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Month: November 2017

Disability rights are threatened due to removal of advocacy services. NDIS is not a substitute for advocacy.


On Friday night I plan to go out with my partner, something I take for granted. However as a woman with a physical disability, if I was alive 60 years ago, I possibly wouldn’t be allowed outside. I may have been in an institution, excluded from society.

Nowadays, as a person with a disability, I’m able to be included in most situations within society. This is due to the hard work of disability advocates.

The rights of people with disability have come a long way. However we have further to go to achieve full equality. This is why my heart sank when I heard NSW disability advocacy services will cease to exist in June 2018.

In an article written by James Robertson, he shows that funding provided to advocacy groups will be removed from the state government to commonwealth government i.e. the NDIS.

Disability advocates state that the NDIS has no permanent provision of funding for advocacy. As a result organisations providing disability advocacy will close leaving many people with disability without a voice. As a woman with a disability this is devastating, I would not be where I am if it wasn’t for people advocating on my behalf.

My mother advocated for me to have note takers at university. When I enrolled the uni assured us they could provide this. By my second year, they withdrew this service. My mum assisted me to lodge a complaint. As a result I was provided with a note taker.

So what is disability advocacy?

NSW Disability Advocacy claim that advocacy is standing up for the rights of someone who is being treated unfairly. Some of the ways advocates can help is they can provide free information or advice, they can support a person to take formal action.

Disability advocate Leigh Cryton states that advocacy is vital because many people may not even be aware that their rights are being violated because they don’t know their rights or may be too scared to speak up.

NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance show that some of the outcomes from advocacy include helping people with a disability to avoid unfair incarceration in the justice system. The NSW Council of Intellectual Disability claim that due to advocacy, advances have been made in the physical and mental health for people with intellectual disability.

The existence of the NDIS was due to disability advocacy. It is vital that we remember this.


Read the article here

Plea for Premier to reverse disability funding cuts as pressure mounts

The state government is coming under increasing pressure to drop plans to cut $13 million in annual funding for the many NSW organisations that advocate on behalf of people with a disability, as Queensland follows suit and the state opposition commits to maintaining the funding.

So the value of disability advocacy is clear.

Graeme Innes, a human rights activist and a man with a disability, wrote that by reducing funding from disability advocacy organisations people with disabilities voices are being silenced.

Reporter James Robertson wrote Jim Simpson from the Council for Intellectual Disability, claimed that people with an intellectual disability are being silenced due to the forced closure of advocacy services.

The question is can the NDIS adequately provide advocacy?

Many people with disability and disability organisations state affirmatively that the NDIS won’t, this leaves many people with disability in the lurch.

The Disability Council believes the role of advocacy is vital in ensuring people with disability can efficiently navigate the complex system of the NDIS.

The Physical Disability Council of NSW states the majority of assistance advocacy organisations provide people with disability support, which falls outside the responsibility of the NDIS.

In 2015 Ya’el Frisch a social policy officer and a woman with a disability, wrote that disability ministers agreed that some support related to individual advocacy would be provided by the NDIS to participant in their individual’s budget. She wonders if she and other participants will be asked to choose between assistance with personal care or funds for advocacy.  This is a pretty stark choice.

Diana Palmer, the CEO of Ideas believes there are also people with disability who aren’t eligible for NDIS and it is essential for these people have access to advocacy.

I believe we need an independent body to advocate for participants if we have a complaint regarding the NDIS. Disability advocacy for me is about empowerment. Without it, we, people with disability are rendered vulnerable and powerless. We are at risk of our voices being silenced.

The government must empower us to assert our right to be included in society. However we are being silenced.

Please let us have our say!


The time to include students with disability in mainstream school is now.

Picture this..

A young girl with a physical disability aged six, looking at the other children without a disability playing happily in the school yard. This girl was staring at the children through heavy gates. She was in a unit for students with a disability located on the grounds of a mainstream school. She was only permitted to mingle with the other students at lunch.

I was this young girl. It was extremely painful. I felt as though I was in a cage.

My disability was amplified.

Fortunately, through the tenacity of my mother and other professionals, I was fully integrated at a local catholic school. This was the opening to a whole new world.  I had significantly more opportunities than I would have had at a segregated school, such as attending university.

As integration into a mainstream school played an important role in my life, I was alarmed when I read an article by journalist Luke Michael Showing that mainstream schools are currently discouraging the inclusion of students with a disability.

Michael wrote a national survey has revealed more than 70% of students with disability have been discouraged to enroll in mainstream schools. He wrote, Stephanie Gotlib, the CEO of Children and Young People with Disability Australia claimed the results show that the mainstream education system continues to resist the inclusion of students with disability.


Click here for article

Mainstream Schools Discourage Inclusion of Students with Disability | PBA

Mainstream Schools Discourage Inclusion of Students with Disability Monday, 6th November 2017 at 4:12 pm A national survey of students with disability has revealed more than 70 per cent of students have experienced instances where their enrolment and inclusive participation in mainstream schools has been discouraged.

Craig Wallace, disability activist has direct experience of being segregated at schools. A few years ago, there was a debate regarding whether students with disability should be included in mainstream schools. Craig attended a ‘special’ school for a little while. He wrote they were sad places with low expectations. He claimed that students fail to thrive in segregated settings.

An article written by Catia Malaquias writes that research indicates that students with disability who were included in mainstream schools had better social and academic outcomes than students in special schools. Research showed people with disability who were included in mainstream schools are more likely to be employed or living independently later in life, compared to people who attended a segregated school.

Dr Kathy Cologon conducted an extensive literature review and found that inclusive education helps students with disability build friendship and have higher levels of interactions than students in a segregated setting.

However, despite the positives of students with disability in mainstream schools, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows between 2003 and 2015, there was a shift toward students with disability attending special schools, and away from attending special classes in mainstream schools.

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) show that the outcome of being educated in a segregated environment can place people with disability on a ‘treadmill’ to a segregated life.

While inclusive education has been shown in most cases to outweigh segregation settings, it involves a concerted effort by teaching staff. Dr Phil Foreman wrote that inclusive education relied heavily on the attitudes of principals, teachers and staff.

When I was integrated into mainstream school, some of the teachers showed negative attitudes toward my presence in the classroom. There was a day when a teacher instructed us to draws angles. I raised my hand and said I’m sorry but I’m unable to draw. The teacher snarled ‘what are you doing in this class then?’. This was in front of my peers, I was humiliated!

An article by Linda Graham and Kate de Bruin and Ilektra Spandagou showed that Dr James Morton, who is a parent of child with autism, criticised universities for failing to prepare teachers to teach students with disability. Teachers must be equipped to educate students with varying disability.

However, the responsibility cannot fall directly on the teachers. AFDO claims Governments must ensure that teachers and school communities have sufficient funding for disability support or other resources. Thus, teachers will be able to meet the diverse needs of all their students

My life changed dramatically when I was placed into a mainstream school. The sad young girl I described has become an educated woman with an abundant life. My hope is that every child with a disability is accepted and feels valued in the community.

If society is serious about the inclusion of people with disability, they must ensure schools embrace all students so they can reach their potential.


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The new NDIS pathway is announced!

As a person with a disability I was excited when I first heard of the NDIS. The notion that we would finally have voice, choice and control over our support services was liberating. The NDIS promised we would have support to fulfil our goals and to participate as citizens. I felt as though a new day had dawned!

However, the implementation of NDIS ideals hasn’t exactly come to fruition.

Due to this, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has designed a new NDIS pathway.

New and improved NDIS pathway?

A central feature of the new pathway is that NDIS planning meetings will be conducted face to face as opposed to over the phone.

The new pathway plan will include:

  • A consistent point of contact
  • Having a Local Area Coordinator (LAC) or NDIA planner who will understand the unique needs of each participant
  • A stronger focus on the broader system of supports i.e. transport
  • Information that is clear, consistent and available in accessible formats
  • An improved NDIS portal and tools

The new pathway will be piloted and tested over the next few months prior to being implemented nationally. The new pathway was the result of research conducted by the NDIA and the Productivity Commission.

The NDIA conducted a study consisting of feedback from 188 participants and families. Other participants included frontline staff, service providers and state officials.  The results showed that participants, families and stakeholders felt that the NDIS was not meeting benchmarks.

The Productivity Commission produced a report, showing that many NDIS participants found the planning process complex and confusing. It showed that many participants and families were disgruntled with having their planning meetings over the phone.

The commission were also told that sometimes participants were not even aware that the phone call was a planning meeting, so were not prepared for meetings which affected the quality of outcome.


The NDIS pathway experience

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has released details of a new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) ‘pathway’ designed to significantly improve the experience people and organisations have with the ground-breaking NDIS.

Amaze, a peak body for people with autism, stated that participants have reported feeling rushed in their planning meeting. They also felt forced into a phone planning meeting. Amaze claims there is a lack of clear and accessible information for participants about the planning process.

The Commonwealth Ombudsmen received complaints from participants and families who were given no option for a face to face meetings, even where it was clear a phone interview was not appropriate i.e. a participant who required the use of communication boards to participate.

Journalist Stephen Easton wrote, the problem is the government is exerting pressure on NDIA to roll out the scheme by 2020 and this has comprised the outcomes for participants. Therefore, the planning meetings were rushed.

It was due to complaints similar to the ones above, that the NDIA developed the new NDIS pathway.

Editor Lisa Caneva interviewed People with Disability Australia senior policy officer on the NDIS, Dr Meg Clement-Couzner. She believes that the new NDIS pathways is positive. However, she is anxious to see the outcome.

This year I didn’t have a meeting for a review of my plan. My plan was automatically renewed without any consultation from me. When I questioned this, I was told that someone tried to contact me via phone without success. So, they just continued my plan i.e. I received the same amount of funding. Due to my disability, I have problems communicating via phone, so I prefer email. The NDIA were aware of this, yet still phoned me.

Personally I can related to the fact that many participants would prefer to meet face to face with the planner.

However, despite some of these issues the NDIS has had a profound positive impact on my life. For instance, I’m able to fulfil a lifelong ambition of being employed. This was possible due to the direct assistance of the NDIS.

I applaud the NDIA for designing a new NDIS pathway. I do feel encouraged that we, people with disability will have more control over how meetings are being conducted. The fundamental purpose of the NDIS is people with disability having choice and control over their lives. I believe this can become a reality for people with disability.

With tenacity from people with disability, NDIS staff and stake holders, we’ll get there!