Rower shows vision loss no barrier to work or play

03 Dec 2015

Western Sydney Local Health District disability employment consultant Kate Murdoch has never let her vision impairment get in the way of success, becoming a champion rower, who is now on-track for the 2016 Paralympics.

The 28-year-old was born with a condition called cone rod dystrophy, causing her sight to deteriorate.

Despite being declared legally blind at age 16, Kate took up rowing and quickly aspired to compete internationally.

She was keen to share her story as part of International Day of People with a Disability on December 3.

“As a child, I couldn’t stand the thought of losing my vision and I didn’t want help from anyone,” she said.

“Over time, I’ve realised it’s okay to ask for help and it’s made a massive change – I can work, I am studying, I live independently and I participate in sport.

“This is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the success and efforts of other people with a disability.”

Kate won three gold medals at the Australian National Championships in March, competed in the World Rowing Championships in France in September and is now keen to head to Rio for next year’s Paralympics.

“I really have my dad to thank for getting me into rowing,” she said.

“He rowed while he lived in Ireland and thought it was something I might enjoy; I only started rowing about five years ago so it’s really taken off quite quickly.”

When she’s not representing her country, Kate works from Cumberland Hospital, navigating the trip from her Penrith home to the site with the help of her guide dog Trixie.

She believes her role is critical to getting more people with disabilities into employment.

“People with disabilities have a valuable role to play in organisations,” she said.

“I’ve been lucky that I’ve had a lot of support from staff at Western Sydney Local Health District; they’ve really accommodated me and given me new equipment and programs to develop the skills that I need to be able to adapt to my deteriorating vision, enabling me to sustain my work.”

Celebrations for International Day of People with a Disability are set to continue at Westmead, Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals throughout December.

Staff will participate in a range of activities including wheelchair basketball, wheelchair dancing and a disability games challenge.

Live music from Andrew Hewitt (drummer), who has Cerebral Palsy, and David Rowlands, who has an acquired brain injury, will also be performed.