I was asked to comment on the recent performance of Lady Gaga at her concert in Sydney, where she performed a number, using a wheelchair as a prop.
It seems this has outraged people in wheelchairs, their families and friends and has opened the floodgates, creating media frenzy with complaints to Anti-discrimination and other rights groups worldwide.
Look, to be honest, it didn’t faze me one little bit.
As a broadcaster in a wheelchair and someone that’s been in the public eye for the past 38 years, I got over the fact that people saw me as different a long time ago.
Truth is, I never saw it that way. Never have, never will.
Having no legs and in a chair certainly made me unique within the industry. It’s amazing the perception listeners have of you.
On more than one occasion, I was asked; “HOW DO YOU SPEAK ON THE RADIO WITH NO LEGS?” Once I stopped laughing and thought about it, I realized the observation that people had in general, when it came to someone in a wheelchair was draconian.
Education was in its infancy and public opinion was not very gracious.
Did I care? Of course I did. I decided to make it my goal to change public opinion.
I’ve lost count of the number of groups and organisations I’ve spoken to over the years. I coached my sons’ rugby team, shot hoops fished with mates, been the brunt of their jokes etc.
Did I care? No. I gave back as good as I got.
I was accepted as normal so much so that on one occasion as I recall, a group from the Radio Station where I was working at the time, went 10-pin bowling. Everybody was lining up for their bowling shoes and the manager (my best mate) turned and asked. “Porte, what’s your shoe size mate?” I told him and as he ordered my shoes, the person behind the counter stared at him with disbelief.
You see, the point here was simple. He never saw the disability. Just the person. That is how it was and still is to this day. However, there are still people that have a very narrow-minded view. That’s their right but sometimes I wish that those in a wheelchair that still have a chip on their shoulder, for what ever their reason, would take a step back, think about their attitude and the effect it leaves on others.
I never climbed any mountain, flew a plane or embarked on the hundreds of other challenges that people with disabilities have embarked on to prove a point. To say, “Look at me” I’m normal!
I am normal; I have my faults and failings just like you. But what I have is ATTITUDE. I really don’t give a monkey’s that I have no legs. I got a second crack at life and I have embraced it. It’s that simple.
Don’t get me wrong…
Dealing with a tragic accident or illness, is not easy, nor is the aftermath. The rehabilitation, the dramatic adjustment and realisation that things will never be the same are very real and do take time and their toll. I know it is a cliché but “it does get better.”
I actually like Lady Gaga, I think she’s branded herself into a pretty niche position and it’s working. Look, she’s not the first to use a wheelchair. She won’t be the last. Pink did it a year or so ago.
Some people really do need to get the chip off their shoulder and embrace their disability. Make the most of what life has to offer. As I said, I did.
I have no regrets whatsoever. At the end of the day, to be honest, it’s all about ATTITUDE.
The performance was nothing but brilliant and personally, I would hate to see her discard it”.