“Today Australians should not only take the time to talk about what the disability community has done, but also talk about what needs to be done to ensure a fairer and more inclusive nation.”
I am first and foremost a sailor. Ever since I was young, I have loved the freedom of being out on the open water with complete control over my journey and destination. It is a feeling with which nothing else compares.
Outside my sailing passion, I am also an IT specialist, a chess player, a percussionist, and a person with disability. But it is always the latter that people latch on to, especially today.
International Day of People with Disability is traditionally a day where Australia’s disability community comes together. There are accolades, awards, and special events where together we discuss what it means to be a person with disability in our communities.
But this year it’s time for a change. This year, today must be a day where we talk about the things we could do better as nation – not just celebrate people who someone else has decided are ‘inspirational’.
When people with disability, families, friends and communities have worked together we’ve achieved huge things – but these are just the first steps to a more equal and inclusive Australia.
Securing the introduction of the NDIS was a huge victory for the disability community. Our years of hard work fighting for the recognition, rights, and needs of our community finally paid off. We felt that things were about to get better, for all of us.
But while the NDIS is an improvement for many, it is far from the scheme we need and the scheme we were promised.
People are falling through the cracks of the NDIS. Too many people are waiting too long to get the funding and support they need. Some aren’t getting anything at all, and others are forced to do the best they can while bureaucratic delays chew up months and months.
Our community can’t afford to wait any longer for our leaders to take action and fix the NDIS.
This year’s theme for the International Day of People with Disability is “empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”. This is a perfect place to start a conversation about what needs to change with the NDIS.
For me, the best indicator of empowerment is having choices and being able to have the same opportunities in life as everyone else. With its focus on choice and control, the NDIS is well placed to deliver this vision.
But we just need it to work better than it does now. And people with disability not only know best where the scheme is going wrong – they also know best how to fix it.
There are some easy solutions that would make a huge difference to the way the NDIS is being rolled out: simpler and quicker processes, more help to navigate the scheme, clear and simple communication, and better training for NDIA staff just to name a few.
So today Australians should not only take the time to talk about what the disability community has done, but also talk about what needs to be done to ensure a fairer and more inclusive nation.
Under the NDIS, everyone should be able to feel the same freedom and control I do when sailing. Right now, we’re grounded, tangled up in a sea of red tape and bureaucracy.
So today, a day when the attention of Australia turns to people with disability don’t just celebrate us, join with us and work together to help pull us free. Only then will we get the kind of future we’ve been fighting so hard for.
Chris Riordan is Sunraysia’s local patron for the 2018 International Day of People with Disability, and an Every Australian Counts Champion. He is pictured first on the left in the above image.