WINDHOEK, Dec. 6 — December 3rd is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a day when the rights and well-being of all people with disabilities are in the spotlight. This includes people with physical as well as intellectual disabilities (ID). As someone with an intellectual disability, I feel well-positioned to write this article.
My name is Lindo Antonio, I’m 30 years old and I was born in Windhoek Namibia. Like many people with disabilities, I grew up being bullied by classmates, I was frequently told by people that I was inferior to people without ID. By the time I reached secondary school, I had to withdraw due to financial issues. So, I took matters into my own hands and sought out educational opportunities on my own terms. For instance, I taught myself English.
Something a lot of people don’t know is that people with ID are proud of who we are, and rightly so. I don’t feel like there’s anything to hide or be ashamed of, rather there is much about me and others with ID to celebrate. It hurt when I was called “bewitched” people thought ID is taboo. It’s simply the way I was made! I am a; Special Olympics Athlete Leader, community contact, mentor, public speaker, and facilitator of family health forums, national and regional games, Healthy Athletes (Special Olympics International’s health-driven initiative), and youth innovation. While I do many things for the movement and have been involved with it for more than four years, something I’m most proud of is the seat I hold on the Special Olympics Namibia Board.
Despite hanging up my running shoes, I still go the distance, literally. I’m known to walk innumerable kilometers to be a part of Special Olympics programming. I’ve come to think of Special Olympics as a family, and what can I say? I don’t like to miss family events!
That dedication, enthusiasm, and engagement were infectious and this is how I motivate others and how I ended up in a leadership role. It’s also how I rebuilt my confidence, I repurposed my history of being bullied. It’s become an indicator of my acute ability to persevere. I’m tenacious, and I believe all Special Olympics athletes have the capacity to be so as well, hence my passion for mentoring.
Like anyone else, people with ID simply need the chance to try different things to find their strengths. Instead of asking to take over a task for a person with ID, give the person time and space to try it themselves. It’s imperative to respect the autonomy of people, including those with ID, and if someone needs help, trust that they’ll ask.
Another simple likeness between people with and without ID is the challenge of facing Covid-19. Like so many people I struggled emotionally, and mentally during the lockdown. Despite differences in intellectual capability, strife tends to bring people together. This calls Unified Leadership as we work together to find a new normal in life, sports, politics, and professions.
As an Athlete Leader, I spend a lot of time motivating and training athletes in my community. My drive for continuing education has never waned. For instance, I’ve recently completed computer training and doping training to add to my skillsets. My whole life I’ve sought out learning opportunities that continue to shape me to be the most effective leader possible. I plan to be a leader for a lifetime, so I need a lifetime of knowledge.