A decade ago, disability rights advocates in Australia won the fight for the implementation of a National Disability Insurance Scheme, which now supports over 550,000 Australians with disability.
Since its implementation, the NDIS has transformed the lives of many Australians with disability, but we still have a long way in making disability inclusion a societal norm. The path forwards may not be easy to navigate, but if we are determined, we can create change.
To reach it, we need to overcome the obstacles that come with this journey. One of those is challenging people’s perceptions towards accessibility.
Accessibility can be a confusing term to use when accommodating people with disability. When creating an accessible environment, it’s important we understand everyone’s needs. Accessibility shouldn’t be treated as a one-size-fits-all label — what may be accessible to one person may not be to another. Our job is to work alongside those with lived experience and find solutions that are flexible to all.
There are many ways you can challenge attitudes towards disability. One way is by learning the art of self-advocacy. Self-advocacy allows you to speak up for yourself and help people break common misconceptions about disability.
I recently had the privilege to share my lived experience of disability at a conference where I talked about living as a person with Cerebral Vision Impairment (CVI) and gave advice on how to interact with someone with CVI. Speaking in front of an audience felt scary, but it empowered me to further embrace my disability.
Through self-advocacy, you are educating others to look beyond a person’s disability. With practice, you will become confident in explaining your needs to others, showing society that people with disability are as capable as many of their peers.
Former Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott inspired people with disability during his acceptance speech last year saying, “My advice to you is this: you don’t need my advice. You know what to do because you’ve had people telling you what to do your whole life”.
You have the power to advocate for disability inclusion. It’s in your hands to make it happen.