On this special day, we would like to tell you about Ali who not only plays wheelchair para-badminton, swims and exercises, but who also volunteers for Wellways' Life in Community (LinC) program.
Playing para-badminton was a literal game changer for Ali, after an accident led him to require a wheelchair.
Feeling isolated and lonely at first, he asked himself, ‘Am I the only one? But when I saw other people in wheelchairs playing badminton, living their lives, driving cars, working and having partners, I realised that even though I’m in a wheelchair, I can do it too — it really helped me accept my disability and know it was possible to live a normal life.’
Ali plays wheelchair para-badminton at international and national tournaments — and is an Oceania Para-Badminton Champion. He’s travelled to places such as Japan, Thailand and Bahrain as well as across Australia for big competitions. ‘Playing badminton is so important to give me that feeling of belonging and connection. This community, which I see on a daily basis, where everyone knows each other, really encourages me to improve, build confidence and it boosts my self-esteem. I really need it in my life – you really need it!’
Ali works as a graphic designer and holds a Bachelor of Communications Design. He is currently working on a video game where players can design their own cities that are accessible to them. ‘It focuses on two main issues that people with disabilities face, difficulty getting around a city and a lack of representation of people living with disability in the media,’ he says.
We asked Ali what he’d like us to know this International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD).
He said, ‘Please don’t leave us out because you’re afraid to say the wrong thing or worry you may offend us. We really want to have a conversation with you, be seen, and engage with society — we talk about the same things and enjoy going out as much as you do too.’
When preparing for tournaments, Ali trains four to five times a week. ‘It’s tough but it gives me control of my day and time — and puts me in a good mental state. I also take care of myself by eating well and exercising in nature or going for a swim,’ he says.
While Ali has his eye on the Para-Olympics 2028, he’s decided to put his intense training on hold to focus on other aspects of his life. ‘I just got engaged to my fiancé, who is also from Pakistan, and we plan to get married next year.’ He also wants to spend more quality time with his friends and family — and keep up with choir practice and group mindfulness mediation.
Amazingly, Ali also makes time to volunteer for Wellways’ Life in Community (LinC) program where he supports participants to connect with society. ‘The volunteer supervisors do a great job of matching people,’ he says. ‘I’m a very active and creative person, so I enjoy taking who I’m matched with to live music events, art galleries and wheelchair racing. When I see them change, I think ‘wow’ and it makes me feel good. I’m mostly there being myself and listening. Every volunteer has their own strengths just by being you and themselves.’
If you would like to find out more about our volunteer programs or volunteer with us, head to our Volunteer page.