Can you tell us how support workers support you to live an independent life?
Support workers help me see my way around areas that I’m not familiar with. In particular, they may help me locate the things I need in a store, say, making sure the fruit and veg is in good condition and being able to check out the right stuff without too much handling on my part. All packets and cartons are similar in shape so you need someone that can read the difference between a low-fat yoghurt and a full-fat yoghurt. In clothes shopping they help me by describing colour. In a post Covid world you need someone that can help you locate the QR check-in.
This year the theme for International Day of People with Disability is leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.
What has been your experience of living with a disability through this pandemic?
By and large the people in retail have been a good support. I try to stay with the one carer because it still takes some undertstanding of your needs such as mentioned above.
Well-meaning strangers tend to touch me without asking permission and this makes me nervous at the best of times. The expectation is that a person with a disability should tolerate this well-meaning gesture but really, when you think about it, if it happened to you it would weird you out, wouldn’t it?
What does an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post Covid-19 world look like to you?
Governments, welfare, centerlink, health-care, the NDIS want us to comply to certain conditions. It makes it very hard when websites and technology that they expect us to interact with aren’t easier to use or accessible for someone who has low or no vision. It would be nice if this situation was improved.
Disability occurs because society isn’t set up for certain people.
For example, a building entrance with stairs, automatically excludes or disables anyone in a wheelchair. As a vision impaired person, how would you like to see society change its ways and/or perceptions around people with vision impairments?
It’s challenging when you have to converse with people behind thick glass screens. We’re not deaf, but you sighted people rely a lot on lip-reading and gestures that we miss in this situations or if someone looks at the carer you are with instead of looking at you.
Because society still excludes us by so many social and physical barriers, we don’t get a chance to shine at whatever we are good at.
While we’re hidden away people aren’t considering us and it shows in the way they may leave a bike parked in the wrong place, or someone leaves their dog litter without a thought that we have to walk through it.
It hurts me too when all the utilitarian shops have ramps but boutiques still have high steps which exclude wheelchair users. What sort of blatant message does that convey?
I could make a litany of signs that show that generally society regards us like we have no sexual identity, don’t have discernment, don’t have the mental capacity to make decisions, don’t have desires or ambitions. We’re unknown quantities like any person until you talk with us and not at us. Each one of us is an individual so I welcome a stupid question about my blindness over a stupid assumption. As for me, I just need someone to help me with the seeing, not the thinking or decision-making, not the carrying or lifting. When that’s understood, I can be quite human and even some fun.
Thanks so much for asking my thoughts.
This may be a first step forward to a more inclusive society for us.
To become a care or support worker, please visit www.careseekers.com.au/carer
To find disability support services, please visit www.careseekers.com.au/services/disability-support-workers
To find aged care services, please visit www.careseekers.com.au/services/aged-care-workers