Published in the Centralian Advocate Newspaper 14 August 2018
By Val Dearman, Disability Advocacy Service CEO

The Disability Advocacy Service in Alice Springs has been given the opportunity to have a small column to discuss issues for people with disabilities in our community. We would like to offer the forum for others in the disability sector to contribute their thoughts as well.

As Advocates our staff are here to support people as individuals with access to services which could mean anything from giving out information to supporting people to identify and achieve lifestyle changes.

We also value the opinions of families, friends and carers and would welcome their participation in the column. It is a great opportunity to share stories, not only individual ones, but also about other places, research and philosophical musings!

What is defined as a disability? I have taken the following words from the website of Australian Network on Disability, specifically from https://www.and.org.au/pages/what-is-a-disability.html
“There are many different kinds of disability and they can result from accidents, illness or genetic disorders. A disability may affect mobility, ability to learn things, or ability to communicate easily, and some people may have more than one. A disability may be visible or hidden, may be permanent or temporary and may have minimal or substantial impact on a person’s abilities.
Although some people are born with disability, many people acquire disability. For example, a person may acquire a disability through a workplace incident or car accident, or may develop a disability as they age. There is a strong relationship between age and disability; as people grow older…”

We also speak of hidden disabilities meaning that it is not always obvious to others. A disability doesn’t just mean having an obvious physical impairment and society is often quick to judge people who appear different. Expectations on physical abilities can often be prescribed from the view of someone who is young and able, for example community events that do not provide seating or access to disability parking. A particular annoyance is people who use disability parks because they will be “just a minute”. These parks are in a handy place simply because the people who use them have limits to their capacity to walk or use supports like a wheelchair. On a similar note is a lack of chairs in larger shops and some venues in town.

Advocacy is about standing beside someone to support them to voice their own concerns and opinions. We are also planning some training in self-advocacy that will strengthen people to speak up for themselves particularly where support is not readily available.

Disability Advocacy doesn’t just respond to individual advocacy needs, we also take on systemic advocacy – in other words the bigger picture that has an impact on what is happening across community and society and how we as a small NGO might be able to have some influence. This of course means active networking, monitoring new initiatives and policy development.

If you would like to send ideas or would like to discuss issues with me please feel free to contact us at DAS 89531422 or ceo@das.org.au

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