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
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!