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At 19, David Johnson’s life took a dramatic turn when a friend pulled up in his dad’s new car. 

“I told mum I’d be going for a quick ride, I’d be back in five minutes,” David, known as DJ recalls. “I came home twelve months later, minus a bit.” The ‘bit’ DJ is referring to is his leg. 

“It was dumb. We were going too fast, racing another car.”  

Fast forward 31 years and DJ has three World Cups, two Silver World Cups, two Bronze World Cups and an Olympic silver medal after representing Australia in wheelchair tennis around the globe, including at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.  

Today, DJ has found a new way to pass on not just his love of tennis, but also his message of inclusion and belonging for people of all abilities.      

DJ works for Social Futures as a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Local Area Coordinator and supports others to access and understand the NDIS, and to get the most out of their NDIS plan.  

“It is like winning the lotto,” he said. “I get up in the morning and look forward to coming to work, to getting out and making a difference, and doing something meaningful. This job has changed my world. I’m so happy.”  

It’s the inclusion awareness program he delivers to schools, Sports Ability, which really gets DJ excited. 

Sports Ability teaches children how to play games and include everybody. It also showcases specific Paralympic games and various wheelchair sports, including wheelchair tennis, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair AFL.  

Programs aimed at young people, like Sports Ability, have been shown to foster inclusion, increase awareness and improve attitudes toward disability.  

“I don’t just impart pro tips for sports – though I do throw them in too! We also talk about disability, about my experiences and about the achievements of people with disability as well as some of the challenges. 

“I encourage all the young people I talk to, to ask questions and to be curious – through asking questions comes understanding, and through understanding comes inclusion.  

“Sports Ability is all about inclusion so maybe if these young people have a friend who has a disability, they can modify the game, or choose another to include everyone from the start.”  

DJ said we have come a long way, but more education is needed. 

“Children learn so much from speaking with someone who has a disability. They can find out all the things they’ve been able to achieve in their lives, and not be so quick to judge and make generalisations when they next see or meet people with a disability.   

“My kids don’t look at people with disability any different. They’ve always been around them. 

“When we’re out sometimes my kids will say, ‘Dad! They’re all looking! Why are they looking at you?’ I say, ‘it’s ‘cos I’m good looking!’” DJ said with a laugh. 

Sports Ability is a free program being delivered to schools in Northern NSW. 

If your school is interested in participating in the Sports Ability program, contact Social Futures on 1800 522 679.   

This program is funded through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and delivered by Social Futures.  

Social Futures is a social justice organisation delivering Local Area Coordination services for the NDIS across more than 50% of regional NSW. It also delivers inclusion awareness programs, including Sports Ability for schools.  

To talk to a Local Area Coordinator about the NDIS, or to find out how your school can take part in inclusion awareness programs, email [email protected] or call our LAC Hotline on 1800 522 679 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 4:30pm).