The end of disability?

Last week was a busy week as far as politics goes in Australia. I’m not going to go into detail about the problems the Liberal Party and Malcolm Turnbull have faced this past week, but I do want to comment on what the resultant media storm has done a good job of hiding. It has hidden what may be the beginning of one of the largest social policy reform decisions to be made in the last decade here in Australia. I’m talking about the announcement that Kevin Rudd made in his speech last week at the National Disability Awards in Canberra. He has announced that the Labour government will engage the Productivity Commission to carry out an inquiry into the potential of a National Long Term Care and Support scheme by 2011.

Essentially, he has asked that a review take place into how people with a disability in Australia are provided access and inclusion to life. Imagine a Medicare-type service focused on providing funding for services for people who are disabled.

 Kevin Rudd

In the current system, there are a number of overlaps and gaps in the funding system, which essentially promises that many people who are suffering from a disability are shut out from funding and support. Even in simple terms, someone who has become disabled through an environmental accident (say, you have fallen from your roof) is currently not covered in the same way that someone who has been born into a disability is, or that perhaps someone who has been in a traffic accident is.

This has created the very real situation in which some people who are suffering the same disability are faced with great variances in the access they are provided to society. The person who has fallen from their roof and now can’t walk, is supported less than someone who has lost that ability through a traffic accident.As many of you will know, I’ve been doing some work with the Ai-Media crew up in Sydney these last few months, around the implementation of live captioning services into classroom education in Australia. (For those who haven’t yet seen the video by Tony and Alex discussing the project, do so here.)

I know for me personally, working in that environment, my eyes have been opened to just how much we shut people out without knowing…in my first team meeting I sat next to Alex (who is deaf) and had to move to the other side of the table because a) he was not able to read my lips when I was next to him and b) because I was talking too fast and without my hands. Wow – and that’s just a ‘simple’ team meeting.Can you imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t see your computer screen? Or if you couldn’t hear your phone ring (or, for that matter, the person on the other end of the line). Or what if you couldn’t walk and needed help getting from a to b? These are just such simple abilities that we take for granted every day. Imagine how secluded and ostracized you would feel were you not able to simply do that.

Now imagine that you have such a disability and can’t get any support to help you gain inclusion to a society that often forgets you. I encourage you to read the report Shut Out: The Experience of People and their Families in Australia for more insight into some of the difficulties currently faced by those with a disability.

It’s why I support Kevin Rudd’s initiative, why I hope that the productivity commission comes back with a strong recommendation to set up a National Disability Insurance Scheme, and why I ‘ll be continuing to update you about such progress on this blog as it happens.

7 thoughts on “The end of disability?

  1. Thanks for sharing Steve – I have had similiar thoughts – ie. I have not thought enough about the difficulty associated with ‘doing life’ for those with disabilities. I was encouraged by Australia’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities last year – but that doesn’t mean that the Australian Government has made such commitments within domestic legislation.

    Like you, I’m quite excited by this news because of its ability to open up people’s worlds who have been excluded or not considered insofar as mainstream services are concerned.

    Tomorrow is the International Day for Persons with Diabilities…time to make a conscious effort to recognise the opportunities we have to make life easier for people with disabilities.

    Keep me posted Hopkins!

  2. Thanks for the comment Alana, well said (as always!).

    Your exactly right that the government has not yet made any decisions on disabilty which have become legisltion, but hopefully this enquiry will lead to the change we need to see. It’s a tiub disapoonting that the enquiry is due in 2011 but (as current news would attest) the government has some other large change reforms on it’s plate already!

  3. Hey mate!

    Very nice blog!

    It’s an interesting topic and one that needs to be addressed, so it is good that you are doing it!

    Have you been in contact with YDAS? (Youth Disability Advocacy Service) I can put you in touch with a friend of mine if you like?

    Here is a point from the Victorian Human Rights Charter:
    Equal recognition before the law
    Every person has the right to equal recognition and protection before the law. Everyone is entitled to equal and effective protection against discrimination, and to enjoy human rights without discrimination. This applies regardless of a person’s age, gender, race, disability, religion, marital status and a range of other personal characteristics.

    Some groups or individuals, such as people with a disability or members of minority groups may be disadvantaged by discrimination they experience. Measures taken to help people who are disadvantaged by discrimination will not be considered unlawful under the Charter. For example, government funded programs may be directed to particular disadvantaged groups.

    Entitlement to participate in public life (including voting)
    Every person has the right to take part in public affairs without discrimination. Every eligible person has the right to vote, be elected and to have equal access to the Victorian public service and public office.

    If you would like, I’m sure one of the staff at the VEOHRC would love to chat with you about your work 🙂

    Hope yu are well and cya soon!

  4. Hi Francis!

    Thanks for the comment. Some really interesting points and thoughts there. I think there is some interesting points to be made about the legislation that exists, and where the grey areas happen to demonstrate themselves.

    The law is there, and does exist, but leave a lot to be desired when it comes to many disabilities. I think we are in need of a system which encourages market solutions to many of the problems, as well as legal support. There is a large community who have been shut out of our society for too long, and we require a market to begin realising this and brining them appropriate services which provides access.

    Thanks for the offers to connect, all discussions would be amazing! Lets do it.

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