“It is our decisions not our conditions that determine the life we are going to live.”
These were the powerful words of paralympic gold medallist, world champion and Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott OAM.
Born with a tumour wrapped around his spinal cord, Alcott spent the first three-and-a-half years of his life in and out of hospital.
As a teenager his disability “dictated everything I thought I could achieve”. But at 15, he decided to “make his own luck”. He became passionate about paralympic sport and the rest, as they say, is history.
At 17, Alcott represented Australia in wheelchair basketball at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Taking home the gold medal – with a team who “at one point in all of our lives had given up hope” – was among his greatest achievements.
He later joined the world tennis tours, winning 15 Grand Slam single titles. At the Rio Paralympics Games he became one of only a handful of athletes to win gold medals in two different sports.
He established the Dylan Alcott Foundation to help young Australians reach their potential and, in 2018, staged the nation’s only completely inclusive, fully accessible music festival, Abilityfest.
Alcott called on property industry leaders to change their perceptions of what people with disability can do and to “eliminate their unconscious bias”. The hardest part of his day is not to navigate stairs, he said. “The hardest thing to get over is the lack of expectation about what people think you can do.”
By asking questions and “putting in a little bit of effort,” Alcott said, the property industry can create places that are inclusive and accessible and that deliver a “life changing impact”.