ABOUT one in six Australians will have something special to celebrate on December 3.
The United Nations has proclaimed the date the International Day of People with Disability.
According to the latest data from the Bureau of Statistics, about four-and-a-half million Australians have disability or one in six of the population.
Under the 1992 Disability Discrimination Act, this includes people with total or partial loss of their bodily or mental functions, total or partial loss of a part of their body or the presence of organisms causing disease or illness.
The federal government has been on board with the annual International Day of People with Disability since 1996, providing funding to organisations and communities wanting to raise awareness of people living with disability.
There are also ambassadors promoting the day. While we await this year's ambassadorial announcement, 2019's ambassador, sportsman Kurt Fearnley, wants to encourage more Australians to take part in the event.
"People with disability are entitled to the same respect, independence and choice as others," Fearnley says.
"We need to talk honestly about the barriers in society that prevent this and work together to break them down."
The theme of this year's international day is "Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world".
Schoolchildren are encouraged to enter the Grow Inclusion schools competition, where schools can win $4000 of learning resources, equipment or software of their choice. Visit idpwd.com.au/growinclusion for more information.
Local communities are also encouraged to participate in the annual day by holding activities, such as a sausage sizzle, morning or afternoon tea, sporting game or concert.
ORGANISATIONS can show their commitment to the International Day of People with Disability by planning and acting.
Encourage workers with disability to "have their say" on December 3.
Discuss issues of access and equity in the workplace.
Consider creating a disability action inclusion plan that could include policies and initiatives to assist disabled staff in their day-to-day duties.
Think about a lunch where employees with disability can share their experiences.
Madi has succesffully moved into her very own "party house" thanks to her hard work and the support of the team at New Directions Disability Services.
Madi is a vibrant young woman with Downs Syndrome who had a goal of living independently or in her words "moving into a party house."
"Madi has achieved so much over the past 12 months, she has achieved her dream of living in her very own party house, and her confidence and independent skills have grown enormously," Madi's mum Vicky said.
"Madi's communication and speech have improved and with this new self-confidence, she has even added a little "sass" to her personality. Madi's growth can be seen by many within the community, and it shines through in her bubbly personality."
New Directions team leader, Kiara Pattison said it's been "brilliant" to see Madi's growth.
"She is becoming more and more independent, particularly in the community," she said.
"Madi runs her own show and it's a pleasure be on that journey with her. The sky's the limit for Mads."
When deciding which service to go with Madi and her mum Vicky took a lot of things into consideration.
"This service is family orientated and has genuine heartfelt care and compassion about what they do," Vicky said.
"[Choosing them] was one of the best decisions we have made."
"The managing director has been doing this for a long time and embeds that family culture within the service."
New Directions Disability Services has been operating in Wagga for the past two years. While the business is new the team members have been supporting people with a disability in the Wagga Wagga community for the past three decades.
New Directions offer a range of supports from flexible individual options, supported independent living, specialist disability accommodation, social and community supports, behaviour support and support coordination.
More information: 1300 285 766 or email managing director firstname.lastname@example.org
Being out of work can be a stressful and challenging time. It can be difficult people living with disability, injury, or illness to know where to start. That's where Sureway Employment & Training come in.
With more than 30 years experience assisting job seekers in the Wagga and broader NSW region Sureway understands the challenges people with disabilities face when job searching.
"It has been a testing time. Particularly for people who may have found themselves out of work for the first time following COVID-19," Sureway Area Manager Cath Roze said
"If you have found yourself in this situation you can be sure that our team is your team. Our services aim to support people to identify what is holding them back from work and create a plan to move forward.
"Our goal is to support locals to find work right here in town, which in turn enables the Wagga community to grow stronger and move forward. Our friendly team are a passionate bunch of locals who are ready to assist you into work."
Services are tailored to the individual and their unique situation, and job seekers could expect to be highly engaged along their pathway to work.
"Your employment consultant will work with you to identify your strengths, build upon your soft skills, and connect you with relevant training and work experience opportunities," Cath said.
The services also focus on long-term success for job seekers which including finding a job that's right for the individual and support to keep that job including additional training, clothing and equipment for work, on-the-job visits and regular check-ins.
Services are free of charge for both job seekers and employers under the Australian Government's jobactive and Disability Employment Services (DES) contracts.
Being registered as a Sureway jobseeker could also give you free access Sureway Health Support. At Sureway Health Support, a team of qualified counsellors provide therapeutic support and counselling to help jobseekers overcome barriers to employment. This includes therapeutic assistance with anxiety, depression, grief, trauma, stress, or improving daily routines. These sessions are delivered via phone or video call so they can be completed at home.
Sureway Health Support also services NDIS participants who have funding for Finding and Keeping a Job, Improved Daily Living Skills, or Psychosocial Recovery Coaching.
"Having a plan and support to reach your employment goals is the key to success", Cath said.
"It's a great time to think about your goals, especially if you have just finished school and are ready to look for work. We encourage and welcome locals to reach out for a no-obligation chat about how we could help you."
For more information: 1300 SUREWAY (1300 787 392), email@example.com or at the Wagga office Monday to Friday.
Isobel Lambert has been a part of the Employment Preparation program in Wagga for three years.
During this time, 21-year-old Isobel has graduated from the School Leavers Employment Preparation program and has also been assisted by Kurrajong in a number of volunteer work placements.
Isobel steadily grew her skillset through these placements before Kurrajong was able to find her a placement at Hair Co hairdressers.
Erin from Hair Co automatically took Isobel under her wing and started teaching her all the tricks of the trade.
Erin approached Kurrajong and asked what the next step for Isobel could look like.
After a discussion, Erin and the Hair Co team decided to bring Isobel on as part of their growing team as a paid employee.
Isobel loves everything about working at Hair Co, especially learning new skills.
"I have really enjoyed working in the team environment and coming into work each day to learn something new," Isobel said.
"I have learnt how to wash and shampoo and also how to blow dry hair. I am progressing and learning to eventually cut and style hair."
"Kurrajong staff have supported me throughout the past three years.
"Kurrajong has been a great support network for myself and also other people with a disability."
Erin from Hair Co is loving having Isobel as part of the team too.
"Isobel came to us from Kurrajong Employment Preparation on a work experience," Erin said.
"Upon her arrival, Isobel has been a little ray of sunshine and exactly what our salon needed.
"A positive, can do attitude, willing to give anything a go, a bubbly friendly face to greet our clients and makes the best coffee and tea in the salon.
"In the past six months we have seen Isobel grow within herself and has come to treat the salon as a safe, fun place to work."
Isobel's advice to other people with disability looking for employment?
"Follow your dreams, work hard and never give up on your dream. Just go for it," she said.
TEN years ago, my best friend Nat had a stroke.
One day she was busy at work; the next minute, she was fighting for her life in Canberra Hospital after a blood clot entered her brain.
It would take Natalie Wentworth-Sheilds, then 50, months to regain the ability to breathe, swallow, and speak independently.
"The stroke rendered me like a newborn, so I needed bloody-mindedness to get this far," Nat says.
"It's been an interesting journey. I am completely accepting now, but it's taken a lot of work with my partner Mark and, of course, from me.
"Also, my positive outlook has been primary to my success, as well as the support of various therapists."
International Day of People with Disability is on Friday, December 3. Organised by the United Nations, the day aims to raise awareness and acceptance of people with disability.
The annual day probably would have been like any other for Nat if she had not had that stroke and been confined to her wheelchair.
But the day is now close to Nat's heart, having suffered years of frustration not being able to walk on her own.
"Being in a wheelchair can be quite challenging when you want access to places," she says.
"Many places say they are wheelchair friendly; however, they neglect to tell you there are stairs before you can even enter the premises.
"So I need someone to help since the stroke robbed me of my balance. I have to work at it constantly.
"I now view the disability sector very differently because I am part of that cohort. We are under-valued and, in many respects, unsupported, and I would like to help fix that.
"I also realise there's a lot of people out there who are very caring and go out of their way to support and help.
"When something like this hits you, it's an eye-opener to see who cares. I feel blessed I have been supported through the whole thing, and my husband has stuck by me."
And I feel blessed I still have my best friend.
Four years after Nat's stroke, another great friend died of a brain haemorrhage, aged just 54.
Friends For Life Disability Services (FFLDS) has been operating in the Wagga Wagga area since July 2021.
"FFLDS provides each individual the home-away-from-home experience and a sense of belonging," operations manager Kate Welch said.
"We encourage greater inclusion and access for people with a disability to mainstream services and community activities.
" We care about providing the best possible service and care to our participants and their families.
"Julian (FFLDS director) has personal family experiences where great care and service wasn't provided to a family member and immediate family members.
"This experience drives Julian to demand the highest value to our participants and their loved ones."
FFLDS was founded on the following ideals:
Vision: We envision a world where all people hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others.
Mission: Our mission is to develop services to enhance quality of life and individual outcomes.
Values: Inclusiveness, empathy, quality, honesty and integrity.
Accommodation: specialist-disability accommodation (once construction is complete), supported-independent living, short-term accommodation and medium-term accommodation
Health and wellbeing: assistive-prod personal-care safety, communications and info equipment, community nursing, custom prostheses orthoses, daily living-life skills, daily personal activities, daily personal activities high intensity, daily tasks shared living, group centre-based activities and hearing equipment
Mobility: home modification, household tasks, participate community, personal mobility equipment and therapeutic support
To contact the team to learn more call 1300 YES SIL (1300 937 745), email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the office at 22 Waranga Avenue, Mount Austin.