Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibilitySkip to content

Q&A with Toby Pattullo

In this Q&A session, we’re excited to welcome Toby, our dedicated web developer here at ASAPD. Toby is profoundly deaf and has an extreme passion for sport. Early challenges in his career prompted him to forge his own entrepreneurial path, specialising in website development. His involvement with organisations like ASAPD and Deaf Sports Australia highlights not only his professional expertise but also his commitment to enhancing accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing community. Outside of his work, Toby’s passion for ultra-running reflects his resilience and determination, showcasing his ability to overcome barriers and achieve personal milestones. 

 Welcome Toby! Thank you for joining us. Before we begin our discussion, could you please provide an overview or share some insights into your background?

I am the web developer for ASAPD. I have been profoundly Deaf since the age of four due to meningitis, and I communicate using Auslan. I hold a Bachelor of Commerce degree with a major in Sports Management. In the late 90s, I encountered challenges in securing a permanent job within the sports industry due to its competitiveness and communication barriers. However, I managed to secure small contract jobs, including twice with a Melbourne Major Event Company, where I provided research assistance. This experience inspired me to start my own online research business. Over the past 24 years, I have taught myself website development and expanded my business to focus on building websites for others, establishing relationships with designers and agencies along the way.

Could you briefly explain how you became involved with the Australian Sporting Alliance for People with a Disability (ASAPD) and one of their partners, Deaf Sports Australia? 

 I have been involved in the Deaf sports community for many years, having competed with the Deaf Australia Basketball team twice. In 2005, during the Deaflympic Games in Melbourne, where I was a webmaster, I developed a strong network with Deaf Sports Australia. This experience led me to become involved with ASAPD and Australia Blind Sports as well.

In your role as a website designer for ASAPD and Deaf Sports Australia, why was collaboration with these organisations crucial, and how does technology contribute to enhancing accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing community in your work?

 Collaboration was essential, drawing upon my 23 years of experience in website development and collaboration with various designers from marketing agencies. Moreover, my personal experience with deafness and disability allows me to understand the unique needs of these organisations and their audiences. Regarding technology, I believe it plays a vital role in improving accessibility for the disability community. For instance, my expertise in web development enables me to create websites optimised for screen readers and provide closed captioning for videos.

 Shifting to your personal interests, you’re involved in Ultra Running. Can you share how you initially got into this sport?

 I’ve always been active and high-energy, participating in sports like basketball and rowing since I was younger. When I started my own business from home, I would often go for runs to clear my mind and feel refreshed. I ran my first couple of marathons about 16 years ago but stopped. However, I rediscovered my love for running, particularly in trail runs and ultra-running events. It has been my hobby for the past 7 years.

 As a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, do you believe that your participation in ultra-running has helped in raising awareness about the abilities and achievements of people with disability?

 While my participation in ultra-running wasn’t aimed at raising awareness about my deafness, I’ve found that I’ve inspired many people through my achievements and involvement in these events. It’s been a personal journey and hobby for me.

Could you share some insights into your training routine and preparation for ultra-running events? Any secrets or specific tips you’d like to share with fellow enthusiasts who might be aspiring to take on similar challenges?

 I follow a consistent training routine leading up to the event, with a rest day each week. My training includes strength workouts, slow recovery runs, high-intensity interval runs, hill repeats, and long runs. An important tip is to learn to eat while going for long runs to sustain energy. Start with smaller distances and gradually build up; maintaining consistency is key. Focus on proper running form to prevent injuries and enjoy the outdoors.

Considering the importance of communication in ultra-running, how do you navigate challenges in this aspect, especially given your deaf or hard of hearing status?

 I’m grateful for my GPS watch that alerts me if I go off track. It’s a useful tool for everyone, not just for me. Once, someone yelled at me from behind to let me know I was going the wrong way, but I received the alert on my watch and turned around. I saw someone running toward me and waving, and it was a funny moment!

 What has been one of your most memorable moments or achievements in your ultra-running career so far?

One of my most memorable moments in my ultra-running career was during the Great Southern Endurance Run in 2022 in Harrietville/Mt Hotham. It was a 50-mile (80km) run with a 5,000m vertical climb. The run was challenging, with a really bad thunderstorm and heavy rain in the mountains. It took me a bit over 18 hours, and I ran in the dark. Unfortunately, the event was stopped 13 km before the downhill stretch to the finish line due to safety concerns. I attempted the race again in 2023, but it was a very hot day, and I had to stop at 57 km and 3,500m climbs, with a time of 13:33 due to digestive distress from heat exhaustion, which I’d been battling for over 5 hours. I’m hopeful that my third attempt this year in November will be successful!

Looking ahead, what are some of your goals or aspirations, both in terms of your involvement in sports and professional work?

For my work, I’ve achieved many goals in my skills and business over nearly 25 years. I’m happy with where I am now and plan to continue enjoying my work and business while maintaining strong relationships with clients. In sports, I hope to stay involved in ultra-running for a long time, even into old age! On my list of goals is running a 100-mile event in The Grampians, Mt Hotham, and New Zealand.

Considering your involvement with ASAPD, can you share your thoughts on the importance of this organisation and how it contributes to the broader goals of accessibility and inclusivity in sports for people with disability?

I believe ASAPD plays a vital role in promoting inclusivity and accessibility in sports for people with disability. By uniting various disability organisations, ASAPD creates a stronger, more inclusive community, and opens up more opportunities for individuals with disability to participate in sports.

Fast five: Top food, top book, top destination, top person, top tip

  • Top Food: Lobster
  • Top Book: Born to Run
  • Top Destination: Japan
  • Top person: My best friend since childhood, Kane.
  •  Top tip: Make the most of it, stay relaxed, and life’s too short to take too seriously.