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In this blog you will get to follow Compello employee Martin Polash who has set the ambitious goal of competing in table tennis at the Paralympics in 2020. Besides following Martin’s exciting journey, peaks and valleys, you will get to read about other inspirational topics of importance including diversity, bullying, disability in the workplace and more. Hop on!

The insult of my childhood

Picture of Martin A Polash

Written by Martin A Polash

Martin works as a Partner Account Manager at Compello. This is how he describes himself: I’m a passionate table tennis player with an ambitious goal; to compete at the Paralympics in Tokyo 2020. I blog to inspire, and to raise awareness of para sports and all our amazing athletes. I have an awesome son and wife who is also my best friend. I’m fortunate to work for my sponsor Compello, selling software services for digital invoicing processes.

As long as I can remember people around me have been afraid to ask me about my disability. I’ve always wondered why handicaps and disabled people make others uncomfortable? I’ve never been offended if someone calls me handicapped, because I have a handicap.

By asking questions you will help break down barriers for persons with disabilities.

"Är du CP?" (deragatory, translation "are you CP?") was a common insult phrase when I was growing up in Sweden. Whenever I heard it as a kid, I would always respond “Yes, and?” It would most often confuse the person who said it. And nine times out of 10 disarm them and the situation. This was a common phrase that made some kids end up in detention. My teacher, knowing I’m very open about my CP, asked me to set these kids straight. Because I was a table tennis star, class representative and good student, everyone was shocked when they heard I have Cerebral Palsy. Some even apologized to me and said they wouldn’t say I anymore, knowing I have it.

I prefer people ask me what’s up with me instead of shying away from asking any questions because of fear that they will offend me by doing so. Once I had a person in a work meeting ask me if I’ve had a stroke. The person got many dirty looks from the room. As the diffuser I am, I simply responded, No, but I have a mild form of Cerebral Palsy that mainly affects the movements in the right side of my body. I didn’t find the question the least bit offensive. The thing is, I have played against a person who had suffered from two strokes. He had the same movements I have. If you’re wondering; Yes, I won the match. And as my research told, it’s possible to get hemiplegia caused by a stroke.

By asking questions you will help break down barriers for persons with disabilities. There is plenty of prejudice and discrimination against us, purely based on not knowing. Only by asking will know and expand your view of the handicapped and be more inclusive in society.

I’d be curious to know if it still used as an insult?

What about my disability?

In writing this post I had to research quite a bit about my disability, because to be honest I’ve never known much about it. This might seem odd to many. But truthfully, I’ve never really seen myself as disabled. As normal it is for most people to have to fully functional arms and legs, it’s been equally as normal for me to have my right-hand claw and right-foot elephant stomp. When I was a kid I was ashamed of them and tried to minimize their appearance. I would put my right hand in my pocket and walk slower so that the sound of my right foot was hushed.

My own-designed playing shirt with the claw!Today, I don’t concern myself with that. My hemiplegia has made me who I am. When I made my table tennis comeback I designed my own playing shirt and logo. The motif of my logo? My claw! It happens often now that I completely forget that I have it. I still wear the shirt to the gym sometimes. And every time catch a reflection of it in the mirror, I get a rush of pride.

My disability affects my table tennis in a handful of ways. I can’t hold my palm out straight and flat when I serve. If you’ve watched a table tennis match you have seen that players balance the ball on their palm straight and fingers together. I simply can’t do this. Believe me I’ve tried for over 30 years. What I do is I position the ball between my fingers. It kind of looks like I have a claw when I serve. And unfortunately, when I throw up the ball to serve the ball can go at an angle, making it challenging to serve. Another annoying thing about the claw is that its natural position is close to the body at chest level. This has resulted in hitting it unintentionally with my bat when I’m trying to hit a ball. Some have asked me, why I don’t “just” keep my hand down out of the way? It is because the hand keeps sneaking up to it’s natural position. Table tennis is one of the fastest sports and requires a lot of focus and attention. When I play I can’t afford to put any focus and efforts to keep my hand down. Moving sideways quickly is very important in order to get into a good position to hit the ball. My sideways movement is diminished and can often also lead to getting me out of balance easier than most.
The key take-away I would like you as the reader to take away from this post is; Dare to ask questions!

/ Martin

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Check out the clips below, they definitely break down some barriers for persons with disabilities:

Rosie Jones deals with the elephant in the room, Comedy Club

I got 99 problems.. palsy is just one, Maysoon Zayid, TED talk 

10 things I wish people knew about cerebral palsy, Zach Anner, Cerebral Palsy Foundation


Also read:

Playing big is the only thing I know 

My encounter with Para Table Tennis