Who is Michael Haddad?

Who is Michael Haddad?

Michael Haddad is a Professional Athlete, inspirational speaker, adventurer and social entrepreneur with a rare and unique case; 75% of his body is completely paralyzed, and walking in his case is a medical impossibility; yet he created three world records in walking and climbing. He has been highly honored and recommended from the President of the Lebanese Republic, Army commander in chief, Lebanese parliamentary sports and human rights committee, and many other universities, syndicates and international entities.

What has initially caused your disability?

At the age of six, I became subject to a spinal cord injury from a Jet Ski accident, which left me paralyzed from the chest down. I now walk by carrying my body one step at a time while strapped into 12 kilogram of steel (Thoraco Lumbo Sacral Hip Knee Ankle Foot Orthesis) or braces that were initially designed to hold up my body to enable me to stand upright for short periods of time.

What are in your opinion the major obstacles that the disabled come across in Lebanon?

Similar to other groups who are considered at a disadvantage the disabled people in Lebanon suffer from the same kind of discrimination.

Latest figures indicate that more than 10 % of the Lebanese population suffer from some kind of disability. These same people are unable to move comfortably in most regions in Lebanon as the country still remains not adequately equipped for the disabled needs. Yet, all what it takes is a simple action; we already have law 220 that serves as a guideline for disability rights but sadly it is not implemented.

By integrating this person into every facet of the society starting with the educational system and working environment, we will be removing obstacles from his/her way and connecting them with their direct community on many integral levels.

How do you channel your strength as a disabled person, towards bigger goals and achievements?

I am a person who was discriminated against under the “haram” label, imprisoned by society through my disability with no hope for either having a normal job or being a part of a social structure. So once I decided to become an active member in the society, I worked on proving that disability is a state of mind.

Every day is a challenge but every day is also an achievement; when I move from point A to point B with paralysis is not a disabled person moving, it’s a differently abled person achieving.

What is your message for people who like you are physically disabled?

Defeating thoughts are not a rare occurrence, but what I remind myself of every day is that I shall not surrender, nor be silent about my progressive ideas, I truly know and believe I can make a change in this world. I am constantly, through my record breaking achievements, committed to serving as an inspiration for people who like me, can feel defeated at times. To them I say it is a mindset. Believe in yourself, and after that nothing is impossible.

Who helped you most to overcome the limitations of physical disability?

It is with pride that I say it was me helping me to begin with; it took me six years to engineer myself to start working on my mind set as a first step, to deeply consider what can be done to mobilize me and then seeking mentors who will enable me to perform as such.

On one level, mentors like my doctors at the medical facilities and teachers at school in addition to social mentors like the Lebanese army and local NGOs helped me a great deal on various levels, be it emotionally, physically or otherwise. On another level, the hindering conditions of the disabled in my own county made me persist to achieve and become more than just a stigma, a disabled person.

Turning the `I “ into a “We” and embracing the world as part of us and not part of a separate entity made me realize the true meaning of empowerment.

Tell us about your achievements?

On October 24, 2013 I carried one cedar tree from the cedars Forrest of God in Bshery and walked 19 Km (60,000 steps) carrying this cedar as a message of hope, unity and evergreen nature. Then I managed to climb the Raouche Rock in 2014 when everyone said that it was impossible for someone with my case. On March 8, 2015 I achieved a world record by climbing the Black Summit or Al Qornet El Sawda - the highest point in Lebanon and the Levant, 3,088 meters above sea level assisted by the Lebanese Army.

A concluding note?

A complex solution could be solved by a simple first step. I transformed my limitation (impossibility to ever walk again) into a message of hope; if we connect together as one entity we can build a better future and prove that no one is disabled. We just have to keep building bridges, destroying barriers and dreaming as one.