SSI celebrated International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) today, December 3, with an event at its Bankstown office, featuring Ability Links NSW ambassador Nick Gleeson.
IDPwD promotes an understanding of people with disability and encourages support for their dignity, rights and wellbeing.
Mr Gleeson spoke to SSI staff about his experiences of living without sight since the age of seven. His stories encouraged people to cope with the challenges they confront in their lives.
Mr Gleeson said that his parents never treated him differently to his other siblings and encouraged him to continue doing what he loved.
“These days you might call it ‘tough love’, but treating me like an ordinary boy was the best thing they did for me and I’m so grateful for their support and encouragement,” Mr Gleeson said.
“Like anyone, we need to always push ourselves and leave our comfort zones.”
The event was an opportunity for SSI staff to reflect on this year’s theme – “Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities” – and consider how people with disability can be included in society by promoting the removal of all types of barriers.
SSI Chief Operating Officer, Astrid Perry, said this included physical barriers, access to information and communications technology, and, most importantly, attitudinal barriers.
“SSI is proud to be helping improve access and empowerment for people with disability through Ability Links NSW, FutureAbility and JobActive, as well as the work of our case managers and case workers,” Ms Perry said.
The FutureAbility project will involve a series of forums in 2016 for ethno-specific and multicultural organisations in NSW to assist them to get ready for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
A number of in-language community education sessions will also be delivered to people with disability from culturally diverse backgrounds, their families and carers to raise their awareness about disability issues in general, and to inform them of the NDIS and how to access it.
“The Ability Links NSW program is particularly unique in the direct community contact that the SSI Linkers have,” Ms Perry said.
“Feedback from participants of Ability Links has been incredibly positive and people have reported having increased self-esteem and confidence, increased social connections, greater motivation, feeling more secure and less alone, as well as increased access to support and services, and employment-related activities.”
Ms Perry shared the story of an Ability Links participant, Amelia, who could no longer swim at her local aquatic centre when she began using a guide dog due to the policy of no animals on the premises.
Amelia’s Linker spoke to management at the aquatic centre and worked with them to develop inclusive strategies.
The centre now has a designated guide dog rest area and has invited the Guide Dogs Association to do staff training.
Mr Gleeson said that Ability Links was radical in its new way of thinking and its lack of red tape.
“Linkers have the seed of belief that they can plant for their participants, to help them believe in themselves and to help empower them” he said.
“I’m super optimistic about the future, and I think the NDIS will create an extraordinarily powerful environment of inclusion–let us be one of the leading countries in this.”