Yesterday I was able to participate in our Arts Connect Pop-up Art Gallery thanks to a portable ramp. An accessible toilet was not so easy, I found one closed for maintenance. However access is more than ramps and toilets. With the National Disability Insurance Scheme being rolled out, with community participation being at its centre piece, what we thought through all the access issues that need addressing?
What is access? Access is the removal of any barriers that present for a person living with disability to enable them to fully participate in a community activity. This can be physical, environmental - lighting and sound both effect my seizure activity, temperature can be a issue for others. However nothing delivers a barrier as strong as the social norms that govern a community.
Ask any parent of a child with ASD what the multiple access barriers are for them to attend a movie or go out to dinner. The Australian government in its wisdom is support people to participate in the community through the National Disability Insurance Scheme, however given little thought to how to foster the inclusion of people living with disabilities into mainstream community life.
We need to become much more proactive about raising the awareness to the truths about disabilities and dispelling the myths. In the wider community their is little know about disabilities and most of what is known are myths.
A very common myth is that people with intellectual disabilities can not learn not can they read or write. People with all intellectual abilities have some ability to learn and most a confident in personal grooming. Many are about to write and sign their name on non legal documents.
Given the correct support many people with learning disabilities and mild intellectual disabilities are very capable of living independently in the community either in their own home or with others. There should be no reason why people with disabilities are living segregate lives.
Another misconception is the "blind" people or those who are visually impaired see total blackness. My people with visual impairment can see shades of grey and outline of objects. The access issues for these people are lack of appropriate lighting, trip harasses and non acceptance of working dogs.
All working dogs including guide dogs are toilet trained. There are unlike to soil a car, there is more likelihood that a taxi will be soiled by a drunk person vomiting that a working dog using the car seat as a toilet. Working dogs are not pets, and shouldn't be patter while working, this will undermine the authority of its master.
Just like yourself a person living with disability is an individual who has their own talents to contribute to our community. Disability can affect people in many different ways. Two people could have a stoke in the same area of the brain and yet have to very different prognoses. Other factors often determine the disability level of a person this may include, family ancestry, genetically influences, other health issues, environmental, family values, age and many more.
The more we can encourage and embrace people living with disabilities to participate in community life, the more understanding can be shared. There is much as an arts worker, I don't know about many disabilities, I like everybody else am learning on the job. Mostly I have learnt not to assume anything, even information passed on to me has been incorrect.
Community Access is an issue that the whole community faces, as we embrace the changes in pathways under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Lets keep in on the agenda.