Enabled not disabled
Rather than seeing someone as ‘disabled’ because they can’t do the things that other people can do, Ryan Raghoo is determined that we see them as ‘enabled’.
An accomplished athlete and T36 Long Jump British Record holder, Raghoo is spreading his ‘enabled not disabled’ message across the world through his large social media following.
“It is my belief that as a society we should not be focusing on what people can’t do but rather what they can do, spending more time to ‘enable’ people so they can achieve whatever they want to. This is not about sport, this is about giving people with disabilities, whether they be learning/mental or physical disabilities, the tools to go out and achieve anything and everything”, Ryan said.
“‘Disability’ is a very negative and limiting word, in my opinion. I think we need a positive, empowering approach.”
Raghoo is taking his message one step further, speaking out about the need to make education accessible for people of all abilities.
“Education is the key to social mobility, yet in 2016 it is still very much inaccessible for people with different abilities. I don’t just mean making education accessible, I mean changing their experience during education. The large majority of “disabled people” experience some sort of bullying, isolation or prejudice during primary/secondary or university education”, Ryan explained.
In addition, Ryan is also working to show people with CP that they desperately need to make their nutrition a priority.
“Body confidence is a big problem amongst people with disability. A large part of what I do is trying my best to be a role model – showing people the journey I have been on, what is possible and changing the perception of what ‘disability’ should look like,” Raghoo said.
“Food has always been a very important part of my life, at various stages for different reasons. When I was younger I really struggled to eat, as the CP affects my jaw. As I got older I went through a stage where I wanted to become a professional chef – turns out this wasn’t practical with CP as I wouldn’t be able to keep up in a commercial kitchen.”
“Now, as a professional athlete, nutrition is more important than ever. I always get people asking me what I eat and I’ve always loved to cook. I want to bring the joy I have when cooking to everyone”, he said.
Ryan’s Kitchen streams live on Instagram and Facebook every week, educating people with CP about healthy eating.
“Having CP is almost like being an athlete; you expend more calories than the average person. In my opinion, people with CP need to be hot on their nutrition as they often fatigue faster. Those with more severe mobility issues tend to put on weight easier” Ryan said.
“I want other people to enjoy what they eat and the process involved rather than see it as a chore. Eating healthy and staying fit kind of go hand in hand, you can’t really have one without the other.”
“When it comes to fitness and health there’s so much information. Many people don’t know where to start! Hopefully, by seeing someone with the same condition as them it’s more relatable and because the progress is daily, weekly, monthly then anyone watching can see the benefits they too can enjoy.”
“I just want people with CP to have the confidence and know how to stay in the best shape possible!” he said.
Raghoo speaks from personal experience and very much from the heart in everything that he does.
“My parents were told I would never walk or talk. At the age of 11 I was still being pushed in a buggy – now I’m an international long jumper with national and world records to my name. If that isn’t crazy, I don’t know what is!”
“In all seriousness, there was a time in my life that I couldn’t do the most simplest of things such as hold a fork or even sit up straight. I know what it’s like to be told you can’t do something and I know what isolation feels like.”
“I was bullied throughout my entire primary and secondary school education, because I was different and the people around me didn’t understand this. To be excluded from sport and taking part in activities purely due to a disability is something I don’t want anyone else to go through”, he said.
Growing up, Raghoo had no one to look up to from a similar background, and was ashamed of who he was.
“I hope that, through my actions, I can become a role model for others. It’s not about being inspirational it’s about being educational. I used to hide my disability, now I’m openly disabled and proud!” Ryan said.
“Given the right opportunity I believe people with ‘different abilities’ can not only achieve but flourish. I am now in a position where I can affect change so it’s my responsibility to do whatever I can.”