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Sadly, many people actually believe disability is someone else’s problem. They do not believe disability will touch their lives and give little thought to the experience of living with a disability or caring for someone with a disability.
For many years people with disabilities found themselves shut in, being forced to be hidden away in large institutions without much love in their world. Now many people with disabilities find themselves shut out of so many things we abled bodied people may take for granted. Being shut out of buildings, homes, schools, businesses, sports and community groups because of their disability. They find themselves shut out of our way of life through no choice of their own. Australians with disabilities are among our nation’s forgotten people. Many of the large institutions that housed generations of people with disabilities—out of sight and out of mind—are now closed. Australians with disabilities are now largely free to live in the community. Many live desperate and lonely lives of exclusion and isolation. Whilst the institutions may be closed, the isolation still exists. A lack of social inclusion and the multiple barriers to meaningful participation in the community faced by people with disabilities is a frequently raised issue and it still requires a lot of work to find a balance that works.
Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and yet far too often people with disabilities still have to struggle to access the basic necessities of life that other able-bodied people receive. Challenges like finding accommodation, finding a job and simply just getting around. Sometimes access to education, health care, recreation, and transport are either impossible or challenging. They then feel isolated and alone. Their lives are filled with constant struggles for a simple life with access to resources and support that really shouldn’t be that hard.
But then, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with disabilities face a particularly tough battle. They experience the dual disadvantage of prejudice because of their disability and racism because of their heritage. Disability services rarely understand their cultural needs, while mainstream services rarely understand the nature and experience of disability. It’s a real battle for them.
Those with disabilities have been found to be very resilient and will fight for their rights to be able to enjoy the same services as everyone else. Those with disabilities and their families, their friends and even their carers are usually clearly resourceful and innovative. They find ways to meet the challenges that they face, even if the solutions are less than ideal.
Recent changes to the Disability Support Pension are particularly welcome. The additional funds and reforms announced as part of the National Disability Agreement represent important steps forward.
Australians with disabilities have been waiting for many years for change. They cannot and should not have to wait any longer. Virtually every Australian with a disability encounters human rights violations at some point in their lives and very many experience it every day of their lives – we say that is not good enough. There is a very desperate need for a lifetime care and support scheme and we are hoping that the NDIS will deliver this.