International Day of People with Disability

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Every year, the United Nations announce a theme for International Day of People with Disability and this December 3rd Samaritans will focus on how we contribute to a transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all.

Australia has been actively working towards an inclusive, accessible society since the government’s 2009 Shut Out report which found that many people with disability felt excluded, isolated and ignored. Since then we have seen action. The National Disability Strategy 2010-2020, which underpins the NDIS, aims to increase choice for people with disability and create pathways to an inclusive and cohesive society.

Now more than ever, people with disability enjoy a right to choose how their supports are implemented. Where previously, providers and care were allocated, the NDIS has facilitated autonomy. Every day, people with a disability face and overcome challenges, and Samaritans is proud to play a role in their triumphs.

Yet, there is still far to travel on the journey towards a sustainable and inclusive society. Housing and pricing are two areas within the NDIS that are in need of crucial reform. People with a disability face inequity accessing the rental market or purchasing their own homes. In some instances, the policies of the relevant State or Territory Housing Authority, or the attitudes of landlords or agents, directly discriminate against people with disabilities. Considerable attention is required to ensure that people with disabilities have the right to accommodation in the community, with the accompanying right to participate in all social, creative or recreational activities.

In addition, physical barriers still exist which undermine equity for people with disability. In 2009 it was found that physical spaces within our communities need to be made more accessible. Yet within our own community, we can see inaccessible public spaces built since this date. Think of the ANZAC Walk – an architectural monument to Newcastle’s servicemen and women, it is only accessible for people with limited mobility from one side. The answer to an inaccessible built environment shouldn’t be ‘turn around’ or ‘don’t go there’. Rather the question should be “Why are these areas inaccessible in the first place? Why was it built that way? Why was that location chosen?”

This International Day of People with Disability I am proud to look back on how far we’ve come. It is an opportunity to celebrate the wonderful talents that people with a disability contribute to our society. However, I am also resolved to continue the fight for inclusivity, equity, and accessibility moving forward.