Written by Jonathan Shar, PDA Director
While the National Disability Insurance Scheme takes account of our care and support requirements, in my view the policy doesn’t go far enough to tackle the marginalisation and discrimination that people with disabilities face.
If cases like *Quaden Bayles has taught us nothing, Australia has a problem with our attitudes and perceptions of people with disabilities. In my life, I walk with an unusual and stare provoking gait. I have a speech impairment. Despite that I run my own business and sit on a board but the general public don’t see that side of me.
I share this not for your pity or condolences but for context. Like you I’ve faced adversity in my life. For me I can’t hide my disability, instead I celebrate my distinctive abilities. It is not the fact that I can’t run that is my disability but the taxi driver that refuses my fare because I am “unaccompanied”
There has been calls to integrate disability awareness into the school curriculum but we need to go much further because I don’t want to be trapped in a dichotomy between a welfare recipient and Paralympic champion, I want the tools to live an ordinary life without the social judgement of people who has no idea about disabilities.
For me, a ramp is a small part of what it means to be an accessible society. An accessible society would be one where I could say “This is me, disability is my identity”, it would be a society where children would be educated to ask first, stare never.
For this we need a shift in policy, we need to treat disability discrimination as something to be prevented by education not having to be referred to a complaint authority. Disability awareness in my view should be a component of study in high school PDHPE courses. Making disabilities part of normal life should be instilled from people from a young age.
On top of this we need campaigns focusing on everyday people with disabilities not just those with a public profile or cute kids who can illicit the most donations, a campaign not of inspiration porn but people that we can aspire to. We need more people like Nas Campanella being the public face which makes disability normal.
A good attitude may not erase a disability but it can make disability more included in our society.