Few politicians, if any, have been able to champion the cause on behalf of Australians with disabilities as fervently as Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John.
At just 24 years old, the highly eloquent senator with mild cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair has recently launched the Facebook group, Accessible Australia.
Among the group’s principles is the commitment to the human rights of disabled people and to promoting the social model of disability.
Given that close to half of all people with a disability are aged 65 and over, having an advocate such as Senator Steele-John is invaluable for our ageing demographic.
I have listened to Senator Steele-John’s parliamentary speeches and met him in person. This young man could be the best thing that has happened to the cause for championing disability rights. But he will not be able to succeed alone.
Today is International Day of People with Disability and if you would like to celebrate by joining the senator and others in creating greater awareness of the issues disabled Australians face, go to the Australian Network on Disability site.
Here are some of the factors that define this cohort of Australians:
- More than four million people in Australia have some form of disability. That’s one in five people
- The likelihood of living with disability increases with age; 31 per cent of 55–64 year olds are living with disability. Almost nine in 10 people aged 90 and over (88 per cent) have a disability
- disability discrimination accounts for the highest volume of complaints across the board to the Australian Human Rights Commission
- the likelihood of living with disability increases with age. Two in five people with a disability are 65 years or older
- 1.8 million or 50.7 per cent of Australians aged 65 and over have a disability, compared to one in eight (12.5 per cent) aged under 65
- 35.9 per cent of Australia’s 8.9 million households include a person with disability
- 4.4 per cent of people with a disability in Australia use a wheelchair
- One in six Australians are affected by hearing loss
- Vision Australia estimates there are 357,000 people who are blind or have low vision. They project that the number of Australians who are blind or have low vision will grow to 564,000 by 2030
- 45 per cent of Australians aged 16–85 experience a mental health condition during their lifetime
- Three million Australians live with depression or anxiety
- 36 per cent of people with a disability are often treated less favourably than customers without disability
- 28 per cent of people with a disability have experienced discrimination by one or more of the organisations they’ve recently interacted with
- One in three people with a disability report that their customer needs are often unmet.
As you can see, disability is a significant issue for a large number of Australians. It cannot be ignored or left unaddressed just because we do not come into contact with disabled people on a daily basis. They are out there.
Yes, we have a reasonably generous National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in place now, but the lengthy delays to access it and the knockbacks received by clearly disabled people is worrisome. And with the recent pilfering of NDIS funds to help with drought relief, the reality is that Aussies are not doing enough to help those with a disability.
Further, if you are over 65 years of age, you are not eligible for NDIS support. Anyone 65 and over is eligible to access Commonwealth Aged Care packages, but even they are being handed out sparsely, forcing many elderly Australians to struggle with daily routines.
Do you have a disability and do you struggle to get sufficient support? If you have had an experience with the NDIS, how did it play out?