I Work for an organization called Limbs 4 Life as a Project Coordinator. One afternoon I was driving home from a meeting about 15 kms from my house. Most of that journey there are roadworks being done. It is normally an 80 km/h speed limit, but because of the roadworks, it was down to 40 km/h.
As I was cruising along at 40km/h, I happened to glance over and noticed new looking white Toyota Prado with a roof basket and side awning, you know, your usual 4wd set up, parked on the side of the road with another car in front. Not unusual you may say, and you would be correct, BUT, as I got closer, I noticed that said Prado, had some other, hidden additions. It had blue and red lights flashing in the front grille and also in the rear windows. It was an unmarked WA Police car. Now my perception of the vehicle had totally changed.
What you perceive is very much guided by how you think and can be defined by your recognition and interpretation of a sensory input. For an example, if at a set of traffic lights, you have a green light, you perceive, through your sense of sight, that it is ok for you to proceed.
What does it mean for those of us with physical disabilities? We may need to have additions made to the “normal” for us to be able to process that sensory input. Things like flashing lights, sounds, alarms etc. will assist hard of hearing and vision impaired people. For people with mobility issues, obvious things such as ramps and rails assist when we are navigating the community.
BUT………perception goes both ways. What able body people perceive good for us, doesn’t necessarily equate to what works for us. We, as a community of physically disabled people, need to be in the forefront of planners and designers’ thoughts and minds when they are building anything in the community. You can do this by getting involved in your Local Government Area Disability Action and Inclusion Group. You can have input through State and Federal Government Planning Groups, such as those that are put together when they build new sports stadiums, shopping centers and recreational facilities.
The more you go out in your community and exercise your right of place to that community, people’s perceptions will change, and they will see you as valued and important.
Lastly, don’t let other people’s perception of you, or our community, be the thing that stifles you. You are unique, and you bring to the table a wealth of perception and experience that only you can have.
written by PDA’s Ambassador, Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM
As a doctor with a spinal cord injury, I’ve had the opportunity to gain a unique insight into healthcare delivery for people with disabilities. Physical access is often an issue, even in big hospitals.1 Flexibility is necessary, considering the unpredictable impact on time because of a different lifestyle. However, my most striking experiences have been in the diagnosis of sometimes life-threatening conditions.
With a spinal cord injury for example, patients mightn’t give a classical story for common conditions because of differences in sensation.2 For the same reason, physical examinations may not turn up anything useful for the doctor.3
I once woke up with chest pain, breathlessness, sweating and palpitations. It didn’t get better. Over time, this was reviewed by a few different doctors but was eventually put down to anxiety. I became frustrated and listened with my own stethoscope. I could hear some sounds in the lungs suggestive of a few different problems, but no one heard me out. Eventually, I started losing consciousness every day. Then, someone took notice. We eventually found a significant amount of fluid around one lung. The issue took weeks to identify. I ended up in an intensive care unit.
Another time, I was a patient in an overseas emergency department that wasn’t aware of autonomic dysreflexia – a potentially fatal complication of a spinal cord injury. I knew what was happening then, but no one listened. I thought that the end was near that day. Fortunately, we knew a doctor who turned up and handled the situation in the eleventh hour. In contrast, I’ve been under the care of an open-minded local emergency department who listened and identified the problem quickly.
This state of affairs is no one’s fault. In medical school, doctors are required to learn about a thousand and one different things. While specialty training as a doctor, the focus becomes even more narrow. There is just no time to cover the long-term intricacies of conditions like a spinal cord injury.
General practitioners are the frontline in Australian health care. They are the first that can see the hint of a problem. A proactive approach prevents problems at the gates, but this requires an understanding of what to look for in this unique population. Even in the early 1900s, people with spinal cord injuries for example lived very short lives because of complications. It was often a death sentence. In some parts of the world, this is still the case. But, we have the resources to ensure that our population can live a healthy and productive life comparable to those without similar injuries. Today, medicine can do that.
I must note too that we often see people in the hospital with questionable treatment given to them by their daily caregivers. Caregivers are an invaluable part of society but as with everything, some reckless ones still pervade what is perhaps one of the most precious relationships. More than once, I have seen needless injuries and negligent care. I even had a personal interaction with a caregiver who laughed about dropping their helpless client.
I’m fortunate to be in a position to have some understanding of the life experience in someone with a disability who presents for healthcare. I remember one night when a patient said, “I’m so glad that you came into this room as my doctor, because I knew that you’d understand”. I’ve also been lucky enough to have the background to adequately direct my own health care. I wonder though, what about the thousands that are voiceless?
It’s never productive to just talk about problems. What are the solutions? I can think of two immediate things.
One, is education. I’ve been involved with developing education initiatives on spinal cord injury for general practitioners. The goal is to have some upskilled general practitioners in this area that people can access for care. It’s that simple. Upskilling general practitioners to have a special interest in various disabilities is important. Thoughtful care in the community can reduce hospitalisation and resource use; and save lives.4 However, it will be up to us – the community – to drive these initiatives. No one else has a vested interest to do so.
Two, is having more people with disabilities in the health professions. I faced more than one challenge in becoming a doctor with a spinal cord injury. I once talked to a student in a wheelchair who wanted to study speech pathology, but was told that they couldn’t. These stories are not isolated. The health professions have ironically been resistant to include the very people that they treat. We are now starting to make headway in medicine. Other professions must come into line too. What better way to change healthcare for better than to include lived experiences?
Australia is leading the way in social changes for an inclusive society. We have an opportunity to create an inclusive healthcare system as well.5 We’ve seen the horrors of areas like aged care exposed in Royal Commissions. We don’t need to wait for the same in disability and healthcare. With a grassroots effort from us all, we can make it happen.
1. Guilcher S, Munce S, Couris C, Fung K, Craven B, Verrier M et al. Health care utilization in non-traumatic and traumatic spinal cord injury: a population-based study. Spinal Cord. 2009;48(1):45-50.
2. Strauther G, Longo W, Virgo K, Johnson F. Appendicitis in patients with previous spinal cord injury. The American Journal of Surgery. 1999;178(5):403-405.
3. Ingram R, Suman R, Freeman P. Lower limb fractures in the chronic spinal cord injured patient. Spinal Cord. 1989;27(2):133-139.
4. Guilcher S, Craven B, Calzavara A, McColl M, Jaglal S. Is the emergency department an appropriate substitute for primary care for persons with traumatic spinal cord injury?. Spinal Cord. 2012;51(3):202-208.
5. Donnelly C, McColl M, Charlifue S, Glass C, O’Brien P, Savic G et al. Utilization, access and satisfaction with primary care among people with spinal cord injuries: a comparison of three countries. Spinal Cord. 2006;45(1):25-36.
It is with absolute pleasure that we announce Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM as PDA’s inaugural Ambassador.
An Australian doctor, legal professional and disability advocate who was the first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland, the second Australian with quadriplegia to graduate as a doctor and the first with a spinal cord injury, Palipana is a welcome addition to our organisation.
Awarded Australia Day honours last year (2019) earning a medal (OAM) for his service to medicine, Dinesh is known for his determination and services to medicine, research, advocacy and perseverance in the face of adversity. Through his own personal challenges and challenging the negative public perception associated with physical disability (particularly in the medical fraternity), Dinesh is the perfect role model for PDA’s growing membership.
Always keen to take on a new challenge, Dr Palipana is excited to be championing PDA’s values, activities and mission of empowerment. “I am honoured and so excited to be supporting this wonderful organisation. I love the work that PDA does. Hopefully I can help inspire others to take on big challenges and reach their full potential, regardless of their disability.”
PDA is incredibly excited to have Dr Palipana on board, promoting the physical disability needs agenda and representing the PDA community. Liz Reid, PDA’s President, said “We are absolutely thrilled to have such an incredible advocate for thinking beyond physical disability. Dinesh embodies everything we stand for at PDA and we look forward to working with him to show that, with determination and support, those living with physical disability can achieve amazing things.”
Welcome to PDA’s family Dinesh. We are honoured and excited to have you on board and look forward to an exciting future in raising awareness and support for Australians living with physical disability.
A Schedule of 2020 Events has been released by the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. Alongside this a Progress Report sets out the findings and actions undertaken since the Commission’s establishment in April 2019.
scheduled for the first half of 2020 can be seen below.
investigations will focus on cognitive disability access in the health system, the
experience of students with disability in the education sector, and the
experiences of people with disability in the justice system.
Commission will also investigate findings into the experiences of First Nations
people with disability in terms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.
engagement opportunities throughout the year will enable those with disability an
opportunity to share their personal experiences and concerns in less formal
environments that will be included and shared in the Royal Commission.
To date the Royal Commission has uncovered many disturbing accounts of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability.
Chair Ronald Sackville AO QC encourages involvement from the public in the Royal Commission’s investigations and findings. “With the active participation of people with disability, advocates, and the disability community, the Royal Commission provides a genuine opportunity to bring about the transformational change necessary to achieve a more inclusive society.
“Such a society must unstintingly recognise the dignity, autonomy, equality and freedom of choice of people with disability.
In line with
this, the Royal Commission will shortly launch a new website which will enable
those wishing to be heard to submit their responses and concerns online through
a simplified and easy to fill submission form. This website will also make
available downloadable resources and online ordering system for free print
Physical Disability Australia remains hopeful that the Royal Commission will positively impact on the lives of all those living with disability in our country. To keep up to date with key issues we encourage you follow us on social media or to sign up for our free membership.
Together we can make a difference!
– February 6: Engagement with First Nations people, organisations and communities – Brisbane
– February 11 – 14: Engagement with First Nations people, organisations and communities – Northern Territory
– February 17 – 28: Public hearing – Health, Sydney
– March 4 – 5: Engagement with First Nations people, organisations and communities – Queensland
– March 17 – 19: Community engagement activities – Launceston & Burnie, Tasmania
– March 24 – 27: Public hearing – Education, Brisbane
– April 1 – 3: Community engagement activities – regional Victoria
– April 21 – 22: Community engagement activities – Western Sydney
– April 27 – 1 May: Public hearing – Justice, Brisbane
– May 6 – 7: Community engagement activities – Brisbane
– May 13 – 15: Engagement with First Nations people, organisations and communities – Northern Territory
– May 18 – 22: Public hearing – Issues faced by and experiences of First Nations people with disability, Northern Territory
– May 25 – 26: Engagement with First Nations people, organisations and communities – Northern Territory
– June 10 – 12: Public hearing – Topic to be advised, Tasmania
– June 16 – 18: Community engagement activities – Far North Queensland
Thank you Minister Fyles, Minister for Disabilities and good evening everyone,
I would like to acknowledge that this function is being held on the land of the Larrakia People, and pay my respect to elders’ past, present and emerging.
I would like to acknowledge people with a disability and their families on International Day of People with a Disability.
The United Nations sanctioned the 3rd of December as a global day of observance 27 years ago – I like some of you in the room may even remember the first celebration and been part of the reforms and milestones ever since.
The day seeks to increase awareness and inclusion of people with disability in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. This year’s theme, The future is accessible, this resonates for me personally and professionally.
My name is Liz Reid and I’m the Executive Officer for YouthWorX NT. For those who don’t know me I was born with a rare physical disability and remade from the waist down.
My education journey started at a special school; my parents back then were social inclusion pioneers, I was mainstreamed into the school in my local suburb, with the kids in my street.
I was immersed into everything the average kid would do and disability was never part of the equation. It hasn’t always been easy and requires careful planning and lots of creativity.
It wasn’t until last year that I fully embraced my disability and I became a self-managed NDIS participant – this has been huge for my family and I as I hadn’t been disabled enough for any supports before, a cost that we as a family just did because it was necessary.
The investment in Australians with a disability by governments through the NDIS, is the biggest social reform that can’t be underestimated regarding personal value and social worth. Yes, there have been pain points but it’s getting so much better and more to do. Fun fact – the NDIS conversation has been going on since 1975.
I’m fortunate to be able to blend my work with my passion for the disability community. Privilege to represent Territorians with a disability on local networks like the Darwin City Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee, national Disability Representative Organisations and the NDIA Independent Advisory Council, so our voices are heard, and they matter.
Professionally I’ve spent most of my career in education, training and employment with the view that everyone has got the ability to succeed and follow their aspiration and dreams.
For some how they get there might be a little different. I’m a big believer that we need to raise the awareness of people of all abilities and celebrate achievements with the wider community to think and act inclusively, in all aspects of life.
This year YouthWorX NT celebrated 21 years of proudly supporting Territorians to be the best they can be through a range of diverse programs. We have been actively involved with the NDIS since 2011 watching it develop, grow and to find the sweet spot for our organisation to meaningfully contribute to the lives of young people with a disability.
YouthWorX NT was recently awarded a grant from the NDIA’s Information, Linkages and Capacity Building fund to deliver Career Launchpad service. This service provides specialised career coaching and vocational support for young people with disabilities in mainstream school to the world work. The aim is for young people is to enhance in their personal, social and practical employability skills with the ultimate goal of sustainable employment.
Its beautiful the effect this program has on the young people, one young man, who was disengaging and at risk of leaving year 11, now after being part of Career Launchpad and having ongoing coaching sessions, has reengaged and now with the goal of focusing on school, finishing year 12 and a career in the aviation industry. Career Launchpad has provided an opportunity for young people with a disability to participate in workshops such as Launchpad, vision boards and resume writing alongside young people from our other programs, all while building confidence. Young people don’t see difference, disability is not part of the equation.
I wish to recognise our program partners, Department of Education’s Transition from School Team. APM, NDIA and the skills and talent of the YouthWorX NT team, that believes – Connecting Territorians with opportunities to realise their dreams, goals and potential is paramount to live an ordinary life.
I would like to make a special mention and thanks to the YouthWorX NT Leadership Academy for attending. These young people have made commitment to be the youth voice of our service to represent all young Territorians on matters of diversity, and inclusion.
Thanks to all who everyday promote the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership in our community.
My name’s Natasha Nobay and I’m proud to have joined the team here at Physical Disability Australia (PDA) as the new Promotion Officer.
I look forward to building on the great work that PDA has done over the past 21 years, to ensure that every Australian living with physical disability is able to reach their full potential.
Did you know that, depending upon the supplier, an individual could end up with just $15 out of $45 allocated to them through the NDIS? Tackling this is a central role of our organisation and self-management plans are something that we encourage you to explore. If you are interested in hearing more, please get in touch with us.
We’re also looking to host a series of webinars that focus on areas that you feel are worth covering: areas such as NDIS self-management, disability-friendly holidays and any other issues suggested by you that you’d like us to feature. All members are invited to register for these special online seminars. If you’re not already a Member you’re welcome too, but we encourage you to sign up, as membership is completely free.
For those unable to take part on the day, we’ll also put these webinars up on our website, for later viewing.
Going forward, I’ll ensure the PDA website is regularly updated, to keep all interested parties informed of relevant developments. I will also be posting news, articles and information on our Facebook and Twittter accounts.
As well as our online channels, we’re working to build a sense of real-world community, by creating opportunities for social get-togethers. We plan to organise regional events to bring our members together, creating friendships and a community that can enrich our members’ daily lives. We look forward to telling you about these events in the near future. Make sure that you sign up for Membership, so we can keep you updated. Membership of PDA is totally free, and gives you the opportunity to get involved and be a part of a voice that works to improve lives for those with physical disabilities. Whether you’re personally affected by disability, care for someone who is, or you just want to be part of our PDA community, please join us by clicking this link and completing the form.
Finally, the more Members we have, the more positive impact we can make. We currently have just over 1,000 Members across Australia and I look forward to growing this number significantly, as awareness of the work we do grows. In 2015, there were over 2 million Australians living with disability, so there’s a huge potential for us to play a bigger role in supporting them.
We look forward to supporting our valued members and welcoming many more to our community.
Together with your help, PDA will work to make a difference for all Australians living with physical disability.
PDA is looking to hire someone with great connections to the disability community and experience in managing social media pages and publishing online content.
If you have a lived experience of disability and think you’re up to the challenge of publicising PDA’s self-management project, generating broad interest in self-management as a strategy for NDIS participants to manage their supports, and building PDA membership amongst Australians with physical disabilities using PDA’s social media channels, website and other online platforms available to you then we want to hear from you!
The job is part-time for 14 – 20 hours per fortnight in a work from home, use your own technology situation, and it pays between $34.05 and $36.64 per hour (SCHADS Modern Award level 4) fixed term to 30 June 2020.
For more information about the role and how to apply for it, please download the position description or call Simon Burchill, PDA Manager on 1800 732 674.
Before you answer that question, you may have another of your own:
“What is the National Disability Strategy?”
With all the excitement and news about the National Disability
Insurance Scheme (NDIS), it has largely been forgotten that this is just a part
of the Government’s response to the needs of Australians with disability. This
is the National Disability Strategy (NDS).
To make sure the NDS is still relevant to Australians with
disability, the Government has opened a consultation process in which they hope
– What’s important to Australians with disability, their families and carers now and for the next 10 years and what will make a difference in their lives;
– Whether there have been changes in community attitudes and the way they are treated and feel part of the community;
– What barriers they are facing;
– What the opportunities are to break down barriers;
– How the new NDS could better reflect the diverse experiences of Australians with disability, including the particular barriers experienced by different population groups;
– How carers could be recognised in a new strategy;
– How we can make sure the next strategy improves outcomes for Australians with disability, including what communities, organisations, workplaces and governments can do to create a more inclusive Australian society;
– How best to measure and report whether results are improving and how things are changing for the better; and
– What can governments, business and communities do to make this happen.
To gather this information, the Department of Social Services (DSS)
has created a fairly comprehensive survey that asks Australians with
disabilities (and their supporters) questions about their experiences and their
priorities, and as with previous consultation surveys, PDA has made a copy of
them so you can think about the answers you want to provide ahead of taking the
Importantly, from PDA’s perspective, question 13 of the survey
asks people responding to it to indicate how important they think possible government
actions are for the new strategy on a 5 point scale from ‘Not a Priority’ to ‘Essential’.
The possible government actions are:
– Strengthen disability and carer-specific laws to guide action and improvements for people with disability
– Fund and support local community and grassroots initiatives and trials to promote innovation and sharing ideas.
– Develop measurable goals and concrete targets and report against them, for example on employment
– Fund disability advocacy organisations
– Greater support for families and carers
– Fund local support organisations
– Develop initiatives/activities that build on and complement the NDIS
While all these possible actions are important, we recommend that everybody be sure to check the ‘Essential’ box for action – ‘Fund disability advocacy organisations’.
In recent years, the government has reduced its funding of
disability advocacy organisations to the point where PDA and many other organisations
that do advocacy work for Australians with disability receive less than $30,000
per year to cover our core expenses and do whatever advocacy work we can.
Now you may think that with the advent of the NDIS there is little
need for advocacy in the disability sector. Afterall, the Scheme is supposed to
provide all the ‘reasonable and necessary’ supports Australians with disabilities
might require. However, this is not the case. The NDIS only provides these
supports to the 460,000 people under the age of 65 who have ‘severe and
profound’ impairments. This leaves up to 2 million other Australians with
disability reliant on State and Territory systems and the mainstream services
they fund. And because these systems have accessibility gaps there is still a
lot of work for advocacy groups like PDA to do.
Whatever your priorities are, we encourage you to find out more
about the survey here
and submit your own response to it here.
You can read the questions and PDA’s answers to them here. This survey will take around 20-30 minutes to complete and will be open until 5pm, Monday 17 June 2019.
the Australian federal election only a few days away, it is time for PDA
members to think about who they will vote for and why. As with the election
articles we have written in Newsletters about earlier elections, PDA is not
going to tell you who you should vote for, but we will give you information on
each of the major parties’ disability policies so that you can make an informed
The Liberal / National Coalition
Last week the Morrison Government released its disability policy (you can find it here). The policy says that a re-elected Coalition government will:
– Continue to ensure the NDIS is fully funded by building a stronger economy and keeping the budget in the black;
– Rollout new NDIS participant planning pathways – making sure people with disability have a single point of contact with the NDIS, and can choose to be on a longer NDIS plan of up to 3 years if their disability is stable;
– Expand the NDIS community connectors program to support and assist hard to reach communities including Indigenous Australians, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities and ageing parents of children with disability;
– Introduce a new NDIS Participant Service Guarantee – setting new standards for shorter timeframes for people with disability to get an NDIS plan and to have their plan reviewed, with a particular focus on children, and participants requiring specialist disability accommodation (SDA) and assistive technology;
– Commit $45 million to develop a national disability information gateway, including a website and 1800 number, to assist all people with disability and their families to locate and access services in their communities;
– Introduce a new 7% employment target for people with disability across the Australian Public Service (APS) by 2025; and
– Provide $2 million to support people with autism to find and keep a job, including a $1.5 million national expansion of the successful Dandelion Program in partnership with DXC Technology.
The Labor Party
Also last week, the Opposition released several disability policies (you can find their thoughts on “putting people with disability and carers first” here, their “plan to fix the NDIS” here, and their policy to support students with disabilities here). In their NDIS policy it says that a Labor government will:
– Promote a new culture that puts people with disability first so that it is not a distant, impersonal and difficult web of rigid processes;
– Establish an NDIS Future Fund to secure the long-term financial future of the Scheme;
– Lift the government imposed staffing cap and employ more and better-trained staff;
– Improve the planning process to provide more choice and easier reviews that adds flexibility to shift funding between different parts of the plan as needs and opportunities change – including to access adequate transport;
– Ensure equitable access to the NDIS for people from regional, rural and remote areas, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, people with complex health needs, people with mental ill-health, people from low socio-economic backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people in the justice system;
– Fix the gaps between the NDIS and mainstream services by getting agreement from the states and territories for a new National Disability Agreement that sets out the responsibilities of governments to continue accessibility improvements;
– Value a skilled disability workforce by investing in training and sustainably pricing disability services;
– Keep people with disability safe by boosting advocacy and ensuring the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability leads to real change; and
– Improving research and evaluation by ensuring greater transparency in NDIS data and improved access for researchers, so the Scheme can adapt and be the best it can be.
Beyond the NDIS, the Labor party has also committed to raising the number of employees with a disability in the Australian Public Service to 6% (equivalent to 3,500 employees) by 2022.
The minor parties
The Australian Greens and South Australia focused Centre Alliance also have disability policies (you can find them here and here respectively). The other minor parties currently represented in the Australian Parliament – Katter’s Australian Party, United Australia Party, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party and the Australian Conservatives – do not have disability policies on their campaign websites.
Make sure you vote!
Regardless of which party or independent candidate you support, it’s important that you do have your say and vote. If you think this may be a problem, the Australian Electoral Commission’s website has information on what steps they have taken to make sure polling booths are accessible.