Living with a Disability: Overcoming Challenges and Thriving

Living with a disability doesn’t mean you have to stop living a full life. There are so many people with a disability who are overcoming challenges and thriving. Their disability is just part of their story.

We are feeling so inspired by the people in our Australian community that we have done some investigating and found some wonderful Australians, who are living with a disability and kicking huge goals in life and are thriving. We wanted to share their stories with you, in hopes that you too will find inspiration in their journey.

Doctor John Byrne

Dr John Byrne has enjoyed a life full of physical sports such as tennis, yoga and long distance running. He is a father of four and grandfather to ten. He has also enjoyed a career as a Corporate Services Director at the Department of Parks and Wildlife, which he developed after gaining a doctorate from the University of Western Australia and appointment as a postdoctoral fellow with London’s Imperial College.

John also has a disability. He has been profoundly deaf since he was a child, due to inheriting ostosclerosis, although he had normal hearing until he was eight years old.

John is also an advocate for people with disabilities. He was one of the people in the 1980s who advocated the State’s Equal Opportunity Act 1984 be extended to include disability. He was an inaugural member of the Ministerial Advisory Council for Disability Services in 1991 and served a second term in 1999.

 Daniel Pavlovic

Daniel Pavlovic is living with cerebral palsy. At the same time, his company, Daniel (ink.) has taken him from Perth to Melbourne, to Hong Kong to New York and back.

Daniel is an artist and his artworks on T-shirts are now sought after at markets and retail outlets throughout Australia and overseas.

Living with cerebral palsy is challenging, Daniel said, but he enjoyed the challenge. 

“Cerebral palsy has affected my legs, torso and my hands,” he said. “I mostly get around in my wheelchair, but I also have a Gopher, a walking frame, sticks, an all bells-and-whistles chair for basketball, and a converted car to suit my needs, as I now have my driver’s licence.”

Daniel has been nominated for two business awards: the Belmont Small Business Awards, where he was a finalist, and the Mundaring Chamber of Commerce Small Business Awards, where he won the Judges’ Choice Award. 

Hayden Claessens

A love of military history has led to Hayden Claessens, 21, taking on volunteer roles at Albany’s Old Gaol and Museum and the Albany Heritage Park, home to the National Anzac Centre building. 

Hayden, who has autism, volunteers two days a week. One day a week he welcomes visitors to the National Anzac Centre’s guard house, distributes maps and directs and informs people about the history of other buildings on-site. On the other day he welcomes visitors to the Old Gaol and provides a guided tour. 

His mother, Sue, said Hayden has always loved history and over the past 10 years had been particularly interested in military history. 

Albany Heritage Park Administration Officer Hannah Wisniewski said Hayden had been a wonderful addition to the volunteering team. 

“He has such a great sense of humour, an incredible mind for facts and is sunny and positive with our visitors,” she said. 

“It’s a pleasure having him with us – his dedication and willingness are an outstanding asset to our team.”

We love hearing stories of our customers and other NDIS participants who have overcome challenges and are thriving. If you have a story to tell, we’d love to share it with our community. Please let your case worker know and a member of our Good Meal Co team.


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