19 May 2022

New disability strategy aims to make a more inclusive Canberra

| Aiden Rothnie
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Disabled parking sign

The strategy will seek to address the extra effort the disabled community has to go to for simple tasks. Photo: Region Media.

The ACT Office for Disability is working on a new strategy and is looking for input from Canberrans with a disability.

The new disability strategy will be in place until 2032 and aims to make Canberra more inclusive and accessible for people with a disability.

The office is currently seeking input from a variety of Canberrans through surveys and open forums.

Having a new disability strategy would help Canberrans like Deborah Eades, an Indigenous woman whose son Sam is autistic and, as a result, non-verbal.

Deborah is a member of the Disability Reference Group, comprising people with a disability, carers, employers and service providers, and whose input is being taken into account in the planning.

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Deborah has been heavily involved in many disability forums and said planning the new strategy had been a great experience.

“This new strategy is giving people a voice,” she said.

“It’s allowing people to discuss what they think is needed now and in the future.”

The ACT’s new Disability Strategy is being deliberated on in multiple steps. Throughout 2022, several open forums are being held to hear the opinions of the reference group or those who have applied to make a comment to the Office for Disability.

“Having forums like this is a positive because it gives people a platform to discuss their issues and discuss how things could be better,” Deborah said.

By the end of the year, the Office for Disability hopes to be able to take all the feedback and information it’s gathered from the reference group and create a document that outlines the feedback gathered.

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Deborah said one of the biggest issues she has encountered as a carer is the extra effort that goes into doing just basic things.

“It becomes the centre of your life, a new normal,” she said. “You get used to people saying, ‘oh, you can’t come here’ or being uncomfortable around you, and then needing to put in the extra effort to find something or somewhere else.

“For me to just work I had to do a lot more than the average person, and you just get on with it for a while until it starts to affect your own health.

“What we need is to educate people. It’s not enough for the disabled community to know what we can do and the greater public having no clue what is going on. Things need to be done so families and carers don’t have to do everything.”

The Office for Disability believes around 20 per cent of Canberrans live with some form of disability, with over 65 per cent of these people being under the age of 65.

Deborah said it was good to be taking in diverse opinions because everyone has a different experience.

“Everybody has to deal with health issues eventually, and it’s something you really need to fight with, especially as a carer,” she said.

“You’re always fighting – fighting for them, fighting for you – so getting a lot of people together to talk is good, because someone might need that.”

To have your say on the ACT Disability Strategy, register at YourSay.

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