If you’re unfamiliar with Chaeli Mycroft, prepare to be inspired! Born with Cerebral Palsy, Chaeli has never let disability dismantle her dreams. Born to prove people wrong, she is no stranger to breaking ground and challenging misconceptions. Chaeli has already made history multiple times over... from summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, to being the first athlete in a wheelchair to complete the Comrades Marathon, from winning the International Children’s Peace Prize to founding the Chaeli Campaign to champion a more ability-focused and inclusive world.
Now, in a tell-all, behind-the-scenes glimpse into her life, Chaeli brings us closer than ever in her new book Unapologetically Able. This is a story about not being sorry. About living your life your way. Saying yes when everyone thinks it should automatically be no.
We chat to Chaeli about her undeniable go-getter attitude and the upcoming launch of her book.
Tell us a little about your life's journey?
My life has been an incredible journey so far. I’ve done things I never expected, things that are supposedly not done by disabled people. I’ve been through some struggles and had some great moments. I’m so grateful that I have people around me who see my potential and encourage me to chase my dreams. I have had the most amazing opportunities to go on adventures, challenge perceptions, change people’s minds, and have a really good time along the way. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me next!
You've already accomplished so much in life and now you're about to launch your first book. Tell us a bit about that?
I’ve been thinking about writing a book for years now, and I’m so excited that it’s finally happening. I believe that every person has a powerful story to tell, and every story has the potential to change someone’s perspective and have an impact on someone’s life. I’ve written this book as a way to understand myself more deeply, reach new people and share some insight into the behind-the-scenes of my life as a disabled person.
Why the title Unapologetically Able?
I’ve had to work hard to not listen to the nay-sayers and fully believe that I can do the things I set my mind to. And for me, doing those things – like climbing Kilimanjaro and running the Comrades Marathon – has been possible because I involved other people, to make it happen. I am a proud disabled person and I need help with a lot of things. That doesn’t mean I cannot achieve things, or that my achievements are any less simply because I need help to get things done. I chose this title because while I have done many things that people have said would not be possible, I feel that the power of a story often resides in the untold parts, in the parts that we don’t always want to talk about or we feel it’s not appropriate to share those parts of our stories. It’s important to me that I own my entire story, unapologetically and proudly, because all of my experiences with my disability (good and bad) have brought me to where I am today.
While we're on the topic of books, are there any books you'd recommend to a younger version of yourself?
In the process of writing my book I found more disabled stories being told by disabled people themselves than I had seen in the past. I think it would have been cool for my younger self to have accessed stories like these because hearing about how other people have experienced their respective disabilities can validate some of my feelings and show me that I’m not alone in my experiences, and it can also bring a different perspective and deepen my understanding of my own disability. I’ve just finished reading Such A Pretty Girl by Nadina LaSpina and that was an incredible story about acceptance, advocacy and camaraderie in the disabled community. I follow Shane Burcaw (who is hilarious) and he’s written a couple of books, Laughing At My Nightmare & Strangers Think My Girlfriend Is My Nurse. I’m also really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of Emily Ladau’s Demystifying Disability that just launched in September. If anybody has any rad suggestions, please connect with me 😊 I love a good book recommendation!
What is your hope for disabled people in South Africa?
I’m an activist and to me that means I’m a relentless optimist – things can always get better. So, South Africa has a lot of work to do to get to where we need to be, and I believe it is definitely possible. I hope that disabled people in our country believe that too. As disabled people, we bring a unique perspective to any situation, and although we may be a minority, we are not a small group of people. There are a lot of us and we have leverage, if we choose to use it. I hope that disabled people in South Africa claim the unique power that is within each of us, proudly occupy space, and knowing that we are equally worthy of our human rights, demand and work towards positive change.
You really strive for a more inclusive and ability focused world. Can you tell us a bit about what that looks like to you?
An inclusive world is one where our diversity is celebrated and accommodated without question. It’s a world where anybody can go into any space and feel seen, appreciated, welcome, and understood. A world where every person is empowered to be their full self and live their life to its full potential, whatever that means for them.
What are three things you're wanting to do in a post-pandemic world?
Travel! I really love going to new places, experiencing new things, meeting interesting people, and it’s something I’ve missed so much during the pandemic.
What are the words you live by?
‘We move forward’.
Life has so many ups and downs, and unexpected things happen all the time. Sometimes life is hard and it’s important to make & hold space for the emotions that come up in these hard moments, but once we’ve recognised these feelings, we need to move forward. It’s not always big steps, it’s often a side-step, but we’re moving.
Where can we find your book and follow your journey?
You can follow me on social media @chaelimycroft (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter). My website, www.chaeli.co.za, is the place to be if you’d like to purchase my book and you can also sign up to join my mailing list to keep up-to-date on exciting things happening in my life.