Redefine Ability: An Egyptian Campaign Changing How We View Ability

Redefine Ability: An Egyptian Campaign Changing How We View Ability

Earlier this year, Egyptian Paralympian Ibrahim Hamadto made international headlines as he inspired millions across the world with his ability to play table tennis with no arms.

After fulfilling his Paralympic dream, Ibrahim declared that nothing is impossible, even for people with various “physical limitations” or “disabilities”.

“I want to tell everybody that nothing is impossible, and everybody should work hard for what you love and what you think is good for yourself,” said Ibrahim.

Yet, before Ibrahim had achieved his dream, Tamer Shaaban and Deana Shaaban were already inspired.

Over three years ago, my sister and I were inspired by the accomplishments that Paralympians could achieve and began to realize in many cases they were more able than a majority of us,” said Tamer.

When sitting down and talking with them, they shared that view even stronger. They are seemingly ordinary people, who are accomplishing extraordinary things,” continued Tamer.

So we set out on a mission to create a project to shine some light on some of these individuals in hope that we could get people more curious. In every case, unanimously, each of the individuals said the same thing: we are not disabled.”

The result of this mission was Redefine Ability, a short film and campaign that brought together some of Egypt’s top Paralympians and differently abled athletes to share their stories and change the way people in Egypt and across the world viewed them.

Ibrahim Hamato during the filming of Redefine Ability's short film
Ibrahim Hamadto during the filming of Redefine Ability’s short film

“The Egyptian Paralympic athletes, while they brought home more medals than Olympic ones, they received little attention compared to what they deserved. We wanted to change that and flip the way people saw the differently abled,” said Tamer.

“We wanted people to see them as hard working champions, with a lot of talent, and confidence. My team and I are hoping to change the narrative in Egypt around the differently abled. We’re hoping to plant this positive idea and hopefully see more creators begin to change the narrative as well.”

The film, which is in both English and Arabic and was also made so that even people with visual and auditory barriers could experience it, features athletes table tennis player Ibrahim Hamadto, Egypt’s first Paralympic swimmer Aya Ayman, semi-pro modern pentathlon athlete Mohamed Ramy, tennis player Mohamed Sobhy, and pro fencing athlete Ali Mahmoud. It depicts the abilities of these differently abled athletes and shows them training “abled” athletes who have no physical or other “limitations”.

Behind the scenes of the filming
Ali Mahmoud, a 17-year-old professional fencing athlete, during filming.

In a statement, Tamer says that there has already been a change in the mindset towards the differently abled in recent times. Among those who have noticed the vast abilities of the differently abled is the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon team, which has strongly advocated the Redefine Ability campaign.

Led by Sherif El-Erian, the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon team supports differently abled athletes and has even turned many of them into professional athletes and Paralympians.

The Modern Pentathlon team was a very strong advocate of the Redefine Ability Campaign and the differently abled, providing us with the access to the athletes and their incredibly inspiring stories,” said Tamer.

Behind the scenes of the filming
Aya Ayman, Egypt’s first and youngest female Paralympic swimmer to have ever competed in the Paralympics, during filming.

Since releasing the Redefine Ability film, it has been viewed by more than 100,000 people in Egypt and elsewhere. However, this is just the start. The website will be sharing various stories and backgrounds of differently abled athletes and bringing these stories to an international audience.

We’re here to change perception and we’re looking to everyone to share your stories of what it means to be able with the world as well,” explains Tamer.

To change perception, we need to do it together. We invite you on the journey to make that change as well. Welcome to the #RedefineAbility movement.”

Check out the Redefine Ability project here. You can also watch the Inclusive Arabic version of the film here and the Inclusive English version here.

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Mohamed Khairat is the Founder of Egyptian Streets.

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