“You Can Ask Me Anything”

On Sunday December 3, over 80 members of the Jewish community in Melbourne sat down for a breakfast with a difference. Celebrating International Day of People with a Disability (IDPwD), the You Can Ask me Anything breakfast gave people an opportunity to meet members of the community who live with a permanent or temporary disability and partake in an open, no-holds-barred conversation about what life is really like for someone with a disability. No topic was off limits!

Maccabi Victoria All Abilities staff and Member for Caulfield David Southwick MP (third from right) holding questions that feature in the film "You Can Ask Me Anything".

Headed up by Maccabi’s All Abilities Inclusion department, the aim of the event was to start conversations between those in the disability space and those who are not. The launch of a video titled You Can Ask Me Anything – Living with a Disability in the Jewish Community brings together 11 people living with a disability in a candid, raw and honest dialogue sharing their stories of bullying, love and the struggle for independence.

Whilst the video itself isn’t purely focused around sport, the key messages around inclusion and creating a welcoming environment can be applied to any sporting code. Discussions in sporting clubs around using the appropriate language when talking to people with a disability is explored throughout the film.

People often have moments of “What do I say to someone who has a disability?” and “How do I talk to someone with a disability?” These conversations are happening more and more these days in our sporting community and with inclusion and diversity top of the agenda at board meetings, fair to say, we as a community are becoming more tolerant and open minded and are getting better at welcoming people with disabilities to the Victorian sporting landscape.

Shari Cohen, All Abilities Inclusion Coordinator, Maccabi Victoria: “It was great to see the community embracing IDPwD and engaging with it in a meaningful way. We hope that this event is just the beginning of many conversations and partnerships to come.”

Brian Swersky, president of Maccabi Victoria:Maccabi All Abilities are so proud to have been associated with this event in conjunction with other community organisations. The video “You Can Ask Me Anything” is a brilliant and engaging piece that will help break down the barriers for people with disabilities.”

“As an organisation, we (Maccabi Victoria) do all that we can to integrate people with disabilities into our sporting clubs and it’s great to see everyone embracing people with all abilities on the footy fields, at the netball courts and swimming laps on a Sunday morning in the pool”.

Brian recalls an emotional moment last season when AFL great Mark Williams was coaching the AJAX VAFA Premier B team. The conversation was one of gratitude, Williams sharing his joy integrating kids with disabilities into the football program.

AJAX coach Mark Williams gets his players to sit while he addresses them at three-quarter time. Picture: Supplied

“Mark came up to me at a training session with a tear in his eye and said “thank you”. He wanted to thank me for giving him an opportunity to learn how much football means to these kids”.

Maccabi Victoria's All Abilities program aims to provide Jewish people with disabilities with greater opportunities to participate i.n sport and recreation, with a focus on individualised and person-centred approaches

Maccabi Victoria’s mission is to increase access and participation opportunities for Jewish people of all abilities in sport and active recreation and provide regular inclusive sporting and active recreational opportunities for people with disabilities.

Watch the video “You Can Ask Me Anything" below.

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