By ALLISON HORE
People with disability are being encouraged to share their experiences to help shape the City of Sydney’s disability inclusion action plan.
This will be the fifth disability action plan developed by the City of Sydney and will cover four areas which are improving public attitudes, improving community accessibility, reducing unemployment and underemployment and improving communication.
“While we have made real progress in reducing physical barriers in our city, there are still many barriers that prevent people with disability from fully participating in our city life and living at ease in our community,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.
To help create the plan City of Sydney would like to hear from people with disability, people with mental health conditions, carers, disability workers and disability organisations. The consultation will investigate not just physical barriers, but also invisible barriers faced by those with disability. Some of these barriers include a lack of community awareness, community attitudes and behaviours, and difficulty accessing information, services or employment.
“Our vision is for an inclusive and accessible city, where people with disability have equitable opportunities to participate in every aspect of social and cultural life, as well as access to meaningful employment and participation in the decision making process,” explains Ms. Moore.
Chair of the City of Sydney’s Inclusion (Disability) Advisory Panel, Mark Tonga, has first hand experience of many of these barriers being a tetraplegic. He says that it’s the social and cultural barriers that are top of his list for further action.
“Once you start shifting attitudes and perceptions, everything else will follow,” Mr. Tonga said.
“Changing attitudes and influencing the narrative around disability and inclusion will help shape policies, overcome physical barriers and create new opportunities.”
Tara Elliffe, who has Downs Syndrome, is also on the advisory panel for the action plan. She said community awareness, access to affordable housing and health services are all ongoing challenges for people like herself. She thinks it is crucial for people to share their lived experiences to build awareness about their challenges.
“Have a go, speak up and reach out. It’s great to have a voice for ourselves so people can understand what our struggles are,” she said.
Mr. Tonga agrees, for him this opportunity to have an impact on policy is empowering.
“You may feel disempowered but in this consultation you’re empowered to come forward and contribute to decision making. It’s the perfect opportunity to influence decisions,” he said.
Community consultation for the action plan closes on the 9th of October. Those who wish to have their say can fill out an online survey through the council’s website, attend a face-to-face workshop in September or call in.