Posted by Tom Bridge
Today, December 3rd is International Day of People with Disability. This worldwide day has now been running for 20 years, beginning as an internationally recognised day sanctioned by the United Nations. It is a day when disability should be in the forefront of the mind’s of policy-makers around the world. It is a rare day indeed.
But this year there is cause for some hope. For once it is not a blind optimism, far from it. A fully-funded National Disability Insurance Scheme is getting closer and closer. Five launch sites have been agreed to and funded jointly by state participants and the federal government.
At the same time though, the NDIS is far from a fait accompli. People with a disability, their carers and broader families, as well as disability services organisations need to keep the pressure on during the remaining years of this decade. We must do in order to ensure that government works towards allocating what will be upwards of $15 billion dollars a year towards the most important disability reform in the history of our nation.
International Day of People with Disability, as far as Australian domestic politics is concerned, is about much more than just ensuring that we have a well-funded and well-coordinated system for disability support.
This international day, according to the website is also about forging, across the global community, a broader “understanding” and acceptance of people with a disability. It is about how the broader population recognise the challenges that people with a disability face in both the poorest of countries and the wealthiest.
The day is also about other simple measures of a humane society. The International Day of People with Disability is also about trying to secure some of the most basic human rights.
Today is about making sure that we give people with a disability a level of dignity. Just as importantly, it is about pursuing and cementing the rights of the disabled and doing what we can as a society to guarantee the basic well-being of some of the most vulnerable people in the country.
Finally, the day is about integrating people with a disability into society, rather than leaving them at the margins with little support or understanding.
Believe it or not, Australia as a developed nation actually has a long way to go in the way that people with a disability are treated. Among OECD nations, Australia is failing our disabled people.
A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers from late last year made for some truly sad reading.
In that report it was found that 45% of Australian’s with a disability were living on or near the poverty line. Far from on its own being a damning statistic, that number places Australia 27th out of 27 developed nations in terms of being at risk of, or in poverty.
It does not get much better in terms of employment prospects for people with a disability in Australia.
It was found that Australia is ranked 21st out of 27 nations in relation to employment. Only 31% of disabled Australians were found by that report to be in active employment.
With Australia faring so poorly in providing for its disabled community, then one can only imagine how those in the poorest of nations are coping and today is as much about their plight as it is about our disabled people.
Today is a day when all governments, including our own, must pledge to do better, much better in the area of policy development for people with a disability.
In terms of what Australia can do, well, there are two things which are particularly urgent.
The first is to do significantly more in terms of access provisions.
With or without a National Disability Insurance Scheme, access will still be a major issue for people with a disability. Better access provisions will mean more economic participation can be achieved, in conjunction with all that the NDIS will provide. Better access would also mean increased participation in a range of activities that most in society take for granted.
The second most significant thing that needs to occur is a better understanding and importantly, a deeper acceptance of disability. This is particularly the case for businesses, but also government and society in a wider sense.
This means highlighting abilities and not impairments. Too often, negative perceptions of disability cloud the judgement of otherwise bright people and this simply has to stop.
If we focus too much on the NDIS and what it will bring, then we will be neglecting our duty to remind policy-makers that there is much more to be done in the area of policy for the disabled.
We do however appear to be on a somewhat promising path.
Tags: acceptance, access provisions, attitudes toward disability, Australia, Australian politics, disability issues, discrimination, human rights, IDPwD, integration, International Day of People with Disability, international politics, National Disability Insurance Scheme, NDIS, social inclusion, the world, understanding