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What is Independence

July 24th, 2015

Hello everyone!  It’s so good to be writing a blog for iDID again, and this time I want to tackle what I believe to be a massive misconception about many disabled people: that our disability limits our independence.  It’s really important that we overcome this misconception in the world of adventure sports because it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities and that’s exactly what iDID are doing.

To give you a little bit of context, I have cerebral palsy which affects all four limbs and means I use an electric wheelchair when out and about.  I consider myself to be extremely independent, and it is very important to me to remain that way.  Others don’t see it this way though, because I’m disabled.

So, what is independence?  Or maybe I should start by asking, what has independence meant to you in your lifetime?  Maybe it was when you passed your driving test, got your first job or moved into your first house.  Maybe it was going to university, leaving school or just moving out of your parents’ house.

Let’s look at the dictionary definition for the word ‘independence’.  According to an (admittedly old) Collins dictionary it primarily means to not be dependent or rely on others.  If we take this definition, then, independence is about doing everything for yourself. 

How realistic is this, though?  Can we really do everything for ourselves without any input whatsoever from anybody else?  Surely the nature of humanity is to do things with other people anyway?

I want to briefly illustrate a different concept of independence.  Nick Vujicic is a world-renowned motivational speaker.  Between 2007 and 2010 alone he delivered 1000 talks, took 600 flights, spoke in schools, churches, orphanages and made numerous public appearances.  Oh, and he reached five million people. Impressive?

Nick has no arms, and no legs. 

Then how can he possibly be so independent?  He relies on others to help him with the things he finds difficult so he can get on with living a life, in his words, without limits.  His independence is completely the opposite to the dictionary definition because his reliance on others is what makes him so independent.

It took me a long time to realise that this was true for me, too.  The penny finally dropped when I went to a residential college for disabled students at 16.  I had to get used to different people assisting me and up until then I’d been stubbornly independent, wanting to do everything I possibly could for myself, regardless of how difficult it might be.  Going to college, however, made me realise that it was OK to ask for help sometimes, and that doing this enabled me to do so much more.

Fast forward six years.  I left college and moved to Bristol for university and have stayed here since.  I’m still determined to be as independent as possible, but that no longer means doing everything myself.  I can’t drive, but I have a car and employ a driver so I can get where I want to go when I want to go.  I employ PA’s to help me around the flat.  I don’t need much, but the PA support I have is what has made me so independent. 

What’s important is that I can direct people to do what I need doing.  I may rely on others, but everything they do for me, they're doing because I've asked them to and I've given direction as to how I want it done and when I need their help. That's independence.

This view of independence is true for everyone, regardless of whether you have a disability or not.  Dependence isn’t necessarily the opposite of independence; in fact, by allowing yourself to rely on somebody else you can create your own independence. 

How does all of this relate to adventure sports?  Well, I’m a keen rock climber, and being disabled doesn’t stop me from climbing regularly.  I can’t belay others, which kind of defeats the object of going climbing with someone if they can’t climb too, so I arrange for one of my PA’s to drive and belay me.  I’ve arranged for them to be belay trained and we work as a team when I’m climbing because I’m not your average climber and do need the rope to remain tight at all times.  I can only climb outside attending sessions with iDID Bristol because I rely on my PA to come with me and that gives me the freedom to climb whenever I want to.  Being disabled hasn’t prevented me from doing it, I just have to do it a slightly different way.

Think back to those moments in your life when you felt you became more independent.  Wasn’t there always at least one other person helping you make that transition?  After all, I’m sure you didn’t just hop in a car for the first time and start driving down the motorway having had no lessons (at least I hope not…). 

If you are involved in sports, think about how you take part.  If it’s a team game, you’re always relying on your teammates and if it’s something like climbing you may still have to rely on others to take part.  Even if it’s not a necessity, input from others is what helps you progress, especially in adventure sports.  Does that take away from your independence in your particular sport?  No, it enhances it.

So let me suggest that we redefine independence.  For me, it means knowing what you want, making your own decisions and living life the way you want to.

Categories:   Jennie Goodrum  

Posted By:  Jennie Goodrum

Comments:  0

Eiger Paraclimb: An emotional rollercoaster

July 18th, 2015

As the team settle at basecamp, we are excited to bring this thought-provoking blog to summerise what the Eiger Paraclimb is all about. Something to challenge the team, emotionally and physically. Something to demonstrate to the global climbing community what is possible in paraclimbing...

...Something real.

"The Eiger challenge has pushed me in ways I didn’t expect. The big thing for me was being able to begin and sustain training with the challenges I already was dealing with. Without going into too much detail I already had a lot happening, stuff that felt very full on. Going out of my comfort zone in many ways at the same time; pushing my ability to cope."

In this third addition to the series, we catch up with Colin Gourlay to find out a little bit more about what the Eiger Paraclimb means to him. As an outdoor instructor for the Prince's Trust Fairbridge Programme, Colin has a breadth of experience working with young people. He is also an instructor at the Glasgow Climbing Centre and plays the drums too.

Thanks for chatting with us Colin. How are you feeling ahead of the challenge?

I am a storm of feelings over it to be honest. The ‘Eiger’ is a big mountain with a big name. All the publicity and all of this has made it bigger in a way but when it boils down to the simplicity of climbing strong and safe I’m feeling pretty solid.

It's not everyday you wake up and say, "I'm going to climb the Eiger with a team of paraclimbers". What made you get involved?

In the simplest sense, a friend ask me. Mark asked me years back to do the North Face with him and I said no. Time to say yes to something, even though I didn’t know what it would truly entail.

Has this project changed your own view of paraclimbers?

In some ways yes and some ways no. I already had a pretty unrestricted view of people overall but have learned a lot meeting the team; about humour, human spirit and care. I have been taken by their uncluttered view of climbing and ballsy wish to climb the Eiger. It has been in many ways much easier to click with the team – none of the tiresome ego b*ll~cks to deal with (such a breath of fresh air really).

How significant do you think this challenge is for the perception of paraclimbing?

I think the FinalCrux film could really present new images, new conceptions of what is possible and that may become a truly inspirational thing. Not simply for paraclimbers but for everyone. The way the London Paralympics offered a new story of what people can do, want to do and dream of doing. In a way it is magical, both precious and beautiful.

I think it was Goethe who said.. "whatever you dream or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has a power and magic to it". We all need a bit of this I think…

"[I] have learned a lot meeting the team; about humour, human spirit and care. I have been taken by their uncluttered view of climbing."

The team are aiming to raise awareness of mental health issues through the Climb Out 365 challenge. How important is this cause for you?

Supporting the climb out idea and choosing the challenge of the Eiger has forced me to confront myself and some of my own challenges; to try to climb out myself.

There is so much stigma around mental health that I feel it is vitally important for every possible avenue be opened up to work against this. If people can help each other, support each other and celebrate the achievements of one another we have the beginnings of a community, a culture even, that is beyond stigma. This may then give a place for people to feel they are valued; that their struggles are understood, their achievements and setbacks too. Maybe then people will find ways to grow and find positive change for a better life.

I hope too the climbing community embrace a culture of understanding and support, fostering a culture of well being for all.

A small team of British Paraclimbers are tackling the West Flank Route to the summit of The Eiger in Switzerland in July along with Finalcrux Films who will be recording the climb. Assisted by Mark McGowan and Colin Gourlay, the objective is to safely climb The Eiger with two members of the BMC GB Paraclimbing Team, John Churcher (Visually Impaired), Alex Taylor (Multiple Sclerosis), and British Paraclimber, Jamie Owen (Autism).

The Eiger Paraclimb 2015 is inspired by a will to raise awareness of Paraclimbing on an international stage alongside supporting the climbout365 challenge for awareness of mental health. You can support the project by donating to the FundRazr page.

Categories:   Guest Blogs  

Posted By:  Guest Blog

Comments:  0

Eiger Paraclimb: A life-changing sport

July 4th, 2015

We are very excited to be back with our second edition of the Eiger paraclimb blog. After an awesome weekend on the podium at the first IFSC Paraclimbing competition, we caught up with John Churcher to see how he's dealing with the last weeks of preparation for the Eiger climb.

"People say that I am inspiring, but I just see myself as an ordinary guy, doing what I love. Hopefully my love of the sport will be shared by others. This has changed my life. I want it to do the same for other people."

John lives in Birmingham with his wife, daughter and Guide Dog. He's been climbing for 5 years which led him to competing on the GB Paraclimbing Team. Currently ranked at world no. 3 in his category, John's making impressive progress on the comp circuit this year. With a huge passion for improving opportunities to get involved in paraclimbing, John recently set up England's first independent competition dedicated to paraclimbing.

You've been climbing for 5 years now. How did you get involved and how on earth did it lead you to the Eiger?

I always thought that I would be good at it. I have a friend who is a climber, and a member of Solihull Mountaineering Club. She invited me along to a climbing wall, then as a family we went along to a Taster Session at an outdoor crag. I've been hooked ever since.

Mark McGowan sent me a video of blind children climbing in the Himalayas. I responded by saying 'makes me want to climb a mountain'.

Mark asked if I wanted to climb the Eiger... Obviously I said Yes!

Each member of the team have their roles, can you tell us a bit about your role?

It turns out I'm the responsible one (laughs). I write to potential sponsors, organise the travel and look after the funds. Each of us are also responsible for supporting each other through the highs and lows... that doesn't just happen on the mountain!

What do you think it is about climbing that you love so much?

No other sport has ever got me hooked. Climbing, with Solihull Mountaineering Club is very sociable. I just love it. Especially the independence when climbing a route outdoors using touch to select holds, and no-one telling me what I need to do

"I hope to encourage other people with a disability, to give climbing a try and know the climbing community will support them to do so."

At the risk of adding to the pressure, this project is pretty major. How are you feeling in the run up to it?

I'm actually feeling pretty laid back. I'm excited and just eager to get started.

How does this challenge compare to anything you've done before?

I've been trekking in the Himalayas before and I think that was more stressful. It was mostly because I'd never been abroad before but for the Eiger, I feel ready. Training and preparations are going well, we've got some fantastic sponsors behind us, and I'm happy to have Mark as my sight guide.

A small team of British Paraclimbers are tackling the West Flank Route to the summit of The Eiger in Switzerland in July along with Finalcrux Films who will be recording the climb. Assisted by Mark McGowan and Colin Gourlay, the objective is to safely climb The Eiger with two members of the BMC GB Paraclimbing Team, John Churcher (Visually Impaired), Alex Taylor (Multiple Sclerosis), and British Paraclimber, Jamie Owen (Autism).

The Eiger Paraclimb 2015 is inspired by a will to raise awareness of Paraclimbing on an international stage alongside supporting the climbout365 challenge for awareness of mental health. You can support the project by donating to the FundRazr page.