It’s a hot summer’s day and I’m in my car in the Sunshine Plaza carpark, primed to do another phone interview. I do a lot of phone interviews — some in the car, some at swimming lessons. Occasionally, I even get to do them at a real desk. Little did I know, though, that this one would prove to be so one of those ‘seismic shift’ chats.
My interviewee (also, ironically, hiding out in a different car park!) was Sam Hall — dad of Oliver (aged 5), and twins Eleanor and Ava (aged 2).
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The twins suffered from twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome in the womb. It’s a condition where one twin donates and the other receives fluids. As a result, Eleanor was born prematurely with a brain bleed, which led to cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hydrocephalus and a severe vision impairment.
In the first few years of Eleanor’s life, with the daily challenges she faced and the many hurdles she overcame, the Hall family were constantly reminded that she is far more than a disability diagnosis.
“She is able of growth, able of change, able to inspire … She is simply able, in her own unique ways!” Sam says.
As the passion for her unique ability grew, the ideas did too.
“Twelve months ago, we wanted to raise awareness for Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day [globally on October 6]. Yet, we couldn’t find anything that we’d be proud to wear,” Sam says.
“We started doing t-shirts and through that process, I realised we had the opportunity to spread a greater message that could connect with other families like ours.”
Able Cause was born. Its mission? To neutralise the stigma surrounding disability.
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“Able Cause recognises that ability is not limited by mental or physical capacity. We are all uniquely different, yet we are all the same. We are all born into this world with the right to be seen, valued, respected and loved for who we are,” Sam says.
“Our mission is to empower all people with the belief that they are capable of more than they realise.”
He says the #ablemovement exists to celebrate strength of character, human spirit and individuality and to neutralise the stigma surrounding disability.
“We are all able, whether you have a disability or not, we all have something to be proud of. It could be something huge or it could just be the smallest thing. But it all matters equally.”
We are all able
Sharing that message hasn’t come easily, and the 12 months following the launch of Able Cause has been challenging.
Sam Hall says most businesses can relate to the endless disruption of the coronavirus pandemic. However, when it comes to operating Able Cause, he has to juggle it with a full-time job.
“This is purely a passion project for me,” Sam says. “I’ve got my heart and soul invested in Able Cause, but there are many challenges for me with time and capacity. It’s crazy trying to wear all the hats, but we just continue with all the ideas and acting on them as they come.”
With Eleanor as a constant source of inspiration, that passion never abates.
“I think if Eleanor can achieve more than what was predicted for her and she’s kicking so many goals … Then so can we,” Sam says.
“This message is for all the Eleanors out there, and there are so many.”
Raising awareness is a large part of Able Cause’s work.
“At the time, when you are first experiencing something like this, it feels really isolating,” Sam says of those early days following Eleanor’s diagnosis.
“But you do soon learn that there is a great community of like-minded people who have their own stories, who can connect on that level. That was where we wanted to meld the two worlds together with the Able message.”
What’s next for Able Cause?
“We are so excited to launch a fresh, bright summer series with the messaging,” Sam says.
“I’ve got a couple of designs that I’m actually wearing. I wear my Able t-shirts every day, regardless of what I’m doing!
“At some point, I’d love to start an early education program in day care centres for pre-kindy kids.”
He says day cares are the hub of future societies and he’d like to get an inclusive program going that helps kids understand that ability is everywhere and that it takes many forms.
“When [other children] do meet a kid with disabilities in school, whether it be an intellectual disability or a physical disability, there is a positive pathway to them thinking about that person,” Sam says.
“It’s important to tell the story so other people understand disability doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anybody at any time in any form, but it shouldn’t make a person seem lesser or less important or less valued. There’s so much that people can offer in different ways.”
Sam says it’s about gaining perspective. He says we need to better understand what it actually means to be able.
“It’s not just walking down the street; it’s being able in overcoming obstacles, growing, inspiring … If I can get that message out to everybody through our living example, then I think that’s our goal achieved.”
Hearing Sam’s story and passion struck a chord so deeply with my own family. We have also recently experienced how indiscriminately childhood disability can strike.
I painfully understand how the word ‘ability’ takes on such a different form, when your own child can suddenly no longer run and jump; you find incredible ability in so many other ways. It was a phone call that shifted my thinking from anger and heartbreak, to energy and determination, to jump on board the Able Cause.
You can learn more about Able Cause and shop the clothing collection for kids and adults at ablecause.com.
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