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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.


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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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Job applicants with a disability at a disadvantage

‘To whom it may concern’.

I have written the above line to potential employers applying for a position countless times. I always mentioned in my applications that I have a disability. I rarely received the courtesy of a reply.

I often wonder whether this was due to the fact that I have a disability.

Whether they know it or not, employers are discriminating against job applicants who disclose they have a disability on their applications.

The article by May Bulman shows how job applicants with a disability are being discriminated against in the U.K., Bulman writes that research shows that people with disability have to apply for 60% more jobs than applicants without a disability.  Bulman wrote about a woman Lauren Pitt, 24, who has a vision disability and struggled to obtain employment. She was a university graduate with high marks. She didn’t expect finding a job would be as difficulty. It took her nine months to gain work. This was after she applied for 250 positions which led to only a few interviews.

This is similar to my situation.

When I graduated from uni I applied for multitudes of jobs over the course of a few years. From the many job applications I only had two call-backs for an interview. I sought professional help in writing my applications. I believed I had the essential requirements for the job. When I applied for countless positions without receiving a response, I was extremely despondent. I felt like an utter failure.

I had yet to discover that many people with disability have the same experience.

A Journalist Ashitha Nagesh writes of another case in the U.K., where university graduate Daryl Jones applied for 400 job vacancies receiving no response. When he took out all references of his disability off his CV, he was soon contacted to attended job interviews.

Mathew Townsend, a man from Brisbane with a hearing disability, who struggles to find work. He is equipped with two university degrees. He has completed an internship with Telstra and has presented papers at three conferences. One would assume from his credentials he would be an excellent employee. However he cannot obtain employment after applying for many positions.

Read the article here

Disabled people have to apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people before finding one

Disabled people need to apply for 60 per cent more jobs than non-disabled jobseekers before they find work, new research shows. An Opinium survey of 2,000 disabled people also found that more than half (51 per cent) of applications from disabled people result in an interview, compared with 69 per cent for non-disabled applicants.

Research shows the cases above aren’t isolated.

Researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research  USA wanted to determine how people’s disability affects their chances of being considered for employment. The researchers submitted 6,016 false applications to positions at accounting firms. One third of the applicants mentioned having Asperger’s Syndrome, another third disclosed a spinal cord injury in their applications.  The remaining third of applicants did not disclose any disability. The results showed applicants without disabilities were 26% more likely to get an expression of interest from an employer than the applicants who disclosed a disability.

Jean-François Ravaud, Béatrice Madiot and Isabelle Ville conducted a similar study to determine whether job applicants with a disability were disadvantaged. Some applicants claimed to have a disability while others didn’t. The study found that the candidates without a disability were more likely to receive a favorable response than those with a disability.

Research conducted by Vision Australia found that 53% of the job-seekers who are blind or have low vision will give up looking for employment because they are too disheartened.

One of the main reasons why candidates with a disability are unsuccessful is due to an employer’s attitudes toward people with disability.

The situation may appear bleak for job applicants with a disability. However, I strongly believe there are actions to be taken to improve it.

We need to educate employers so when they see the term disability on a job application, they will not be instilled with fear. On the contrary when they see an suitable applicant who has a disability they will think potential.

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A Great Step in the Right Direction

Jordon Steele-John, who is set to fill Scott Ludlam’s seat in the Senate for the Australian Greens: ‘I’m capable and ready to do this job.’ Photograph: Greens


Excitement infused my veins as I read that Jordon Steele-John, a man with cerebral palsy, is next in line to be the next Western Australian Green Senator.

As a woman with a disability, this represents a huge milestone for the disability community. I strongly believe this illustrates that people with a disability are starting to be included in all areas of life.

Mr Steele-John who attends university, claimed that having a disability shouldn’t prevent anyone from achieving their goals. Mr Steele-John stated that he yearns to be a voice for people with disability.

As a person with a disability, when I was young I wasn’t aware of anyone with a disability in leadership roles. I didn’t really have role models with a disability, so having this representation is so important.

Mr Steele-John had to be creative whilst campaigning as the Greens candidate in Freemantle in 2013. He stated that door knocking may have been a challenge. However, he negotiated his way around this by distributing leaflets in a shopping centre, from a table containing campaign material.This shows that people with a disability may not use standard methods for achieving their goals. However, they can use alternative methods and achieve the same outcome.

I resonate with Mr Steele-John’s experience. I am often viewed as a person who requires care, not as a productive member of society. Not only is this disheartening for people with a disability, it also deprives society from reaping the benefits of having a highly productive workforce.


Ludlam’s likely replacement Steele-John wants to open doors for people with disabilities

Jordon Steele-John, a 22-year-old student who has cerebal palsy and uses a wheelchair and is the frontrunner to replace Scott Ludlam in the Senate, says he wants to break down barriers that stop people participating as full and equal citizens.

Why is this exciting?

Many people, including myself, are excited with the prospect of having someone with a disability in parliament.

I strongly believe we must strive for the time when a person with a disability becomes a member of parliament and it is considered the norm.

We become enthusiastic when we see people with a disability achieve goals people without a disability are expected to achieve. When people without a disability become a member of parliament for instance, we probably wouldn’t consider this to be too out of the ordinary.

I hope one day we will simply expect people with a disability to be members of parliament and to be active participants in all areas of society. I believe there will be a time when people with disability will be included in all areas of life.

People may say I’m a dreamer. However, I believe this can be a reality.


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Welcome to Untapped, a Newcastle initiative to create change for people with disabilities.

Newcastle Coast

What are we doing?

The inspiration for the Untapped platform occurred just over a year ago to create change in the way businesses, employers and communities think about employing people with disabilities.

Natasha Hudson from Coforte Consulting approached Response Services with the idea to bring a diverse team of people together to enhance the economic participation of people with disabilities. This diverse team of people consists of people with disabilities, carers, government representatives, service providers and other small businesses, have come together to identify existing innovation, barriers and practical solutions for economic development for people with living with disabilities. From this initial idea, Untapped was developed.


What is Untapped?

The Untapped platform was designed to create change in the way businesses, employers and communities think about employing people with disabilities. People with disabilities steer this platform to educate and alter widespread misconceptions and behaviour. The objective is for this platform to be a trusted resource for employers and the wider community.  The aim is to inspire mainstream business to become more inclusive. Once I was told of the objective of the platform I was in! I am extremely passionate regarding the topic of increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. As a person with a disability, my main objective in life has been to achieve employment, however, this has been thwarted due to employers misconceptions. I strongly believe if employers were educated, their attitudes would alter dramatically. I’m extremely enthused to be a part of this platform.

Earlier in the year, I was privileged to be asked to be a part of the Untapped platform. I approached Response Services to seek assistance in finding work. When I met Loesja Koleniuk from Response Services, I informed her I was a qualified researcher and writer.  I sought assistance in having my own business as a freelance writer. I told her about some of the challenges I’ve had with obtaining employment in the past. After reviewing my skills, Response Services offered me work as a freelance writer for the Untapped platform they were developing. I was ecstatic, and extremely impressed with Response Services. Not only do they talk the talk, they walk the walk. Response Services are actually doing what they are promoting, they are including people with disabilities.

My task is to write a blog each week. I include research and experiences of other people with disabilities. I also include my own personal experience of having a disability. This may appear self-indulgent, but I believe my experience may educate people and they will hopefully see I’m an extremely capable woman. By sharing my story with people with disabilities, it is my hope that others can learn from my experience.


Strategic non-profit partnerships can offer a slew of attractive benefits. From improving outreach efforts to enhancing programs, services and can help your organisation improve its impact, and sustainability. So, in an effort to expand outreach efforts and enhance the effectiveness of Untapped, we wanted to partner with other movements, businesses and organisations.

In In June we met with Mark Bagshaw, Co-founder and Chair of The Able Movement, a new social movement working to change attitudes about this enormous capacity people with disability bring to our society. The Able Movement shares the vision of Untapped, to bring about change and share the stories to demonstrate capabilities of people with disabilities. The Able Movement firmly believes that people with disabilities are capable of participating at all levels of society, they aspire to show employers that ability outweighs disability. Together, Untapped and The Able Movement recognises the power of sharing stories in generating social change. These stories will show the vibrancy of people with disabilities.

The Untapped platform will allow the voices of people with disabilities to be heard. Furthermore, it will show employers that people with disabilities can be extremely productive employees. We will show how hiring people with disabilities can enhance businesses. Society will reap benefits from an increase of people with disabilities in the workforce. We hope that the platform will be the impetus for change in the economic situation for people with disabilities.

Please join us in this journey.


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