Dean Clifford

Lexi Brans

Staff from the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, the Australian Public Service Commission, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Australian Capital Territory Public Service and the disability sector, joined together on Thursday 1 December to celebrate the International Day of People with a DisABILITY

A feature of the celebration was hearing the inspirational life story of Dean Clifford, who despite a debilitating disorder has achieved much.

International Day of People with a DisABILITY celebrates the abilities and achievements of people living with disabilities and Dean personifies the determination and zest for life which many people with a disability share.

Dean spoke about the many achievements in his life despite his inherited disorder.

Dean has a rare genetic skin disorder called Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), commonly known as 'cotton wool babies', which causes constant skin tearing and bleeding.

The usual life expectancy for severe EB is five years, yet Dean is now 26 and despite constant pain and countless operations he has achieved much in his life.

Dean runs his own business as a motivational speaker, travelling all over Australia to spread his story of courage and inspiring others to dream and to believe in themselves. Dean also has a marketing job, is an Ambassador for the Association of Competitive Employment, and is the Good Will Ambassador for the Brisbane Broncos.

Dean said his philosophy for life is to set himself little dreams at a time, such as building the strength necessary to walk the 650 metres required when chosen to carry the torch for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

"For six months I worked to build up my leg strength for the event," he said. "A week beforehand I could only manage 400 metres before the skin on my feet was too blistered to walk any further.

"However on the day I made it-I felt like I could walk around the earth.

"Every second is a future waiting to happen. Don't allow any opportunities to pass you by, because the worst that can happen is you learn more about yourself."

The acting Deputy Public Service Commissioner, Mr Jeff Lamond, opened the celebrations. Jeff welcomed all present and noted that we all need to take time out of our busy lives to acknowledge the importance of celebrating the difference and diversity in our community.

Mr Ian Thompson, the Executive Manager of Rural Policy and Innovation in the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, drew the official part of the mornings' celebrations to a close.

"Diversity is valuable and International Day of People with a DisABILITY recognises that people with disabilities contribute to and enrich our lives," said Ian.

"People who overcome disabilities have abilities-that is, the proven strength to overcome hardship, adversity and challenges."

It was Deans' birthday the next day so Mr Thompson invited all present to sing Happy Birthday as a surprise birthday cake with candles was brought in. All present then enjoyed a delicious morning tea whilst chatting to Dean, viewing demonstrations of a TTY phone (text telephone) and participating in other interactive displays including a Braille machine, Braille books and simulation vision impairment glasses.