Evan Austin, Eta Beta (Indiana State), puts his mission into motion every day, but it isn’t always easy. As he travels and is unable to access the resources he has at home, he adapts to the places and spaces around him to make them work for his goals, whether that’s finding a pool to train in or finding ways to share his missionwith the world. As you are met with barriers to your mission, how do you adapt to continue making it happen? Don’t have a mission? Consider taking part in an Ability Experience event! We’ve done our best to eliminate all barriers to participation, but we’ll help you overcome any you might run into along the way. Explore this page to learn more about putting your mission in motion.
Austin was born with Familial Spastic Paraparesis, a genetic neurological disorder that affects the function and use of his legs. He exemplifies the mission of The Ability Experience, overcoming the unique adversities and challenges of having a disability. One way he chooses to overcome adversity and push himself further than most people – with or without a disability, -ever will, is through his efforts as a Paralympic athlete.
The first Paralympic Games took place in 1960 in Rome, Italy, featuring 400 athletes from 23 different countries, and they have since taken place every four years. The birth of the Paralympic games is largely accredited to Sir Ludwig Guttmann, a physician who pioneered unconventional methods of care and rehabilitation for the paralyzed population, a population that at the time was usually kept in hospice style care and made to feel comfortable as their health deteriorated, rather than being integrated into society in any way. His methods, which turned away from sedation and towards physical activity, crafting and competitive sporting activities boosted patients’ self-esteem and helped to restore their personal dignity. Ludwig was ahead of his time in this thought process, but his ideas back then would align closely with the ideals of The Ability Experience today; if you support people with disabilities and give them a place to shine, not only do their individual lives improve, but society improves and becomes a better place.
Austin hopes to compete for a fourth time because the water is where he has always felt most like himself, and where he knows he can show the world that with a disability, you can still achieve anything you set your mind to. Whether or not he medals this time around, he hopes to grow through this experience and continue to broadcast the mission of The Ability Experience across the world stage, supporting people with disabilities and reiterating that the abilities of all people should be recognized and valued.
Austin’s pursuit is our mission in motion as he exemplifies The Ability Experience’s core values: abilities, teamwork, empathy and integrity. As he emphatically shares, “I might have a physical disability, but I would bet my abilities against 99.9% of the world population as far as what I’m capable of in the water.” He is relying on many teams to achieve his goal: Team USA, Team Ability Experience and Team Pi Kappa Phi. Austin is the first to tell you, you don’t get there alone, you need a team. As Austin works toward his goal of Paralympic competition, he hopes someone who doesn’t know the world of swimming or sport at all can still empathize with him through seeing his pursuits. And he will extend to others an invitation to take a step into the world of someone with an impairment, showing them how different, but also similar it is. And finally, integrity. If you’re on a noble and worthy pursuit, it takes time and while there are moments worth celebrating, there are a lot of tough days, too. In Austins’ words, “What’s right is never what comes easy. The Ability Experience knows that, I know that and I hope that someone else can learn that as I face my own challenges in the pursuit of putting our mission in motion.”
Austin knows that true leaders empower others to learn through experience. On his path to Paris, he hopes to inspire others to push themselves to take on challenges that have meaning for you and the people around you. While not everyone will become a Paralympian, everyone can push themselves to their own limits, like the participants of Journey of Hope and Gear Up Florida do each year, often seriously cycling for the first time as they train for their respective trip. He hopes his pursuit of the Paralympics will inspire other men of Pi Kappa Phi to find their mountain, and climb it, whether it is attending an Ability Camp, cycling one of the summer events or exploring their potential as a leader through a crew position.
“I want to convince other people that it all matters. All of it. There are gold medals to be won every single day. The success of our largest pursuits is decided in the smallest details. They come down to the daily, intentional decisions between what is right and what is easy. I hope that people see this and decide to take on their own worthy challenge. I think that is the ultimate metric of the success of The Ability Experience.” – Evan Austin