There are a million of us in NZ...We have a rightful place in society and we have very much to offer.
My name is Tony King and I have PPMS (primary progressive multiple sclerosis) which has meant to me that for the past 2 years I have become progressively more disabled and I now need a wheelchair to get about in.
I was not always disabled, indeed it was only from 2011 that the debilitating effects of PPMS became noticeable. Before that I had a career in theatre and live events that took me around the world and I was utterly oblivious to any other possible lifestyle, I thought that I was going to keep doing what I did until I was 99. Then I developed PPMS and my entire life changed…...
Today I am divorced with a 10 year old son. I had to give up my career and lifestyle and now work for the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) in a position that I would never have dreamt possible for me to be in a few years back. I am able to do some good in peoples lives both disabled and able.
My life changed in a sudden watershed moment three years back when I was flown up to Auckland for an interview. I didn’t even make it into the venue. When the interviewer saw my disability as I struggled out of the taxi he instantly dismissed me and sought to bring the situation to an end. When I finally understood what was going on I was totally devastated as I realised that he could not see past the walking aid to me. I took a while to get over that and the more I went on other interviews the more I experienced similar results and always I saw that no matter what, they just couldn’t or wouldn’t see ME.
After several similarly painful experiences, I swore that eventually I was going to do SOMETHING to help disabled people, and this passion drives me today very much so……
I have had my present job (in Philanthropy) for 2 and a half years and I love it. I have pretty much made it what it is by myself but it totally fits within the ethos and mana of the RNZB so I enjoy work every day, interacting with all sorts of people both able and disabled and making sure that I advocate and agitate for disabled people, and for disadvantaged and downtrodden people whenever and however I can. I have had many mainly bad experiences as a disabled person - finding work, living a life, getting about but mainly the difficulty is in being heard and this is what I now want to focus on.
There are a million of us in NZ. We disabled people need to become organised and show the country that we are a force to be heard and considered too. We have a rightful place in society and we have very very much to offer too.
Don’t look at me and only see a disabled person, look at me and see what I and my brothers and sisters can do in this world too!
Hear us roar!