Synapse email updates


What's in an update?

Synapse endeavours to keep you updated with the latest information and news. If you would like to receive our monthly E-newsletter, please fill out your information above and we can keep you in the know!



A long road to recognition for disability campaigner


A long road to recognition for disability campaigner

Jacob Baldwin's life-long advocacy for the disabled first came to public attention when he embarked on a four-year-long journey around Australia in his wheelchair.

Mr Baldwin, who was disabled at birth when a motor nerve was severed during a long labour, died from cancer in 2010 at the age of 59.

During his lifetime he said he would like to see a museum celebrating disability set up, and that dream has, at least partly, been realised.

His wheelchair has gone on show at the National Museum of Australia (NMA) in Canberra, alongside other mementos from the trip.

Curator Anthea Gunn says the display pays tribute to Mr Baldwin's memory and his aspiration to see the story of disabled people recognised in a museum.

"He was born with cerebral palsy and he always referred to that as a gift," she said.

"It gave him opportunities and it meant that he could serve others."

Mr Baldwin did not like the use of the word 'disability' and said that his trek around the country was part of a campaign to encourage people to focus on ability.

He travelled more than 16,000 kilometres at a top speed of 8 kilometres per hour. The journey - dubbed "The Ability Trek" - lasted four years from 1992 to 1996.

"He was the first Australian to do that and no one's done it since, that's for sure," Dr Gunn said.

The wheelchair now on display at the museum bears the dust and dents to prove how arduous the journey was.

It is displayed alongside a hat Mr Baldwin wore on his travels, decorated with badges and feathers collected on the road.

His family donated the items to the museum after his death.

Mr Baldwin was engaged in activism from a young age.

He worked as an adviser to government on disability when he was still a teenager and studied for several qualifications at university that would help him in his quest to attain greater rights and recognition for disabled people.

At the college he attended his classmates had to carry him up and down the stairs to get to classes, as there was no wheelchair-friendly access.

He is now regarded as a trailblazer in disability rights.

"He wanted to show that having a disability didn't mean that you couldn't achieve in life," Dr Gunn said.

References and further information

This article was originally produced by ABC News


To view this article visit the ABC News website


Our partners