Q: What happened to your legs?

A: I was born with legs that were never formed properly and never worked. The lower part of my spine has not developed, so the part of the spine that joins to my hip bone on either side failed to grow. I have paraplegic symptoms in my legs. My legs were grossly abnormal in their structure and totally useless in their function. Compared to the rest of my body my legs ended up about one-sixth the size of what a normal leg would have been.

Q: Can you have artificial legs?

A: No. My lower body structure and hips are completely different to the average person and will not support the use of prosthetics.

Q: Do you use a wheelchair?

A: I have a wheelchair but I do not use it. I get around on my hands, I always have. I also have my trusty skateboard that lets me get to place that a wheelchair would just not get to. My skateboard has roller blade wheels for speed, and is padded for the comfort.

Q: Do you drive a car? If so how?

A: Yes I drive a car. Getting my driver’s license was another great moment in my life. I can only drive an automatic car. I have a set of portable hand controls in my car that can be detached and travel with me wherever I go. The controls are two rods that clamp onto both the brake and the accelerator. The tops of the rods are connected by a long white bar, that I push down to activate the brakes and a small black button that when I push down activates the accelerator. I have a specially made big cushion for the driver’s seat that I sit on so I can see over the dash… it used to be a stack of telephone books so if I got lost I could ring someone…

Q: How do you go to the bathroom?

A: I go to the bathroom the same way everybody does, except I have to sit down on the toilet seat. I am the only man who will agree with the ladies… guys will you put the toilet seat down when you have finished!

Q: How do you shower?

A: I shower like everybody else.

Q: Do you have children? Can you have children?

A: Leanne and I have one son, his name is Clayton. He is a huge source of inspiration for both Leanne and myself.

Q: How long have you been speaking? How did you get started?

A: In the beginning I read in front of the congregation at our local church. This is where I first learnt to read and speak in front of people. Stephen Waugh, Australian Cricket Captain got me up to say a few words in 1993 and in late I was encouraged by those who heard me speak and those who knew me to pursue my ‘gift of the gab’ and told that my story was both inspirational and making a difference. It has been the people who cross my path who encourage me to continue today.

Q: Do you play sport?

A: My love for sport has helped me achieve what many thought impossible inclusive of representative honours in several disciplines — in both able bodied and disabled sports. In 1994 I was the Australian Disabled Table Tennis champion — just missing selection for the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Team. I have played indoor cricket for 17 years. I was also the first person with a major disability to play indoor cricket in Australia. I have also played grade cricket for the famous Bankstown Club, home of Australian cricket legends Stephen, Mark, Dean & Danny Waugh.

Q: What is one of your greatest moments?

A: In 1994 I had the opportunity to travel with the Australian Cricket Team to South Africa. When I was there I had the honour of meeting Mr Nelson Mandela. Meeting this great human and experiencing South Africa was one of my greatest moments. Nelson Mandela continues to inspire me with his words of wisdom such as ‘the most difficult matter is not so much to change the world as yourself.’ If there were more Nelson Mandela’s in this world, it would be a much better place.

Q: What is one of the best things you have ever done?

A: One of the best thing I have ever done is to have the courage to have my legs amputated. On the 14th July 1987 I had them removed in an operation that took 90 minutes. Having them removed meant I had to learn to do everything all over again. It has also meant that I have more mobility, freedom and access to many places and many more things. I have never had the use of my legs, now they don’t get in my way.


“Remember you are not ‘JUST’ anyone, you are someone special. Every individual human being born on this earth has the capacity to become a unique and special person”

John Coutis