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Elizabeth's Story

By

Elizabeth Edmondson

Elizabeth talks about her experiences as a Paralympian and advocate for people with disability.

This content has a custom transcript:

[Elizabeth's story]

[Our Site logo]

[Recent photo of Elizabeth sitting in her wheelchair]

My name is Elizabeth Edmonson and I live in Perth, Western Australia. I was born on the 1st of July 1950, but I’ve  always said my story begins, really, 15 months later when on the 27 September 1951, I contracted polio. My father made me a pair of parallel bars so that I could learn to walk and every length I walked I got a jellybean.

[Black and white photo of Elizabeth as a young girl in swimmers with her arm around a friend]

I learned to swim when I was about 5 in the Crawley Baths. When my sister came along and she was 8 and a half and I was 13 and a half, she wanted to learn to swim and we went to Tony Howson’s pool in the Games village in City Beach. I think he had about a 12 and a half metre pool, so after two weeks he said I should join his squad at Beatty Park that was a 50 metre pool  and just after my 14th birthday in July he came up to me and said “You’ve just broken a world record” and I said, “Oh, okay” and it was my first sort of experience of knowing that there was such a thing as a Paralympics.

[Photo of a young Elizabeth at the Paralympics]

I was very lucky to go to Tokyo at the age of 14 years and three months in 1964 and I won three gold medals and three world records and after 55 years I’m still the youngest swimmer to win individual gold for Australia.

[Photo of Elizabeth looking up at her Paralympics medals displayed on a wall]

Four years later I was lucky enough to go to Israel in 1968 and won two gold medals and one silver and I did break three world records, but my backstroke record was broken by the winner of the race when I came second.

[Recent photo of Elizabeth, smiling]

In 1999 I was walking and I tripped, I fell over and broke my foot, my left foot which meant that I had my left foot in plaster and my right leg in a caliper. I spent a week in hospital until the swelling went down so they could put plaster on and then, I also, I moved into a new house which meant things were a bit complicated and Charlie’s was very good coming out and putting lots of rails, so that I could live in my new house.  On one of the visits to hospital to check how the progress was on my foot, I was given a new plaster and I wanted to use the bathroom before going home. But I could not stand up – the floor was slippery and the wheelchair kept sliding out from underneath me, so in the end I had to ring for a nurse to help me go to, to use the facilities and I put in a complaint about how slippery the floor was and through that they got.. about a year later, they then said would you like to come to a forum. And I went to the forum and spoke up at what the facilities were like at the hospital they invited me to join the Community Advisory Council and through there I then was invited to join the Disability and Inclusion Reference Group at Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital and I have been on that committee since 2001. I’m the oldest member of that committee.

[Recent photo of Elizabeth sitting in her wheelchair]

I do put in my two bobs worth of what I notice around the hospital, as I get older I go to many different departments and I can see I’ve made several improvements at the hospital. I have been on the Community Advisory Council three different terms and the last one I’ve been serving since about 2015 and I’m very proud that they asked me to be the Vice-Chairperson of the Community Advisory Council there.People don’t realise how valuable your lived experiences are. Recently I was speaking at, I was one of the panel at a Disability Diversity Dialogue at Fiona Stanley Hospital and I said how I was treated differently than if I had a broken leg and foot in plaster. I was treated much differently than sitting in front of them in a wheelchair with a caliper on. And they were all professional people and they all sort of.. the light dawned on them that yes, that’s what they did, they hadn’t realised they were doing it. And that was just a simple lived experience that I’d felt, that people do treat me differently when I have my leg in plaster. And so that’s just going out in the community and that’s one observation. Hopefully these health professionals will now look at other people in wheelchairs in a different light that, yes they have a life to lead, they have a life and please listen to us.

[Find more stories at Our Site oursite.wwda.org.au]


This story is tagged under:

Life Choices
Taking Part
Sex and Your Body
Safety and violence
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