Wheelchair aerialist Paul Nunnari goes to great lengths to break down barriers for people with disabilities.
Yesterday, the former Paralympian and Australia’s Got Talent finalist wowed onlookers in Crown Street Mall with his strength as he climbed up nine metres of silks before spinning through the air in his wheelchair.
The Camden resident, known as The Other Superman, was the star attraction at a disability services information expo held at Wollongong to mark the International Day of People With a Disability (IDPWD).
‘‘Every day people face barriers in their lives - they don’t have to be in a wheelchair or have a disability,’’ he said.
‘‘My message on this special day is that if I can smash through those barriers by believing in myself and what I can achieve, then everyone else can too.’’
Mr Nunnari has pushed the limits since he started using a wheelchair at the age of 11 after he was hit by a car. He has competed in wheelchair athletic events at three Paralympic Games, winning a silver medal at Sydney.
He gained plenty more fans as one of the finalists on this year’s series of Australia’s Got Talent.
‘‘I thought it would be great to have someone on that show who was not representative of the status quo,’’ Mr Nunnari said.
‘‘It was also an honour to be part of the Paralympic Games, which have really transcended the attitudinal barriers towards disability.
‘‘But while perceptions and stereotypes of disability have come a long way, there’s still a need to increase participation and inclusion of people with a disability in many areas.’’
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data, released to mark IDPWD, highlighted the need for change, with nearly one in five Australians reporting a disability.
‘‘There are significant gaps in every state and territory for labour force participation, educational attainment and household income, if you compare the circumstances of people with disability, with people without disability,’’ ABS spokeswoman Michelle Marquardt said.
The organiser of yesterday’s expo, Sean O’Neill, said he was thrilled by the turnout.
‘‘It’s important for disability information services to let people know we can help them connect with services, programs, funding or organisations that can help support them.’’