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Meet Ary – Commonwealth Games Baton Bearer

Hoi Fei
27 July 2022 20:03

As part of Disability Pride Month, I would like to write about Ary Rahman-Jackson. I feel really privileged to know him and his family. He is a Y11 pupil at the University of Birmingham School and has just sat his GCSEs. He also happens to have cerebral palsy. However, that hasn't stopped him from participating fully in everything and enjoying life.

He was chosen to be one of the baton bearers for the Commonwealth Games. After the baton relay, I asked him and his mum some questions:

Ary, how do you feel about the Queen's baton relay?

I was very honoured to have been given the opportunity. It will be something I will never forget and I had an amazing time and loved the crowds cheering me on!

What are your interests?

I love music, DJ-ing and making my own music using software/technology.
I like outdoor activities such as camping, bushcraft, and going on walks.
I like swimming and going to the gym.
I like to go to the cinema, bowling and eating out.

What are your plans after GCSEs?

I have been given conditional offer at college to study Music Technology so if I get the grades I will be going to Access Creative which is the college the Jessie J, Ed Sheeran, Rita Ora and Jess Gylnn graduated from. I'm really excited to start college.

What sports do you enjoy most? Do you participate with a mainstream club or specialised club?

I go to a mainstream swim club and I have personal training sessions at 2 different mainstream gyms. Before my GCSE exams, I was going to wheelchair rugby but I have taken a break due to my exams and a very busy summer but hope to start back in September. 

As I will have more spare time when I start college, I plan to look into other clubs that I can join as I really enjoy sports and being active.

Kurda, when was the first time Ary joined an out of school sport club?

Ary started at different clubs from a young age. He was around 4 when he started a drama and musical theatre group. However, they wouldn't let us stay to support him and I found that he wasn't being included. He then joined a music school which was very inclusive and would often give him lead parts in productions. They also insisted on us being there with Ary at all sessions. Another music school we attempted and went for a trial at made us feel so discriminated against that my daughter walked out in tears as the owner handed out participation certificates to everyone except Ary! Most gyms and swim clubs have always been very inclusive but we have struggled to find mainstream clubs that are inclusive in some fields such as tennis, trampoline or athletics. I think it's more to do with lack of knowledge on how activities can be adapted to make them accessible and fear of the unknown rather than discrimination. 

Ary has also been to wheelchair basketball and walker football specialist clubs but we had to stop these as they were so far away from us and a huge commitment in terms of time.

Ary, how do you feel about participation in sports for a person with disabilities?

I think people with disabilities think that many sports are not suitable or accessible for them so don't even attempt them which I think is really sad. Also, people providing the sports think that disabled people don't want to or can't take part. This isn't true. Disabled people want and need to be active and enjoy taking part in sport.

What do you think, as a society, we can do to improve participation in sports for people with disabilities?

I think people need to change their mindset and realise many people with disabilities want to do sport and be active. There needs to be more training to teach people how to adapt different sports for different disabilities. 

There also needs to be lots more opportunities for specialised clubs in every area. There also needs to be more disabled role models in the media.

Kurda, you must be immensely proud of Ary. Thinking of when he was first born or diagnosed with cerebral palsy and now, how do you feel and what do you think about the whole journey?

Obviously getting diagnosis of a life limiting illness for your child is not what anyone wants to hear. From a very young age it was very clear that Ary had immense determination and a great sense of humour. We knew that with the grace of God and his personality, things would be ok. 

In the early days of his diagnosis, when it felt like every day we were getting more and more bad news about how PVL (Periventricular Leukomalacia)/ CP would affect him in the future, it was really tough but Ary's infectious smile and determination kept us going. 

It makes me smile when people say what good parents we must be to have raised Ary into who he is because in actual fact, it feels like he raised us. He taught us how to be patient, how to persevere, and how to make the best out of any bad situation.

We've been extremely fortunate in our journey to have met the most incredible people that have helped us and Ary along the way. Ary started going to NICE from the age of 10 months and it was there they instilled the importance of independence into him. It was such a lovely environment to grow up in and I firmly believe they also helped shape Ary into the happy and determined young man he is today.

Going to University of Birmingham School has also been amazing for Ary. They have been terrific in building his confidence and instilling a love of learning in him.

Life is very different to how we were told it would be. We were told Ary would never read or write, that he'd be confined to a wheelchair and we'd never be able to have a meaningful relationship with him. Ary has proven that with faith, hard work and determination, you can overcome anything.

It's been an incredible journey. Every day Ary amazes us, fills our hearts with joy and pride and every day we thank God that he chose us to be Ary's family. 

Final Thoughts

It is really great to hear how Ary has defied expectations to be a positive and capable young man. It is great that he found inclusive mainstream clubs where he can take part in the sports he likes and I wish him all the very best for his future and that he will enjoy and excel in the music technology course. Although there are many clubs who welcome and include people with disabilities, it's clear there is still more work to be done.