Paralympian David Johnson is teaching wheelchair sports to kids at local schools.
Paralympian David Johnson is teaching wheelchair sports to kids at local schools.

Tennis star shares skills with groundbreaking new program

"It was dumb. We were going too fast, racing another car."

More than three decades after the devastating crash which left him without one of his legs, David Johnson can now speak frankly about what happened.

He was only 19 when his friend pulled up outside his house, driving his dad's new car.

"I told mum I'd be going for a quick ride, I'd be back in five minutes," Mr Johnson said.

"I came home 12 months later, minus a bit."

It was the start of major changes to his life.

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Mr Johnson became a stellar athlete and Paralympian, with three World Cups, two Silver World Cups, two Bronze World Cups and an Olympic silver medal after representing Australia in wheelchair tennis around the globe, including at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

These days he works as an NDIS local area co-ordinator with Social Futures, a job which he says is like "winning the lotto".

"I get up in the morning and look forward to coming to work, to getting out and making a difference, and doing something meaningful," Mr Johnson said.

"This job has changed my world. I'm so happy."

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His favourite part of the role is the Sports Ability program he delivers to local schools.

It teaches children how to play games and include everybody, showcasing specific Paralympic Games and various wheelchair sports, including wheelchair tennis, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair AFL.

"I don't just impart pro tips for sports - though I do throw them in too we also talk about disability, about my experiences and about the achievements of people with disability as well as some of the challenges," Mr Johnson said.

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"Sports Ability is all about inclusion so maybe if these young people have a friend who has a disability, they can modify the game, or choose another to include everyone from the start.

"Children learn so much from speaking with someone who has a disability.

"They can find out all the things they've been able to achieve in their lives, and not be so quick to judge and make generalisations when they next see or meet people with a disability.

"My kids don't look at people with disability any different.

"When we're out sometimes my kids will say, 'Dad! They're all looking! Why are they looking at you?' I say, 'it's because I'm good looking'."

Sports Ability is a free program being delivered to schools in Northern NSW, funded through the NDIS and delivered by Social Futures.

For more information phone 1800 522 679.


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