Communities are waiting to be asked how they can help people with disabilities, claims one of the Border’s leading disability advocates.
Now it’s time to build connections that will allow that to happen, says Disability Advocacy and Information Service executive officer Martin Butcher.
Last Friday about 30 people representing individuals with a disability, their families, carers and service providers gathered for a workshop in Wodonga to learns skills in the art of asking.
Presented by Great Ideas in Action principal Ric Thompson, the workshop explored practical solutions for building more inclusive communities.
It examined how both communities and people with a disability could ask the right questions of each other to foster better relationships and inter-dependence.
Whether it’s creating pathways to employment, tertiary education, greater participation in sporting clubs, service or interest groups, Mr Thompson said the relationship had to be a two-way street.
“What has held us back in terms of building more inclusive communities is a lack of vision and assumptions about people’s potential to contribute – this doesn’t just apply to people with a disability,” he said.
“At the same time people with a disability have often already experienced a degree of rejection and are hesitant about asking to be invited in to their community.
“But I don’t think communities have been given the gift of discovering the joys of people with disabilities.”
Mr Butcher said workshop participants walked away with a greater sense of confidence about how to identify and approach key stakeholders to maximise opportunities for inclusion.
“They were given practical skills in how to approach a business or organisation and who might be the appropriate person with the power to create pathways – it might not always be the president,” he said.
“The workshop also looked at roles, exploring the idea that in a football club, for example, the person who carries the water plays as much of a role as someone out on the field.
“The vibe was very positive and people felt more competent to take the next step and ask to be involved.”
With the National Disability Insurance Scheme set to roll out on the Border from July next year, Mr Thompson said it was imperative the community started planning now for a huge change to the delivery of services.
“The NDIS focus is to provide the individual with choice and control in order to maximise life outcomes but there are other players in this and the community has to be brought in to the partnership for it to work.”