There is more to a physical disability than the disability we see.

Written by Robert Wise – PDA VIC Associate Director

I would like to touch on this subject as many of us have a disability that can be seen – whether we are in a wheelchair, wear a prosthetic, walk with crutches or some other walking aid, have noticeable hearing loss, an obvious vision impairment or another form of physical disability.

Some of us have may have more than one physical disability. Some of us may have a condition yet to be diagnosed. Some of us may be impacted by loneliness, frustration or even depression brought on by disability. Some of us may have transitioned from able bodied to living with a physical disability later in life or we could have a disability from birth that slowly progresses as we get older.

Many of us have to learn many skills all over again or learn new skills and this can lead to other problems as I listed above. I do not want to single out any disability here, just to touch on other issues.

Not so long ago there was not much assistance available that enabled us to cope with our changing lives as we began our disability journeys.

I was recently on the panel of two Physical Disability Australia webinars (“Acquiring Disability Later In Life” and “The impact of physical disability on Family, Friends, and Relationships”). Involvement in these reminded me how important it is to be informed, to be able to share experiences, to be accepted and to harness the power that comes from these crucial tools.

If you haven’t yet watched these webinars, I encourage you to click on the above links and visit PDAs YouTube channel.

Despite disability related problems varying from person to person, our complete needs are often not considered when we require services such as helping us with our shopping, personal care or even help around the home.

Getting out is important and we can have support workers for this as a one-on-one, but some of us only get limited hours for this. What about meeting people and doing activities in a group environment? There are many sporting groups for people with physical disabilities and these are great if you like playing sport or want to try out a new one. But what about those of us who do not like playing sport or those of us who are getting older? Some of us like touring, sightseeing, visiting tourist attractions, going on holidays – all of which can be done one-on-one with a support worker if funding permits. This is fine for some of us. Many of us do not need one-on-one support 24/7. We just need support when things get tough and that’s where a group-based activity can help. These groups have support workers who are there if needed and you can meet people and do what you like to do at the same time – which can help if you are lonely and isolated. Many group-based outings are not made available to people with a physical disability, only those with a mental or intellectual disability. This is a great pity. Whilst people with a physical disability can be independent, some are not.

Group-based outings would be great for them to get out. To be with people, to access the community, to widen their worlds by visiting attractions and to enjoy the company of others. Physical disabilities can vary greatly, but we all have the same needs, wants and rights to enjoy life – in spite of difficulties.

I live on my own and am quite independent, only needing support workers for some daily tasks and assistance when in the community. I too need a break from the mundanity of life that so often accompanies disability. To get out and enjoy myself touring, not having to worry about getting my meals, arranging transport or finding accessible places of interest and accommodations. A group-based activity organisation does this for you. Many people with physical disability do not have funding in their plans for STA or group-based holidays or activities. I think greater emphasis should be placed on the importance of these and the benefits that come with such opportunities. They should be included in our NDIS plan reviews as part of our mental health wellbeing which I feel is part of the what the NDIS is about.

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