Enabling Choice for People with Disabilities

Posted on April 27, 2018

Kurt Fearnley and Madison de Rozario had Australians biting their nails during their twin gold medal performances in the men’s and women’s T54 marathon at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games recently. It was a crescendo experience for Fearnley who, now 37 years of age, first represented Australia at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics.

Being his last Games, it’s not surprising that Fearnley came to the Gold Coast with an agenda on his mind. Following his silver medal-winning performance in the TS 15,000m on Tuesday night, he took the opportunity to bring to national attention the need for greater inclusion of people with disabilities.

"I've been put in this position of privilege over the past week that I would never have imagined being in. Let’s have that same conversation about what is happening here at home about our education facilities, about our transport, about employment,” he said in his media interview.

With 38 more medals in Paralympic contention than the Glasgow Games four years ago, and a completely integrated program, Fearnley held up 2018 GCCC as the example and template for how greater inclusion can be achieved in everyday society.

Kurt Fearnley winning the GCCC marathon_ABCNews.jpg
Photo: Kurt Fearnley tops off a brilliant Commonwealth Games campaign with a heroic win in the T54 Marathon. (Photo curtesy of ABCNews)

It’s a fitting message for Australians. Especially for residents of the Gold Coast, whose neighbours, families and friends living with disabilities will come under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) from July 1 this year. 

This follows the rollout in Sydney, which started in 2015, and in Melbourne, where many new regions will also roll-out this year.

The NDIS provides people living with disabilities a flexible, whole-of-life approach to support. It encourages them to engage more fully in their community, pursue life goals, and maximise their quality of life. It gives consumers more control: they have greater choice over the services they receive, including how and with whom they wish to engage.

With the focus on consumer choice, comes an opportunity for service providers to expand their services and refresh programs. However, one of the biggest challenges for both consumers and service providers alike is how to best communicate options and narrow down to specific choices. Navigating the range of options available can be somewhat daunting to those who have been with just one service provider previously.

In a recent survey by Social Impact Institute, it was found that community expos give people living with a disability, as well as their families and carers, quality face-to-face time with service providers and a range of government agencies and advocacy groups. Furthermore, they attract mainstream services and health-related suppliers that supplement NDIS participant plans and support the needs of consumers who are ineligible for the NDIS.

“It’s good to have so many services in one spot – good information sharing… and a timesaver rather than looking up each service on the internet,” said one attendee of the Nepean Disability Expo in Western Sydney.

A clear win-win, expos also give service providers a cost-effective way of reaching their local audience. They can discuss the unique situations of each person face to face, provide examples of how best to meet individual goals and aspirations, and give advice on how to get the most from private or government funding.

Minister for Disability Services Ray Williams said of the expo: “People with a disability are our community, they deserve to live in their community. We need expos like this one to bring that to fruition.”

Ninety percent of attendees at the 2017 South West Disability Expo (Sydney), indicated that they would attend again. They gave the experience a rating of 4.41 out of 5 when asked the question: “Do you feel the information provided to you at the Expo will assist you with your ongoing care needs?”

Over the past two years, the Nepean and South West Disability expos have connected thousands of individuals with disability services and supports that are local to their community.

"That's the ultimate test," says Social Impact Institute senior advisor Kathryn Carey who is instrumental in bringing disability-focused expos to regions around Australia. "It's about positively impacting people with a disability; to not only help them navigate what choice means, but for it to make a difference."

Be a sponsor or exhibitor at one of our series of disability-focused expos for a unique community experience:
• Sydney Disability Expo
• Gold Coast Disability Expo
• Nepean Disability Expo
• Hunter Disability Expo
• Melbourne Disability Expo
Call Ryan McConville on 02 9025 9310 or contact us online to discuss options.
ABOUT Social Impact Institute
Social Impact Institute develops partnerships to increase social impact. As innovators, creatives and strategic problem solvers, Social Impact Institute helps organisations find creative solutions to complex problems. We are best known for our support of social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations.
We can help you increase your organisation’s clarity, social impact and business sustainability.

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