’ll be honest; it was quite a struggle but l knew it was a positive move. I was the only child with a disability within the school, and I was a clear outcast. During my first year, the kids didn’t pay much attention to me.

Then the bullying started.

As time went on, some kids started to abuse me physically. The bullying got worse and worse, to the point where my parents wanted to take me out. I was adamant, however, that I would stick it out at this school. I remember talking to them and saying, ‘No, mum, we’ve come this far. Where else am I going to go?’

I never wanted to be seen as that person with a disability.

If I had left my primary school, I would have just gone back to the school for kids with a disability. My parents fought tooth and nail to give me my education, and I didn’t want to let these bullies dictate what kind of life I would lead.

I’m not saying it was easy. There was a time where I was gang-bashed and another when my wheelchair was thrown into oncoming traffic. But through it all, I tried to think of my parents.

You see, when I was born, my parents could have put me in the corner and let me pass with natural causes, or they could fight. They fought. They fought for me, and now I fight for me. I’m forever grateful for the decision they made.

So, I stuck it out until high school. That was probably the best move of my life; my high school years were the best of my life as a student. I started to create this new identity for myself. I had represented Australia in wheelchair racing, and kids in the school were beginning to see my abilities and not my disabilities.

It was really nice to feel recognised, welcomed and accepted. 

Leaving school, however, and getting into the workforce was a little tough. I had this idea in the back of my mind my whole life:

How am I going to educate society if society never knows.

That was my thought process back then, so I focussed on getting jobs that made me visible. That’s why I loved hospitality so much. People would walk into wherever I was working and think, ‘here’s a guy; a security guard/ doorman/ concierge, checking me in or checking my ID, and he’s using a wheelchair.’

It was nice to be the face of a company. I felt that I was subtly changing people's perceptions of me and others with a disability just by being visible and doing my job. People don’t always expect someone in my situation to be in that kind of role.

In my last role at PWC, I inducted new employees and partners into the business. These incredibly high-powered people would come into PWC, and I was the one who was talking about our structure, our vision, our inclusion model. It was really empowering to be in that role; hanging out with those partners and professionals gave me the power to work for myself.

This is basically where Push The Limit started full-time.


Be sure to read June's edition to discover Part Two of Shanon's journey. 


Meet Scott Hoare, a recent ParaQuad scholarship winner

This month we sat down with Scott Hoare, a ParaQuad member and one of this year’s scholarship winners. We spoke about Scott's studies and staying motivated through challenges. 


Can you tell me a little about what you’re studying at the moment and what your ParaQuad scholarship went towards?

Of course, so broadly, it’s going towards my bachelor of psychology. It’s a six-year degree split over three parts; there’s the undergrad, your honours and then your masters. I’m currently doing my final year of my undergrad, but I hope to continue my studies and eventually specialise in organisational psychology. This is essentially the psychology of the workplace and is applied in all sorts of situations, particularly in high-stress workplaces. Right now, I’m researching resilience in the military. 

What was it that drove you to look specifically into the military?

So, It all started from a class I took in my first year where one of my professors talked about a grant she’d received from the Australian Government to research resilience and organisational psychology within the military. I was really drawn to the high-stress, high-performance environment and ended up going to another one of her seminars in Canberra, at the Australian Defence Force Academy. It was phenomenal. I approached her and asked if I could be her research assistant; she said yes, and the rest is history. Last week, I was told that I’d be a co-author on my first paper, which is a huge deal.

That’s amazing; congratulations! How are you finding your study this year?

So, you’ve got to average a high distinction across your degree if you want to get into the Master’s program because it’s so competitive. This is something that the scholarship helped with because I’ve been able to work with a tutor to help me with my written work, which was an area I recognised I needed help in. She helped me understand how to write within psychology because it’s very specific, and I’ve been able to flip my grades around. Now my writing is one of my strongest points. You know, these academic hurdles are really high, and I don’t think I’d be at this point and co-authoring this paper if I couldn’t get that bit of help.

Yeah, I can imagine there would be a lot of pressure to keep up your grades while also working.

Yeah, and being a quadriplegic, you know, that takes a lot of effort every day. But I don’t feel the pressure that much because I don’t even see not achieving it as an option. It may sound strange, but I really just focus on what I need to do to get to where I want to be. And that’s how things like the tutor came about. The scholarship alleviated a lot of stress and opened a few doors for me. 

I’ve also just upgraded a lot of my technical equipment at home, which has been helpful. So, I have everything I need set up at home to write during lectures and meetings efficiently. It’s pretty exciting because I just got a microphone and a trackball mouse, so I can listen to my lectures in my headphones and talk into my microphone to take notes. Now, I don’t have to keep pausing the lecture to take my notes, and I can be much more efficient. Hopefully, I’ve got years of study ahead of me because I’m enjoying it so much, and I feel like I’ve found a great opportunity here.

How do you find motivation for all of your study? 

When you have an accident like I had, considering a fruitful life ahead of you can be difficult, and it’s easy to lose hope. It’s easy to imagine a life with many physical challenges, and it’s hard to think beyond that. So, every time I’m mentally challenged by an assignment or find something hard, I switch my thinking and then find it rewarding because I didn’t think I’d even have that again. 

This is what keeps me motivated; knowing that I’m continuously learning and growing. Also, my wife and I are trying to start a family, so it’s easier for me to stay motivated in my studies and work towards the life I want to lead. Things like this scholarship help take off that extra pressure and focus on doing what I need to do to succeed academically and chase the profession I want.