As COVID-19 restrictions and public emergency declarations ease, life doesn’t go back to normal for everyone.

Written by Tammy Milne (PDA TAS Associate Director) and published by ABC News.

When Tammy Milne contracted COVID-19, she said she was “shaken to the core”.

Ms Milne has arthrogrophosis multiplex congenita, which affects her legs. She also has issues with breathing and swallowing.

She uses a wheelchair and has a support worker for several hours a day and overnight.

She is one of many Tasmanians for whom life will not return to “normal” when the state’s public health emergency declaration ends on Thursday night.

Three months ago, Ms Milne was in Hobart visiting her daughter when she contracted COVID-19.

She was staying in a hotel, and, once she tested positive, was unable to receive room service.

Her support worker was unable to help her, and with her daughter also COVID positive, Ms Milne said she was “trapped in a room by myself without any support”.

“It was very traumatic … I was isolated and pretty much in despair,” she said.

Ms Milne organised through the disability COVID hotline to be transported back home to Devonport in the state’s north-west where a support worker stayed with her through her seven days of isolation.

Three months on, Ms Milne said she has also contracted two other viruses, one of which required hospital treatment.

“I think if I got COVID again, I’d be really lucky to survive, and it’s a reality that it will come back again,” she said.

To read the complete article, go to:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-06-30/covid-still-a-problem-for-immunocompromised/101194310?utm_campaign=abc_news_web&utm_content=link&utm_medium=content_shared&utm_source=abc_news_web

Lived Disability Experience vs Disability Sector Experience

Following its election win, the Australian Labor Party has reiterated its commitment “to ensuring that no Australian with a disability is left behind”.

The Hon. Bill Shorten MP’s assigned portfolio as Minister for the NDIS National Disability Insurance Scheme has been widely applauded and appears to be a significant move in the right direction for an Australia working to look after its disabled population.

This overhaul includes review of the NDIA (National Disability Insurance Agency), steps being taken to get the NDIS working properly and ensuring that disability is “no longer an afterthought”. Reassuringly too, steps are seemingly being put in place for policy to be evidence based and those actually reliant on the NDIS being given a place at the co-design table.

However, whilst the NDIA has certainly been a hive of promising activity since our new government took office, there is still a glaringly incongruous demographic in the way that the scheme is being run and managed.

With 1 in 6 Australians living with disability and with rates of disability being shown to be on a rising trajectory, it is crucial that the NDIS addresses the need for representation and inclusion of scheme participants and those with lived disability experience on its Board, Executive and in the role of NDIA CEO.

In the same way that senior roles within indigenous organisations are reserved for applicants of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent, policy must be put in place to ensure that “the NDIS puts people with disability at the centre of the Scheme and includes families, carers, service providers and workers” (wording taken from the ALP’s own website).

But this should just be the beginning of necessary reform in our country.

In an SBS News article, it was highlighted that, of the total 227 parliamentarians today, only one person (or less than half a percent) presents a visible disability – in the form of WA Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John.

Whilst our new parliament embraces the diversity and beauty of our country, this representation of disability is certainly not something to be celebrated.

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/australias-next-parliament-has-been-declared-theres-only-one-politician-with-a-visible-disability/a24jj4fow

Our Popular ”EmployABLE” Webinar is now available on the PDA YouTube channel.

Did you miss our recent “EmployABLE” Webinar?

It was a really popular presentation. However, we had a lot of emails and calls from many of you were not able to watch it live, and many who did, asking for it to go up on on PDA’s YouTube channel.

Great news!

Now you can watch this incredibly informative and helpful webinar online and learn about the support and opportunities available to assist PWD step onto and advance up the employment ladder.

So, whether you’re looking to enter mainstream employment, thinking of starting up your own small business or just wanting to have a better understanding of employer obligations in employee recruitment and reasonable workplace adjustments- this webinar is a must view.

PDA’s incredibly knowledgeable panel has many years of lived experience between them and present a valuable tool for anyone with an interest or need to better understand Australia’s employment sector and the issues particularly relevant to people with disability.

Paul Williamson – Researcher
Mark Pietsch – CEO of Ability Links and Disability Advocate
Tammy Milne – Journalist and Disability Advocate
Sarah Styles – Owner of Wheelie Good Productions
Sharon Boyce – Disability Advocate, University Lecturer, Author and Education Consultant

You can view it by going to:

https://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=crxJTZjOkU4

Whilst you’re there please make sure that you subscribe to our YouTube channel.

After you have watched this webinar we also ask you to take part in out short survey by going to:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2JV7MFB

Feedback from this survey will enable PDA to present future webinars of interest and importance to our Members and Australia’s disability community.

If you would like to become a part of the PDA community and be kept up to date with future events, news and opportunities please sign up for FREE PDA MEMBERSHIP by going to:

www.pda.org.au/membership/

Ready, Willing and EmployABLE.

Our next FREE “EmployABLE” Webinar will be run on Wednesday June 1st and we’d love to have you join us.

In this informative webinar, our Panelists will speak about support and opportunities available to assist PWD in stepping on to and advancing up the employment ladder.

Whether you’re looking to enter mainstream employment, thinking of starting up your own business or just wanting to have a better understanding of employer obligations in employee recruitment and reasonable workplace adjustment – this Webinar is a must.

To register for this webinar, go to:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_lwVemhJcQQSUM030J3vmgg

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

If you have any questions around employment that you would like the Panel to answer, please email promotion@pda.org.au or ask a question via the online chat during the webinar.

We look forward to your joining us for this interesting and useful presentation.

If you’re not able to join us on the night, post-Webinar this presentation will be published to the PDA YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMyTzhTbs2oLH-WZR18zX2Q).

Whilst you’re visiting our channel, please subscribe so that you’re kept informed of other presentations.

Once you have watched this (or any other of our webinars), we encourage you to take part in out short survey by going to:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2JV7MFB

Feedback from this survey will enable PDA to present future webinars of interest and importance to our Members and Australia’s disability community.

How easy was your voting experience at your chosen AEC Polling Place?

Did you vote at an AEC Polling place either as an early voter or on Election Day?

If so, we would really appreciate your help to ensure that Australia’s democratic process is truly accessible to all Australians living with disability.

We’d love to hear just how accessible your chosen location was and whether reasonable adjustments were in place to support your needs in placing your vote.

This will provide us with a better understanding of issues that are and aren’t being adequately addressed to make future voting in person possible, stress free and a choice for those who require additional consideration and support.

We will then provide AEC with our findings to work towards improved polling place accessibility moving forwards so that Australia embraces the importance of everyone’s vote.

To take part in this important process, please provide your feedback in our short survey by going to:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TSHXNH8

Many thanks for your help.

Australia’s disabled not included in the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ recent unemployment numbers.

A recent Disability Support Guide article (https://www.disabilitysupportguide.com.au/talking-disability/unemployment-rates-released-but-not-for-people-with-disability) has highlighted the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ exclusion of unemployment rates of people with disability in their April Labour Force Participation figures (https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia/apr-2022).

In spite of disability employment being a topic of discussion and (supposed) action, this statistical ostracism does little to make people with disability feel as though they are included in the conversation.

With unemployment and underemployment rates of people with disability much higher than national figures, national statistical collection on this topic has not been actioned by the ABS since 2018 with the release of their Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/disability/disability-ageing-and-carers-australia-summary-findings/latest-release).

These findings revealed

an unemployment rate of people with disability of 10.3% and more than double the period’s comparative rate for people without disability which stood at 4.6%, and

that just 28.3% of people with disability of working age were in full-time employment – compared to 54.8% of people without disability in the same age group.

If statistical collection and analysis excludes 20% of Australia’s population (in that of our disabled citizens), how is it truly a measure of our country’s employment numbers and how does it not perpetuate feelings of exclusion and discrimination for our country’s largest minority group.

If the Australian Government is committed to ensuring “inclusive workplace cultures where people with disability thrive in their careers” (https://www.dss.gov.au/disability-and-carers/disability-employment-strategy) through initiatives such as the Disability Employment Advisory Committee (DEAC) and Employment My Ability, surely there needs to be greater attention on the bigger and comprehensive picture so that all stakeholders can be better equipped and truly committed to bringing actual positive change!?

Election Accessibility

In PDA’s push to ensure that Australia’s democratic process is accessible to all Australians living with disability, we would appreciate your feedback on your experience on voting at an AEC polling place as an early voter or on Election Day.

This will provide us with a better understanding of issues that are and aren’t being adequately addressed to make voting in person possible, stress free and a choice for those who require additional consideration and support.

We will then provide AEC with our findings to work towards improved polling place accessibility moving forwards so that Australia embraces the importance of everyone’s vote.

To take part in this important process, please provide your feedback in our short survey ONCE YOU HAVE VOTED AT A PHYSICAL POLLING PLACE LOCATION.

To access this survey please go to:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TSHXNH8

Many thanks for your help.

How the NDIS is changing my quality of life.

Written by Robert Wise – PDA VIC Associate Director

Firstly, I’d like to point out that there is certainly room for improvement to the NDIS. Everybody’s circumstances are different, always evolving and so plans cannot be simply formulaic. As a result there’s a lot of negative talk around the NDIS. However, I believe that we need to defend the NDIS. My blog post talks about the way in which I personally benefit from the NDIS.

In 2003 I became an amputee with one of my legs removed with an amputation known as a Hip disarticulation. As a result my life changed. I lost my job and I was unable to carry out household tasks such as vacuuming, mopping, cleaning, changing, washing bedding etc – the tasks that pre-amputation were carried out easily and without thinking.  

As I am single and live alone, with family scattered all over the country, the only help I could access was a 1.5 hour visit from my local council home help crew to help with these tasks. There was no help for social activities, shopping and other tasks that I needed.  Without the help of my parents for other tasks and getting me to some of my medical appointments life was difficult. I purchased a mobility scooter with my own money to help me get around in the community, to visit my local Men’s Shed and go shopping etc. 

In 2018, with the help of my GP, I received my first NDIS plan. It was a very basic plan with 12 months funding for domestic help in the home once a week, once a fortnight visits to do lawn mowing and some gardening and 1.5 hours a week for a support worker for social activities. Some funding was also provided for occupational therapy and physio. Also included was funding for a new Manual Wheelchair and a ramp into my backyard, which enabled me to go outside in my wheelchair independently to enjoy a coffee etc in my backyard (which can be hard to carry using crutches). 

The initial 12 month plan also allowed me to purchase a new lightweight, foldable manual wheelchair complete with tiedown points. This was a great help as my previous wheelchair did not have these, creating problems with one country Victoria coach refusing to carry me without these fitted on my wheelchair. On such occasions, I had to struggle out of my chair, up the bus steps and into a seat. 

My next plan included a very good report from my OT, which included funding for my ramp into my backyard. This incredible home modification was completed in between one of the many COVID Melbourne lockdowns. Additional funding was also granted for a support worker to help me with some of my social activities, shopping etc – also providing me with welcome company between my planned Men’s shed outings and other activities. 

I also received funding for increased occupational therapist hours that included preparation for a quote for a power assist device for my wheelchair. This was approved after a plan review and now I am a proud owner of a smooth one-power assist attachment for my manual wheelchair. This makes it much easier for me to use the chair when navigating steep hills or when fatigue sets in. 

The NDIS has also opened up my options socially and I now have help to play in a Tenpin Bowling league once a week.  I am also now able to enjoy trips to the park and beach (boardwalks only) with the help of a support worker, my new manual wheelchair and power assist. 

I also have some funding for One-on-one gym sessions to help maintain my fitness levels, with an occasional day in a group activity where I can enjoy fun activities like fishing and visiting zoos and other places of interest. Please watch out for up-and-coming videos of my Assisted Technology and home modifications. 

I would like to close by saying, that without the NDIS I would not be living the full and happy life that I am today.