giovedì 18 febbraio 2010

Thank you Mr. President

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial's Hall

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to thank you for having awarded me a medal for the swim across Lake Tiberiade, from Kefar Nahum to Ein Gev next May 7th 2010, as part of the project “Swimming around the globe”
Mr President, I am profoundly grateful for the honour that the highest Italian institution has conferred to me together with Circolo Canottieri Aniene and the Fondazione Roma who have sustained me throughout this project, making possible everything that has been done and my contribution so far to the world of the disabled.

Today, disability is an insidious obstacle in daily life: the limitations which derive from being disabled compromise those functions which most people consider normal. Pathologies such as hereditary or congenital illnesses, or an accident, can cause these difficulties. Young people at war, in road accidents, can be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of their lives; may people who are still active can be victims of accidents at work, neurological illnesses which limit their mobility and cognitive faculties.
A disabled person has the same right to respect, consideration and dignity as any other human being.

Sadly, our society doesn’t favour, encourage or facilitate the integration of disabled people: prejudice, structural limitations and architectural barriers prevent a dignified existence. Our system limits our visibility and our mobility. The most obstinate barriers, the most solid walls are those which are psychological and mental, and make it impossible to share the world and the same destiny as others.
Disabled people are able to offer a great deal, not only as regards professional competence, but also as regards humanity, genuine feelings and human warmth.
I think that these sensations can contribute in part to the recovery by disabled people – of any age, but in particular for the young – of those residual potentialities which otherwise wouldn’t have found any means of expression, and will help them to acquire a greater awareness of their own body and consequently strengthen them emotionally.
I realize that for the disabled, it’s important to “be” in the world, to try to make a difference to processes of socialisation and integration, to testify to the value of diversity and fight for our own rights.
Today, technology has exceeded the most ambitious previsions and in the field of prosthetics, the results are incredibly advanced. New prosthetics allow a quality of life which was impossible to imagine until a few years ago, reducing dramatically the problems linked to bad posture and incorrect walking.
Unfortunately in Italy, unlike other European countries, these instruments are not provided by the National health service, unless you are able to conduct long and complicated bureaucratic procedures.
The instrument which regulates the provision of prosthetics hasn’t been updated since 1992 and so doesn’t take into account fundamental progress obtained through research.
It’s a case of cultural short sightedness by a country like Italy which, as far as regulations go, has very advanced laws and at the level of local institutions often gives a great deal of attention to assistance of the disabled.
This is where my “battle” began, allowing me to live a unique and unrepeatable experience, above all from a human point of view.
This awareness came to me over the years when I have met extraordinary people who dedicate time, passion and competence to the integration of the disabled through sport.
I have learned important lessons from them and thanks to them I feel I can contribute to the realization of a better world, a world without barriers which can bring out the maximum potential in each of us.
Dear Mr. President, your unexpected and very welcome gift pushes me to continue to strive with the maximum concentration and dedication, encouraged by the will to serve our nation.
In this spirit, I send you my thanks and my most respectful greetings.

Salvatore Cimmino

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