When he was 12 growing up near Temora a young Scott Reardon lost a leg in a farming accident.
After the initial shock, physical set back and mental challenges that come from such a tragedy Mr Reardon went on with a determined mindset to become a world champion water skier and athlete.
He has also been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia.
“When I lost the lower half of my leg, my visions of representing Australia seemed to be destroyed in the blink of an eye,” he said.
“I had to make a choice, hide from the world or take it as a challenge and attack it head on.”
Now the Rio Paralympic gold medal winning sprinter is encouraging employers to see abilities, not disabilities when they have a position available.
Rio Paralympic T42 gold medalist is a Disability Employment Services Ambassador with Sureway Employment and Training.
And on Thursday he spoke to a room full of people at the Novotel Wollongong Northbeach as part of his mission to get more people with a disability into meaningful employment.
In the process he encouraged employers in Wollongong and the Illawarra to see abilities, not disabilities.
Mr Reardon told people with disabilities, their carers and potential employers that people with a disability are around twice as likely to be unemployed as those without a disability.
But hoped his story would show and convince Illawarra employers what is possible if they give someone with a disability an opportunity.
“I have been around people with disabilities for so long and I think for a long period of time we have been chucked in the disabled category and be unable which is so far from the truth,” he said.
Positive attitude and resilience were two of many great attributes Mr Reardon said people with a disability have.
“Employing someone with a disability has a large flow-on effect. It is amazing when you have someone who can change the attitude of a workplace. I’ve seen the positive impact of employing someone with a disability so many times. They walk into a workplace and their positivity is just contagious and spreads everywhere.
“A meaningful job gives someone with a disability meaning and purpose and an opportunity that will change the lives of families and those around them.”
Mr Reardon also hopes his story will encourage people with disabilities to seek out opportunities. “I want to show job-seekers how to look for an opportunity and then take it with both hands. To make a difference is so fulfilling. The stigma that surrounds someone with a disability is a limitation, but once it’s overcome, the possibilities are endless.”