Overcoming a disability and building a successful career is a possibility for anyone (Shutterstock.com)
Many professionals inspire us with their determination and spirit to always push forward. Then there are those who in addition to their go-getter attitudes overcome the adversity of a disability. They leave many of us wondering: How do they do it? Where do they find the strength and courage to look pass their disability and use everything else in their power to become the best at what they do?
The answers to this seemingly unexplainable question are exemplified by these five professionals, who are overcoming disability and pursuing successful careers.
Natalie du Toit
Former paralympic swimmer Natalie du Toit is synonymous with courage and determination. While pursuing what was promising to be a professional swimming career, Natalie was involved in a motorcycle accident that left her with an amputated leg. Three months later, before she was even fully recovered, Natalie was back swimming again. In 2002, she became the first amputee of her time to qualify for the finals of the 800m freestyle event at the 2002 Commonwealth games. Throughout her swimming history, she became a renowned Paralympic athlete winning numerous golden medals.
Thembelihle is a Journalist at Media24, and says that for her, coming from a family with successful, well-educated professionals has been an important factor in overcoming her disability. “They always encouraged me to dream beyond my physical limits. There was no question of whether I could survive studying an inaccessible craft like journalism and working full-time.”
Thembelihle was born with a hereditary generative disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 3 – part of the SMA group of diseases which results in the wasting away of proximal muscles. What this means is that Thembelihle has limited mobility, experiences tremors in her hands, and battles with walking and standing from a seated position unassisted. She also suffers from Major Depressive Disorder and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Yet, she's working through her disabilities to prove that success is possible. “I’m a disability activist and it’s important for me to teach and exemplify young students and kids that you can fit in seamlessly into a world that isn’t built with you and your reality in mind.”
“Our disabilities cannot precede our work ethic and I believe Media24 is making tentative steps to ensure that performance evaluations are not universal, but tailored to individuals with incredible capacity to contribute to the growth of the company and the economy of South Africa.”
Read: What progressive employers ought to know about hiring disabled people
For as long as he can remember, Ntando Mahlangu had one goal in his life: to become a runner – a goal that now sees him competing in this year’s paralympic games. “I always wanted to run and I always believed I would be able to run way day. I was always positive with myself,” he said.
Ntando was born with hemimelia – a condition which prevented his knees from fully developing, and at 10 years old, he had both his legs amputated. In the same year, he was fitted with prosthetic legs. Two weeks later, he was up and running. He has since competed in national competitions and in just over two years, has set a 400m world record. He also holds African records in the 100m, 200m, and unofficially the 800m for his class.
See the full list of the 2016 South African Paralympic team here.
Also read: 5 things you do that makes your disabled co-worker uncomfortable
In 1998, Bruce Walsh was injured in the Planet Hollywood bomb blast which saw him lose both his legs. Following the blast, Bruce resigned from his job at Standard Bank, and now runs his own HR consultancy company in Cape Town. In addition to that he travels to schools, companies and events, using his experience to share inspirational talks. He has also published several books.
These are just a few success stories which are living proof that believing in yourself is the first step to achieving success. If you have any career success stories you would like to share with us, send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, telling us about yourself and your career, and we will be in touch.