Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What is disabilty?


With the National Disability Insurance Scheme rolling out across Australia I thought it be good to open a discussion on "what is disability?"

I guess one thing I want to say is people with disabilities are individuals and two people with the same diagnose, lives can look very different. Other social environmental factors can play a huge impact on the level a person of family living with disability can participate in community life, 


I feel this is where sterotypes can come unstuck.  The dictionary defines disability as an impairment that affects a persons ability to function in the 'normal manner' . This might be a physical impairment, intellectual impairment; behavioural problem; cognitive difficulties or physlogical. Just to complicate things further many people with disabilities have a more than one type of disability referred to as, complex disability.


I just want to address what I mean by "environmental influences", for me these are things like parentage; cultural heritage, access to education, experiences in the rehabilitation process, and the community in which we live. I also think a person's ability to function is influenced by personality.

So for me the NDIS is an admission that people with disabilities don't kick nice boxes, hence an individual approach to support. Disability does not impact on a person's emotional responses nor the hopes and dreams we have. Regardless of who we are we all have aspirations, sometimes their realistic and others their not.  I think I'm finally accepted I might never be a millionaire.

Yes, under the NDIS some people are going to have unrealistic goals, like becoming a millionaire.  However, dreams in themselves are not dangerous.  I had dream once to be an author, my parents thought I was mislead, before I wrote 4 books. Every now again we underestimate others.

My difficulty and that of others living with disability is until now the disability sector has operate from a 'care' or 'medical' model.  Unlike a medical patient we don't need fixing, yet that is the way I am treated by some 'carers' or 'support workers'.  Just because I can't do a button up, doesn't make me no good at art.


Art is a talent that even most able people don't lay claim too. Just like people with disabilities, your beliefs and perceptions around disability are a bi-product of your environment. For example my silbings and their children grew up with physical disability, as I and some of my friends had disabilities, the idea we belonged in separate schools and emotionally detached was foreign to them.

Just as some peoples level of awareness on disabilities leaves them to conclude I couldn't live independently. However some assumption for me don't add up.  If you were to lose you voice to cancer your intellectual ability would not change.  Yet it is usually assumed people who are non-verbal are less intelligent.

Often people assume I am also intellectually disabled.  The facts are cerebral palsy is a physical disability and those who also have intellectual disability have a dual-diagnose. More the 70% of people with CP have no intellectual impairment.

Another huge misconception is people who are intellectual impaired are child like.  Some are but most are wanting to have adult lives, including getting married and having children!



It has become our natural instinct to protect and caring for those living with disability. Society clearly said we are less fortunate. That is a perception, not a fact. My life pretty much looks the same as any other artists. Too often this had lead to low expectations for children and adults living with disabilities.

My time at CATS inc, really challenged my own expectations as time and time again I had set the bar too low. When trying to address community attitudes to disabilities, I feel challenged as so many factors influence our thinking on the issue. I can not even name every disability, let alone address your multiple questions.

My hope for the NDIS that it starts a monument in thinking of people living with disabilities as "one of us".  That people are seen for their abilities rather than their disabilities and the community as a whole will step back and let us have a go at things.

Recently I had a change of thinking, attitudes extend to ways and their are people with disability that take everything personally, and refuse to meet the community half-way.  You either want to be treated as an equal or you are happy to have people feel sorry for you. You can't have it both ways.

You either accept our city was not built for wheelchairs and seek solutions or you don't go out because a footpath are to dangerous. 



Personally people treating me as if I am a 10 year old sucks. Really, its there issue, I can not change they way they think and I do not want to let them rob me of the chance to live my best live.

If I challenge one or two people thoughts great. Try to correct many centuries of myths around all disability, well that's a pipe dream and it isn't going happen.  So I hope I started one on many conversations we need to have as Ipswich prepares for the arrival of the NDIS.

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