Griffith University: Proactive para alumnus takes his second shot at life

Griffith University design graduate and Paralympian Matt McShane has combined his qualifications with lived experience to forge a path building custom wheelchairs and mobility products.

The wheelchair basketballer, who recently arrived back in Australia following the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, created Proactive Mobility while studying a Bachelor of Industrial Design.

“I started the business to help get me through my studies but now lessons from my studies pop up in many areas of my daily work, from creative thinking and problem solving, to communication and time management skills and more,” Matt said.

“I honestly wasn’t sure on what degree I wanted to pursue when I started, but I wanted something that challenged me from an engineering aspect but also allowed me to be creative.

“After my first few weeks studying industrial design, I knew it was exactly what I was after.

“Now, I’m juggling being a full-time athlete with my own small business; fitting and selling custom-built active wheelchair, sports wheelchair and other mobility products.”

More than a decade ago, the Gold Coast resident was stuck down with the neurological condition transverse myelitis, which causes inflammation of the spinal cord. It led to nine months in hospital and the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

He was just 18, but rather than dwelling on what could have been, Matt saw the situation as an opportunity to live his “second life”.

“As an 18-year-old, my original life direction never involved a university degree, but I’m so thankful I ended up in a chair so I could experience everything I have since, pushing myself through a tough degree and growing so much more than I would have thought,” Matt said.

“I’m so grateful for my experience at Griffith.

“It’s been one of the best decisions of my life.”

While the Rollers did not win a medal in Tokyo, as with the other trials in Matt’s life, he appreciates the learnings.

“Unfortunately, it was not the result we wanted leading into the games,” Matt said.

“It will honestly hurt for a while to come, but we will learn from this experience, make adjustments and move forward towards the next major tournament.

“At this stage I’m keen to have a crack at another Paralympic Games, as it’s a short turnaround to Paris 2024 and I’m excited to see how our team bounces back.”

Matt is a proud Griffith alumnus and a member of Griffith Sports College, crediting the support he received from staff members for contributing to the success of himself and his fellow Para and Olympic athletes.

“It’s tough being an athlete and we all know that we only have a small window to achieve some of those dreams,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for the amazing support from the Griffith Sport College to help with balancing everything, I don’t think it would be possible at all.

“Personally, I’m a huge supporter of undertaking a degree while being an athlete, as both pathways complement each other really well and I believe that not only will help post sporting careers but will also help you become a better athlete.”

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