“I am just as capable” – athlete with hearing impairment

Darren Zammit Lupi

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Matthew Bugeja, a 21-year-old athlete explained that despite his disability, he is just as capable as anyone else. In an interview with Newsbook.com.mt, Bugeja, who has a hearing impairment, spoke about his achievements in gymnastics and athletics.

He recounted how when he was younger, his parents would encourage him to practice sport and he used to participate in several fun runs. When he turned eight, his mother started him and his sister off in gymnastics with Special Olympics Malta. He explained that the more he practiced the more his love for this sport grew and that’s when he started competing. His first competition took him up to Romania where he won a medal in all categories he competed in.

Following his participation in the 2015 World Games held in Los Angeles, he started practicing different types of sports. His favourite type of sport remains football. Both his parents encouraged him to practice sport and it became a vital part of his life.

A golden medal in 2015

Participating in an international competition, Matthew said that he started competing against athletes coming from countries like Russia, China and Romania. He admitted that the competition started to become a bit tough. Nonetheless, his participation in the 2015 World Games led him to his very first golden medal.

“School was difficult”

Matthew explained that school was a bit difficult due to his hearing impairment. He said that his mother used to help him with his homework and used to explain to him the lessons that he’d have sat through in school. He expressed the difficulty in keeping up with his classmates, especially due to the language gap between the two. He also said that he could not properly hear his teachers. “Sport was a sort of solace for me, it helped me reduce my frustrations,” Matthew said.

He also spoke about his experience with making friends. “While a lot of people boast about how accepting they are, there are very few who practice this acceptance,” Matthew said. He spoke about how hurtful it feels when people treat him as if he was any lesser than those fully abled. He insisted that no one is perfect, and he is just as capable as anyone else. Due to this kind of treatment, Matthew said he ends up making double the effort than others just to prove himself to those around him.

“Everyone can be successful, including disabled people”

Matthew is one of the people who, together with his sister Annemarie Bugeja, participated in the photographic project ran by the Commission for the Rights of People with Disability (CRPD). The CRPD commissioned a series of 12 photographs titled Different is Normal, with people who have different disabilities, including spina bifida, hearing and sight impairments, ADHD, autism and down syndrome. The photographs were taken by Darren Zammit Lupi.

Asked why he chose to participate in such a project, Matthew explained that he is of the belief that people with disabilities have a lot of abilities and society needs to give them room to showcase them.

Asked what this project means to him, Matthew said that it shows that people with disabilities can succeed as well.