The Importance of Disability Awareness Training across all sectors and all areas of our Society

written by Sharon Boyce – PDA Director (QLD)

My name is Sharon Boyce and I am on the Board of Physical Disability Australia. I am also an author, educator and disability advocate – wearing many different hats and performing many different roles that I never imagined I would be a part of. I am the Advisor to the Queensland Disability Minister and Chair of the Queensland Disability Advisory Council. I am also a part time education academic at University of Southern Queensland (USQ) completing my PhD and a consultant in disability awareness.

I was diagnosed with Juvenile Chronic Arthritis at 11 and have used an electric wheelchair since I was 21. When I was diagnosed I never imagined the impact and change this would bring to my life. I went from a child who never stayed still and who was on every sporting team possible to a very different world. Limited in some ways and expanded in others, but as a person living a very changed life. I had no idea about disability and did not want to acknowledge or be part of anything that was different.

That has certainly changed over time. Through my journey I have explored and discovered many areas. I have become more involved within the disability community, working across many areas to promote a true understanding of disability and diversity. I explored my hobbies of art and music and these became new passions for me, giving me a creative outlet that I had not realised was possible. I have had the chance to exhibit, sell my paintings and also just paint for fun. Music and singing has also been central to my world. I have always felt very lucky that my mum had encouraged this – taking me to music lessons and putting up with my practice since I was four years old. These skills have proved useful in my life especially my work in radio, where I got to  interview singers and review movies for over ten years.

I am committed to creating a world where real lived inclusion is possible. I believe that through real hands-on education and experience, and through sharing my story and the stories of others, that barriers can be broken down and real understanding can be achieved. This is real disability awareness.

As time progressed I felt there needed to be more information and understanding about what disability is and how it impacts on individuals in our community. I developed a “Discovering Disability and Diversity” hands-on, experiential awareness programme which enables students, teachers, carers, doctors, health workers and the general public to experience and explore a wide range of disabilities. You can read more about this at www.discoveringdisability.com.au.

PhD Research into dyslexia and educational inclusion and running lectures at USQ have also given me the opportunity to enable others to explore and understand a little more about physical and hidden disabilities, dyslexia and creating inclusive curriculum, pedagogy and workplace support. Through educating others to understand that not all disabilities are immediately obvious, I believe that society will be discouraged from making assumptions and drawing inaccurate conclusions.

I have written a number of books, recently launching “Discovering Dyslexia” with the Queensland Disability and Education ministers. I have also designed an educational resource kit called “Another Day in the life of Sharon Boyce”,written a children’s book called “Discovery at Paradise Island” which is now part of the NSW School Syllabus.

These experiences and opportunities have brought a richness to my life. I am committed to creating a world where real lived inclusion is possible. I believe that through real hands-on education, experience and through telling my story and the stories of others, barriers can be broken down and real understanding can be achieved. Enabling better understanding and empathy that initiates conversation about disability access and inclusion, ultimately working to breakdown barriers.

Born with no disability, I never would have believed this would be my life now and that creating an understanding of disability and sharing my story would be central to who I am. My own acceptance and acknowledgement was key to this.

I believe that together we can create inclusive communities through enabling us all to live our best lives. 

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