Despite his mobility restrictions caused by cerebral palsy, long-time North Ryde resident Brett Dyer isn’t the type who gets intimidated by day-to-day challenges.
“I live by myself and when I’m at home I use a walking stick,” Mr Dyer said. “Outside, I use a scooter to get around and I’m pretty good with it. I use it even if I have to go far, like Macquarie Park.”
When Mr Dyer was told he couldn’t play lawn bowls at his local bowling club, he teamed up with his local SSI Linker Hiroko Kawashima from Settlement Services International (SSI) and his Occupational Therapist from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, Michelle Cohen, to find a solution.
SSI delivers the Ability Links NSW program (ALNSW) that supports people with disability, their families and carers. SSI Linkers work closely with people who need support to achieve a more meaningful and happier life. Linkers also work with the local community to support them to become more welcoming and inclusive.
Ms Kawashima organised a meeting with the North Ryde RSL Men’s Bowling Club president and found that Mr Dyer would need a tailored wheelchair, as well as a ramp to access the green. She met with Ms Cohen and they made plans to get My Dyer bowling again.
Ms Cohen said lawn bowls was a sport where people with a physical disability could participate equally with other competitors, making it appealing to many people from diverse backgrounds.
“There are no rule changes and competitors can compete on both normal green and synthetic surfaces,” Ms Cohen said.
After six months of research, negotiations and fundraising, the bowling club, Ms Kawashima and Ms Cohen sourced a suitable wheelchair for Mr Dyer to use on the bowling green.
“Mr Dyer's new wheelchair is special because it has been modified to comply with regulations so that it doesn’t damage the bowling green which was a main concern of the club and its members,” Ms Cohen said.
When the good news was delivered to Mr Dyer, he couldn’t believe that he was finally going to be able to play.
“I have been waiting to play for three years, since I finished my lessons," he said. "I can’t wait to go down there and play with them.”
“I love bowling because it gets me out of the house and I get to mix with people and socialise."
To make sure he received enough support, Ms Kawashima organised a carer through Catholic Community Services to be with Mr Dyer at the club once a week.
SSI Executive Manager Families & Inclusion Stephen O’Neill SSI Linkers were experts at finding solutions that benefit Ability Links participants and their community.
“Our Linkers don’t only work towards improving the lives of their participants, but also towards outcomes that will have a positive impact for the whole community,” he said.
“In this case the North Ryde RSL Men’s Bowling Club is now accessible for other people with reduced mobility, which is a great outcome for all.”