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Paralympic athletes have created and built a unique mindset around the real and highest state of humanism. This mindset has allowed them to master the art of adapting to new situations and optimizing their environment and their abilities.

The Gold Standard for Humanism

During the second year of medical school, students are asked to select someone from their class who they believe would be the best candidate to be a doctor caring for their loved ones in the future.

While they are in training, each student is continuously evaluated in terms of their performance, behavior, and other social skills: to develop a profile of personality traits for the model graduate candidate.

At the graduation ceremony at the end of medical school, one graduate student receives the award for the Gold Standard for Humanism—a valuable award that represents his or her path during their school years.

However, this prize is not about their school performance; it is about promoting a collaborative environment and delivering the best and highest standard of human compassion.

Paralympic Athletes 

Similar to doctors, athletes with a disability already practice the gold standard for humanism on a daily basis.

Those who have experienced human compassion and who know the disadvantages associated with having a disability develop a unique and inspiring perspective about life. They acquire wisdom about how to simply be a better human being.

Physical injuries and other disabling conditions influence these athletes to create a collaborative environment that promotes compassion and motivation and raises awareness concerning the potential of human achievement.

Regardless of one’s physical condition, practicing a sport promotes psychological and social benefits to those who participate, and improves overall health.

However, when we participate in the sports of disabled individuals, it has a tremendous impact on how others see the potential in human abilities.


Developing motivation is, in part, visually-driven; we depend on the extrinsic factors available to us to make sense of our environment. One might be surprised to find how motivational and educational it is to become involved in sports that have been adapted for those with disabilities.

Beyond an increased level of awareness concerning certain disabilities, there is huge potential for personal growth when we acknowledge and appreciate these Paralympic athletes’ work and their performance.

As we listen to others’ stories and their ideas, we gain a strong sense of perspective and a different outlook on achievement.

Here are 5 inspiring TED talks by Paralympic speakers: 

1) Liam Malone 

Liam Malone is a former para-athlete from New Zealand who has won two gold medals and one silver for track events: the men’s 200m, 400m, and 100m, respectively. He competed in many running events, primarily as a sprinter.

Liam was born with fibular hemimelia in both legs—a limb deficiency caused by the absence of the fibula bone. As a result, his legs were amputated below the knee when he was 18 months old.

Ever defiant in the face of his health condition, Liam never let it stand in his way when striving to achieve his goals. His story redefines the way we perceive disability and ability.

Video: Turning Disability into Ability | Liam Malone

2) Shams Aalam 

An Indian Para swimmer, Shams Aalam has received many athletic awards during his career, including the world record in Longest Open Sea Swimming by a paraplegic person. After completing his MBA, he was in the process of pursuing a job in Mumbai when he was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor—an event that led to being paralyzed from the chest down.

Since then, he has become involved in educating others as to the nature of various disabilities and raising awareness about other para-athletes who use sports to build strength, stamina, and character, and to rise above their circumstances.

In 2018, Shams was given the award for Best Emerging Leader in Disability Sports & Sports Diplomacy. This athlete represents the multi-faceted qualities of a leader, an athlete, and simply an inspiring human being.

Video: Need of Inclusive Society | Shams Aalam  

3) Joel Dembe

A Canadian National Wheelchair Tennis Champion, Joel Dembe has competed in the 2012 London Paralympic Summer Games. Joel was born with a tumor near his spine. The operation to remove it developed into a partial paralysis, causing him to be wheelchair-bound by the age of seven.

Joel discusses the importance of physical activity, no matter what one’s physical condition might be. He specifically references implementing rational adaptions of our environment to accommodate others, to be more inclusive, and to be accessible to everyone. For example, if the league were to adopt new tennis rules, allowing two bounces of the ball instead of one bounce, the game could be played from a wheelchair.

Video: Let’s Change the Way We Think about Disability | Joel Dembe

4) David Kyle 

A member of the USA Triathlon National Paratriathlon Committee, David has competed internationally with the USA Elite Paratriathlon Team in both triathlon and duathlon events and has won multiple world and national titles in both disciplines.

After being diagnosed with MS, David decided to fight back by becoming an athlete. In addition to being an athlete and a member of the committee, David is UAH professor specializing in kinesiology and sports science—a platform he uses to increase awareness concerning disabled athletes.

Video: People with Disabilities Are Athletes, Too | David Kyle  

5) Aimee Mullins

Aimee Mullins is an American athlete, actress, and public speaker. After she was born with fibular hemimelia (missing fibula bones), both Aimee’s legs were amputated below the knee.

Despite this setback early in life, Mullins went on to have a fabulous athletic career, during which she competed in the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta and national NCAA leagues. She retired from competitive track and field in 1998.

An inspiring motivational speaker, Aimee was named a TED “All-Star” in 2014.

Video: It’s Not Fair Having 12 Pairs of Legs | Aimee Mullins