Robyn Lambird modeling for Target

Robyn Lambird, Athlete With Cerebral Palsy, Models in Target's Activewear Ad Campaign

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Target’s latest ad campaign has an important message to share about inclusion: activewear is for everyone.

The Australian version of the major retailer’s latest catalogue features Robyn Lambird, an athlete from Perth, Australia. Lambird has cerebral palsy, which makes the muscles in her legs tight and resistant to movement. The 19-year old uses a wheelchair, but it’s not just for getting around. Lambird is a competitive wheelchair racer and is training to compete in next year’s World Championship in London.

When she isn’t training, Lambird can be found blogging about life with a disability, and now, adding to her already impressive resume, modeling. “It’s important to show people with disabilities as active in the same way it is important to show people that we can be intelligent or funny,” Lambird told The Mighty. “I think historically though, people with disabilities have been perceived as being pretty sedentary on a whole, so it’s important to challenge that and show that we can be physical and active beings too.”  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A photo posted by Robyn The Trex Lambird (@robynlambird) on

While the ad does not appear in all Target catalogues, it is a step in the right direction for the retailer. “I think there is still work to be done in the media to see that we are adequately represented,” Lambird said. “I’d like to see it get to a point where disability is normalized and it doesn’t have to be individuals’ whole narrative. I want to see wheelchair users selling shoes in advertising. I want to see amputees playing doctors in television. More variety is needed, but things are definitely getting better.”

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When I Dream About Being a Mom With a Disability

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Blue eyes with the faintest hint of grey, set in an almond-shaped squint, sat atop a tiny triangle nose, permanently scrunched in concentration. A narrow-lipped mouth was agape, revealing a gummy grin. His features, though fine, were a perfect fit for a seamed and dimpled face. Wisps of threadlike hair clung to his brand new and nearly bald head like corn silk to a fresh cob. Five little fingers were balled tightly into a tiny, determined fist – the others, outstretched and searching, ready to grab what captivated his attention. He looked and felt unmistakably real and in my 3-year-old imagination, he absolutely was.

My first baby doll had a Benjamin Button thing happening – he looked like a cranky old man. So I named him Randy because that’s a cranky old man name. No, actually, it was the name of one of my mom’s students and as I understood it, all little boys were named Randy. So Randy he was. Randy came with me everywhere and I took my job taking care of him very seriously. I fed him empty bottles full of imaginary milk when he cried, I gave him baths in the sink when he was dirty, and I changed all of his messy diapers – while getting an early lesson in male anatomy, owing to a venturesome toy maker who envisioned a world of anatomically-correct playthings. Thanks, Generic Toy Company Name, for a flying start to my fascination with boys’ “peanuts.”

I can’t remember a time I wasn’t obsessed with babies. My healthy infatuation with infants ran so deep that at a very young age I declared, with a fair amount of certainty, I would one day be a baby nurse and wear animal print scrubs and hang a stethoscope around my neck. This life plan stuck until I learned just how many insufferable years of math and science I would be subjected to in order to have the privilege of caring for the newest occupants of our planet. Just like that, an ambitious career choice was thwarted by an amusingly passionate disdain for anything scientific, algorithmic or algebraic – basically, anything ending in “ic” makes my skin crawl.

But, nothing about mini-humans is “ick” to me. Wee wiggly worms speaking baby-babble and sharing gas-induced smiles are masters of happiness. If I were a betting woman, I’d gladly challenge even the surliest, most disagreeable old man to a stare-down against a much smaller, spirited and possibly wrinklier recent arrival. Then I’d sit back and watch the hard shell of a curmudgeon crack and crumble, revealing the truth that no one – not even Grumpy Cat – can resist a broad beam next to a raspberry-blowing, nonsensically-blabbing gushy giggler.

Bestowed upon every baby to ever crawl or waddle the earth, the super power to melt hearts has never been lost on me. I’ve always wanted to be a momma; raising children to know unconditional love and care has been at the top of a very detailed Life List for years. But as I’ve gotten older I scare myself into thinking parenthood is just a pipe dream of a reality meant for other women. My goal of being married with kids at 28 came and went with nothing more than a pro/con list of whether or not I should adopt a cat. The answer turned out to be no, as I was afraid even to attempt keeping a fur baby alive.

Then there’s the issue of getting lazy with my daily affirmations and allowing my head to fill with anxious thoughts of general ineptitude. I wonder if challenges I face from my physical disability will make motherhood, already an exhausting job, near-impossible. I mean, let’s be real, I make it look effortless (yeah, right) but I’m a lot of work. Add into the mix a helpless human, whose fine and gross motor skills aren’t much better than my own – especially on no sleep – and whose every need depends on me, and we’ve got ourselves a real circus. And then I think other people might think that, too. The day I pee on a stick and it turns pink, will my family and friends be mostly happy, a little bit concerned or the other way around?

The questions don’t end there: When newborn skin is rosy red and not the slightly sallow pallor of worn-out plastic after too much love from a fanciful toddler, when real bottles full of real milk are emptied into real hungry bellies, when a diaper is full of stinky milk and not salty bits of dried Play-Doh (yes, this was absolutely a thing – there was no shame in my playtime game) and bath time isn’t just a make-believe activity but a real-time necessity, could I handle it? When life gets real, would I be the kind of mother I was once so good at pretending to be?

Watching everyone around me get visits from the stork sometimes feels like a mockery of my dreams and their accompanying worries, only magnified by the looking glass that is social media. Facebook is beginning to look like one giant Babybook. Not to mention the annoyingly successful clickbait ads (I’m nothing if not a sucker) for the “Top 20 European Baby Names You Need to Know So Your Baby Grows Up to Be Attractive and Successful.” How dare the internet-ad mongers take advantage of my spiking baby fever, but they get me every damn time. I’d be a filthy liar if I said I haven’t saved a few of these idea-lists to my Favorites. You know, for future reference, in case I need to know the spelling of a trendy name like Londyn or Xander.

Used properly, our fishbowl society is a fantastic tool for idea and experience sharing, integral pieces to building connections. And now that many of the most important people in my life are experiencing some of the most important moments in their lives, creating and raising some of the most beautiful humans, keeping those connections tight is essential to my relationships with my mom friends and their rugrat angel babies (depends on the hour, amiright?)

It’s even better, though, when I can be part of the pictures and stories they post. This was the summer of babies, no clearer sign of changing times. My happiest moments were spent with little fingers wrapped in mine. OK, the far less romantic Norman  Rockwell-esque picture was of my fingers used as chew toys for little, teething gums or little sticky fingers all over my face. There’s truly nothing better. Shout out to my favorite nugget’s moms, making motherhood look beautiful. Watching them look chaos in the eye and give it a wink (while helping to block the view when I could), I learned a lot.

I’m a helluva lot more capable than I give myself credit for. The label of physical disability or wheelchair user assumes I am unable to do a myriad of everyday activities prohibiting me from participating fully in the human experience. While I do own the hard fact that stubborn nerves and muscles refusing to play nicely together means certain things are more difficult, and my life would be easier if my body worked the way textbooks from a medical school I never went to says it’s supposed to, I’ve spent the better part of 30 years perfecting my Winging It skills and finding clever, crafty ways to make all things work. I will approach motherhood with the same chutzpah. I will find ways to conquer every mommydom milestone. Heck, I’m halfway there. This summer I held babies while they drank bottles,  played with them and made them laugh those all-consuming-body-shaking belly laughs. They kept all their limbs and fingers and toes inside the vehicle, and not once did I think I wasn’t cut out for this mom stuff.

Everybody – even Super Mom – needs help sometimes. They say it’s cliché because it’s true. And when it comes to keeping babies alive and happy, it truly takes a village. There will be plenty of people from my village standing at the ready when I need help cleaning my house or folding the laundry because I’ve used up most of my energy caring for my little human. Maybe I’ll just need an hour break to finally wash the spit-up out of my hair and change clothes. Whatever I will need, I know plenty of people will step up. Hopefully first in line will be the poor (I mean wonderful) man who agrees to all my Baby Daddy terms. I’m taking applications now.

There are lots of gizmos and gadgets to help make parenting more manageable: Just like the Little Mermaid had plenty, there is a galore of whoseits and whatsits to make sure all parents can hack it. Nowadays everything from cribs to baby bathtubs to strollers have been re-imagined to make these necessities more easily accessible and manageable for parents who have varying disabilities. Check out this great list of products from The Mobility Resource.

My favorite among them is the trend of Baby Wearing. Holding or carrying my baby with a cloth carrier will ensure their security and comfort while freeing much of my upper body to navigate my wheelchair. This mom stuff will be cake (I warned you, I enjoy sarcasm).

Babies are grabby little monsters. They especially like big machines with wheels and wires and joysticks that make said machines move. I may have to baby-proof myself, but this just means I’ve clinched my position as raddest, baddest mom with the raddest, baddest toy in the neighborhood.

There will be sleepless nights and even tougher days when I will most likely cry right along with my babies. And without a doubt, I will face a set of challenges different from my able-bodied solidarity sisters and unique to mommas who have disabilities or use mobility aids. I know I will have to be more mindful and increasingly innovative when organizing my life to make sure a baby will fit nicely into it. But I don’t care. Sure, there will be some unconventional things about the way I bring up my babies, but I vow that they will always be cared for and safe and happy.

And as much as I hope they get my eyes and my smile (30 years and zero cavities) and my sense of humor, I also hope they get my strength and fortitude, and that they will know whatever they dream of as a child, they will make reality when they grow up.

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When I Realized My Son Could Be a Paralympic Athlete Someday

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I’m not sure I truly understood the power of positive role models, the power of seeing one’s self reflected back in popular culture, until I told my son about Shayne Dobson.

Paralympic runner Shayne Dobson. Photo via paralympics.ca.
Shayne Dobson. Photos: Matthew Murnaghan/Canadian Paralympic Committee

Shayne is a runner, originally from Campbellton, New Brunswick, who is in Rio as part of Canada’s Paralympic team. He’ll be running the 1,500m race. He’s quite the athlete, switching from tennis to track when he started university. It wasn’t long before he was the team captain and scouts began noticing his skills. Shayne was surprised, to say the least. He didn’t grow up running, or thinking he could qualify as a para-athlete. Shayne grew up with a motor delay on his left side, due to cerebral palsy.

My son is 3. He has a motor delay on his right side, due to cerebral palsy. Most people don’t realize he has this diagnosis. It’s not something that’s really visible. In fact, it wasn’t until the specialist had him run down the hospital hall that I finally saw it. He doesn’t naturally pump his right arm when running, and he catches the toes on his right foot a little bit too much. His gait is unsymmetrical. But other than that, he’s your average, slightly uncoordinated kid.

A kid who gave me the biggest smile he’s got when I told him about Shayne.

Honestly, until I saw that pure joy that spread across his face when I explained that someone just like him – only grown up – was going to race in Rio, I didn’t think he’d internalized that he’s different. He’s not as fast as his twin brother or older sister. He has to stop and think about kicking a soccer ball. He falls down more than an average preschooler. He’s slow on the stairs. But I know now he does notice these things, feels that difference.

Like Shayne, I would never have thought to use terms such as disabled or special needs to describe my son’s cerebral palsy. It’s a mild form of the condition, something I hadn’t even realized was possible until his diagnosis. But it is a motor impairment that distinguishes them from others. A distinction that allows Shayne to compete as a para-athlete.

As I told him more about the Paralympics, and that someone from here, someone his daddy has run with (more than 95 percent of Shayne’s competitive runs are done in non-para events, as well as his local training), was chosen as one of the fastest runners in the world, my son put his arms around me and squeezed tight.

I’ve never felt unrepresented by the world around me. I never really felt the need to find a particular role model to look up to. I didn’t clip news stories about my heroes. But I’ve started clipping stories about Shayne for my son. Because seeing Shayne excel in something he – and many others, including myself – might have dismissed as a possibility for him is inspiring. It’s empowering. It’s challenging my perception of what I think my son is capable of, and I can’t thank Shayne enough for that.

My husband and I tend to joke between ourselves that the only thing that our son’s diagnosis really affects is his athletic ability – and he wasn’t born with great genes for that, either. But I guess I need to rethink saying these things. Because he could be just like Shayne. It’s not up to me to place these limits on him. I’d never tell him he couldn’t do something, but I also never would have thought one day he could race in Rio. Now I know he can do that, too.

Follow this journey on Pickle Planet Moncton.

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To the Girl I Love, From Your Boyfriend With Disabilities

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To the Girl I Love,

I love you, but you don’t know that. You probably know that I like you, but love you? Yeah, that probably took you by surprise.

Well, it’s true. I love you.

I’ve loved you ever since I first met you, ever since I looked into your eyes and got lost in their depth and beauty. Ever since then, I knew you were the one. You also know that I have type 1 diabetes and cerebral palsy, but I don’t want to talk about that just yet. I want to talk about you, the girl I know you are.

You are kind, you are caring, you are loving. You are the girl I fell in love with, the girl whose character traits truly set you apart. You are different from all the other girls, but in the best way possible. You know who you are, and you never let anyone define you. You radiate inner confidence, and never try to be someone else. These are just some of the things I love about you, among the many.

Now, I want to talk about my CP and diabetes. In the process of falling in love with me, you probably noticed that I walk with a slight limp, and give myself insulin before every meal. I was born with cerebral palsy, a condition that makes my hamstrings tight and causes me to walk with a slight limp. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in first grade, and have been checking my blood sugars and taking insulin ever since.

I want you to know something about these conditions I live with. They will never stop me from fully loving you, nor will they get in the way of the life we have planned together.

We will still have kids, and wake up in the middle of the night after hearing their cries. We will still have family vacations, and argue about the fact that we’ve been in the car for what seems like eternity. We will do all the things every family does. We will share laughter, heartache, and every emotion in between, together.

There will be days when my blood sugars fluctuate and I’ll feel less than great. There will be days when my hamstrings seem extra tight, and I get tired from walking.

However, there will never be a day that I stop loving you.

These conditions I have? Yeah, they suck sometimes. They suck so much less now though, having you in my corner. And in the end, we won’t remember my conditions. We’ll remember all the memories we made together, and cry when isn’t time to make any more.

While there’s time though, let’s get busy making memories. While there’s time, let’s live.

I love you,

Brooks

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Rae Anderson, Australian Paralympian With Cerebral Palsy, Models for Modibodi Underwear

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Along with being a world class athlete, Paralympian Rae Anderson can now add modeling to her already impressive resume. Anderson, 19, has cerebral palsy and will be making her Paralympic debut next week in discus and long jump for the Australian Paralympic team. Ahead of this year’s games, underwear company Modibodi has asked Anderson to be its first brand ambassador.

“We are super excited to have Rae represent our brand. She embodies our core pillars of confidence, empowerment and strength and she is the type of ambassador we believe young girls should be seeing on billboards and their Instagram feeds,” Kristy Chong, founder of Modibodi, said.

Rae Anderson Modeling

Modibodi is not your average underwear company. The brand makes absorbent and leakproof underwear in a variety of sizes including curvy and maternity. To promote inclusivity, the brand features its products on women of different sizes, ages and ethnicities – none of whom are photoshopped.

“We choose to use role models who represent empowerment and to use a diverse range of models in our marketing practices because ultimately we want to empower our customers to be their best and we want them to feel good about themselves, instead of comparing themselves to an unrealistic image,” Chong said.

Anderson’s Modibodi spread highlights the importance of featuring real people with disabilities in advertising and media.

“I’d like to think Modibodi chose me as an ambassador because of my values, my strength and my aspirations,” Anderson told the company. “I believe Modibodi and I share a belief that anything is possible and any dream can be achieved. “

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How My Daughter With Cerebral Palsy and I Are Making Waves for Inclusion

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We never know what a first experience will be like. We prepare for anything and hope for the best. But even so, we can be caught off guard by choppy waters.

My daughter Ari and I are training for our first triathlon together. As a 16-year-old with spastic cerebral palsy and a visual impairment, she isn’t doing this alone. We will swim, bike a run together in Team Ari style. I will pull her in a raft for the swim leg, ride my bike pulling her in a race chair, and complete the run leg pushing her in the same adaptive race chair. It’s a labor of love for both of us. It’s a simple equation: Determination + Guts + Love = a Dynamic Duo finish!

For the past few weeks we had been training in our pool at home, testing the waters with our equipment. We were ready to take the next step, swimming a longer distance and faster in the lap pool at our local gym. I have been a member at a great club with indoor, outdoor, and warm water pools for the past 10 years. On any given day you will find individuals training, groups taking water classes, or families just swimming for recreational fun. So I spoke with the club manager, asked for permission to train in the lap pool with Ari, and paid for her to be added to my membership. No problem. He gave us the thumbs up and good luck wishes for our upcoming race.

Three days later, we gathered up our raft, life vest, tether and waist belt to head to the gym. Our safety plan was in place. Michael had lifeguard duties in case our raft tipped or we needed any assistance. He would walk the length of the pool deck and follow us. Ari was comfortable and secure as we set sail on the Team Ari cruise line.

A couple of laps down, and I was settling in with my stroke and kick. There was only one other swimmer in the pool, so there were no waves to speak of. Smooth seas ahead. Ari was enjoying feeling the water and lane line with her right hand, which she has more function with. We stopped after 10 laps and she shared, “I didn’t know what to expect for my first experience in the gym pool, and I love it here!”

Voila! We can do this successfully, I thought. We were swimming freestyle, we are in the zone… stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe, stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. But my rhythm was interrupted when I saw someone talking to Michael as I turned my head for air. And then there was another person, and another. Wow, I thought. Michael is a
popular guy for someone who is usually not so chatty. Hmm.. He’s an extrovert today.

But then the wave smacked me. I saw his face and realized he wasn’t having a casual conversation. I started to feel that sinking feeling in my stomach, that wave of discomfort that I feel when we have to defend, protect, or justify our right to be here. It hit me in my gut like a tidal wave. I felt like I swallowed a gallon of chlorine and I needed air. I swam to the shallow end of the pool and looked to him for reassurance. He nodded his head. Then he uttered three simple words, “Just keep swimming!”

I regrouped and fought my fear. That familiar fear of discrimination.

It turned out that a bunch of grumpy ladies in the water aerobics pool complained about Ari and I in the lap pool swimming with our raft. Somehow we became a threat. How, I ask? How does a mother and daughter enjoying a good time in the pool together become so controversial? I have no idea. It makes no sense. We did not take
away, inhibit, or intrude on anyone’s activity. We didn’t inflict harm on anyone, and we paid our dues to be here. So please tell me what infraction we have committed? We want to enjoy the pool just like you do.

We will continue to make waves for inclusion, and someday we hope there will be a ripple effect far and wide. We hope that those who discriminate against individuals with disabilities will see more clearly, think more fairly, and feel more deeply. We hope we can ride the waves together, and embrace all our differences in the sea of
life!

Follow this journey at Team Ari.

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