Consultation period

29 April 2019 - 12:01 am To 26 July 2019 - 11:59 pm

Discuss inclusion in all community life

This forum is closed for comments. All comments can be viewed by scrolling down the page.

The inclusion in all community life discussion document  is available at the links below:

The discussion topic included:

  • Inclusive and accessible communities
  • Accessible buildings, facilities, transport and services
  • Accessible information
  • Accessible recreation and tourism
  • Recognition and support for specific groups and demographics.

This discussion has been made by members of the public. The views and recommendations expressed in this discussion are those of the authors and are not the views or recommendations of the Australian Government. The Australian Government accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of any material contained in these submissions. Please note discussion may have been edited to remove certain words or names of individuals or organisations.

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29 comments on Discuss inclusion in all community life

  1. The Social Deck

    Welcome and thanks to everyone who has shared their experiences, insights and comments so far in this online forum about the next National Disability Strategy for 2020 and beyond.

    Today (Friday 21 June) is the final day of the forum. It will be closed to comments at 5pm AEST.

    Please refresh your page regularly to see new comments.

  2. The Social Deck

    This discussion topic is about inclusive and accessible communities
    What stops people with disability from accessing the same things as everyone else in the community? Think about:

    What helps or stops you from going where you want to go, or doing what you want to do?
    Do people in your community accept you?

    1. Paul

      The most significant thing that stops me from going where I want to go, and doing what I want to do is the fact that I don’t have enough energy to do more than the basics.

      While there’s not much that can be done about my lack of energy (though see my comments elsewhere on the priorities of the health care system), so much disability policy assumes that disabled people are fully capable except for their impairment, and so if you do things like putting in ramps, getting a sign language interpreter and putting things in Braille, all the problems are solved.

      That’s just not the case. Why aren’t services required to be accessible remotely using user friendly services. So often organisations hold meetings, but to attend you have to turn up in person. Or as I’ve discussed elsewhere, doctors’ appointments can’t be done online or by phone because there is no MBS number for those sorts of consultations. Or organisations require you to phone them during office hours, or even if they have extended hours, have long wait times, rather than letting you make contact by email.

      So rather than concentrating on helping people to go to places, how about concentrating on helping people participate in the things that they want and need to do, using the methods that suit them best.

      1. The Social Deck

        Thanks Paul. This is another good point and suggestion for where things could work better.

      2. Catherine McIver

        There is a Medicare-funded telehealth service that should be extended to help people who have difficulty accessing medical services because of their disability:
        “Video-conferencing is one of the main ways in which telehealth is improving access to healthcare services for patients who live in regional, rural and remote areas.
        Instead of having to travel to the nearest major city to see a specialist, an increasing number of patients are using video-conferencing. This facility might be offered by their local GP or another local healthcare venue.
        Medicare-funded telehealth services are also available to residents of eligible aged-care homes and to patients of Aboriginal Medical Services across Australia.”

        NURSE-ON-CALL ( is a very useful service for people who can’t easily go to a GP but you still need access to doctors. There are a few services where you can consult a GP by phone or Skype but they are expensive and limited in what they do.

    2. Stravers

      Basic things that were meant to be address in the previous TEN YEAR PLAN have still not been achieved and stop me from full participation in the community. This includes even accessing my local village shopping centre. The centre has a step in front of each shop, therefore it is entirely inaccessible. There is no legal obligation for the owner of this centre (and MANY others like it around the country) to out in simple wheelchair access to enter the shop. This is not hard. Why has it taken 10 years, and we are not even at the point where a person can go their local shops.
      Also pathways. The other day I navigated my local regional centre (I am in a regional centre, Sydney Central Coast) and entire streets did not have a path on either side of the road, in many places I could not get from A to B. I live in a fairly new built suburb/housing estate in my region, it is around 7 years old, and I cannot get to a bus stop. There are no paths to my local bus stop, the bus stop is not accessible and sits on grass and I cannot get to my local train station. My local station has no ramp, is a short platform (4 carriages) and has stairs to get to the platform. This makes me entirely dependent on Taxi’s or support workers. Taxi’s in my region are scarce. You can wait over 2 HOURS for a Taxi. A couple of weeks ago my friend could not attend the meeting because the Wheelchair Taxi’s were not available that day. He missed out on an access/inclusion meeting for council funnily enough and was housebound for the day. We live in a region that spans over 100km in length. Taxi’s are not only scarce but expensive. Were I not on the NDIS I would be housebound and right now I cannot be independent whatsoever in leaving and navigating my local suburb, catching a bus, a train or entering a local shop. We are TEN YEARS on from the previous strategy and nothing has changed. Because there are no consequences for people to change their behaviour, no incentives for councils to make better environments, no funding for them to do so, no incentives for business and a general lack of awareness that any of this is even a problem or that the solutions are just too hard or too expensive. What will this plan do differently to ensure I’m not writing this same comment in 10 years time?

    3. Catherine McIver

      Fragrance makes access to many places a problem for many Australians: “33% of the general population reported one or more types of health problems associated with exposure to one or more types of fragranced products. The most common types of adverse health effects were as follows: 16.7% of the population reported respiratory problems; 14.0% mucosal symptoms; 10.0% migraine headaches; 9.5% skin problems; 7.6% asthma attacks; 4.5% neurological problems; 4.1% cognitive problems; 3.3% gastrointestinal problems; 3.3% immune system problems; 3.0% cardiovascular problems; 2.6% musculoskeletal problems; and 1.9% other.

      When exposed to air fresheners or deodorizers, 16.4% experience health problems; these include respiratory problems (9.1%), mucosal symptoms (6.2%), skin problems (4.8%), asthma attacks (4.5%), migraine headaches (4.2%), neurological problems (2.2%), among other adverse effects. In addition, in other types of exposure situations, 15.3% reported health problems from being in a room after it was cleaned with scented products, 6.1% from the scent of laundry products from dryer vents, and 19.4% from being near someone wearing a fragranced product. For 17.1% of the population, the severity of the health problems was reported to “result in a total or partial loss of bodily or mental functions,” which is a criterion for determining disability under the Australia Disability Discrimination Act (DDA, 1992).

      Fragranced products also hindered access in society. Of the general population, 11.6% are unable or reluctant to use the toilets in a public place, because of the presence of an air freshener, deodorizer, or scented product. Also, 10.3% are unable or reluctant to wash their hands with soap in a public place, because they know or suspect that the soap is fragranced. Further, 15.0% have been prevented from going to some place because they would be exposed to a fragranced product that would make them sick. Interestingly, 16.7% of the population reported that if they enter a business, and smell air fresheners or some fragranced product, they want to leave as quickly as possible. Finally, 7.7% have lost work days or a job (in the past 12 months) due to exposures to fragranced products in the workplace.”
      Steinemann, A. (2017). Health and societal effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products. Preventive Medicine Reports, 5, pp.45-47. Full article (free):

      For Australians with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS): “Importantly, for 55.4% of people with MCS, the severity of these health problems was potentially disabling according to the criterion of the Australian Disability Discrimination Act (DDA, 1992), as assessed by a positive response to the question: “Do any of these health problems mean a total or partial loss of bodily or mental functions, for you personally?” (See “Survey Data”)

      Fragranced products also restrict access in society for people with MCS: 64.8% are unable or reluctant to use public restrooms that have an air freshener, deodorizer, or scented product; 57.7% are unable or reluctant to wash hands in a public place if the soap is fragranced; 64.8% enter a business but then leave as quickly as possible due to a fragranced product; and 77.5% have been prevented from going someplace because a fragranced product would make them sick.

      Significantly, 52.1% of those with MCS lost workdays or a job in the past year due to illness from fragranced product exposure in the workplace, 77.5% would support a fragrance-free policy in the workplace, and 80.3% would prefer that health care facilities and professionals were fragrance-free.”
      Steinemann, A. (2018). Prevalence and effects of multiple chemical sensitivities in Australia. Preventive Medicine Reports, 10, pp.191-194. Full article (free):

      1. Catherine McIver

        An increasing number of places and events in Canada and the U.S. have fragrance-free policies, such as this hospital one: Women’s College Hospital, Toronto, Canada Fragrance-Free Policy

    4. Catherine McIver

      People with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) get symptoms to low levels of chemicals that are commonly found inside buildings and in polluted outdoor air. These symptoms can be severe and disabling and they don’t disappear as soon as the exposure stops. This study found that 6.5% of Australian aged 18-65 had been told by a doctor or health professional that they had MCS and “for 55.4% of people with MCS, the severity of these health problems was potentially disabling according to the criterion of the Australian Disability Discrimination Act (DDA, 1992)” (Steinemann, A. (2018). Prevalence and effects of multiple chemical sensitivities in Australia. Preventive Medicine Reports, 10, pp.191-194. Full article (free):

      People with MCS often find it difficult or impossible to access public toilets, hospitals and other medical services, shops, schools, universities and other educational institutions, public buildings and public transport, including taxis.

      Outdoor areas are usually better, but herbicides can make parks and other public outdoor areas inaccessible. Wood smoke is a major problem for people with MCS (and asthma and some other medical conditions) in many areas. Vehicle exhausts can make cities and areas near busy roads inaccessible. It might sound like that’s too difficult a problem to do anything about but Australia is actually exceptionally bad at tackling traffic pollution. See

      Most people with severe MCS stay home most, if not all, of the time.

      This is what was involved in making a university accessible to a woman with MCS:

      There are some Australian hospital government hospital guidelines for making hospitals more accessible to patients with MCS, and they can help a lot. However, they are still very limited. It’s not only patients with MCS who have problems with MCS. People with MCS can find it difficult or impossible to visit a family member or friend in hospital. This is very distressing when a child is seriously ill or a close relative is dying.

      Here are some good examples of overseas initiatives and policies that have helped people with MCS:

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an excellent Indoor Environmental Quality Policy that acknowledges the needs of people with allergies and chemical sensitivities: . As well as banning all types of scented products, it covers building maintenance, pesticides and VOCs in cleaning products. It bans fragrances worn and used by people in the building: “It is important that personnel be aware that the use of some personal care products may have detrimental effects on the health of chemically sensitive co-workers. Personal care products (colognes, perfumes, essential oils and scented skin and hair products) should not be brought into, used, or otherwise applied at or near actual workstations, in restrooms, or anywhere in CDC facilities.”

      Workplace accommodations:

      School: Challenge Charter School, Arizona, Environmental Policy
      In Australia a few schools have done minor things to accommodate children with MCS but schools don’t accommodate severe MCS. Distance education or homeschooling works well but some families would prefer to send their children to school.

  3. Jen

    The need for a fragrance-free environment is almost without exception overlooked when it comes to discussion and practice around accessibility and inclusion. As an individual with chemical sensitivity I’m excluded from participating in education, including my children’s education, community events and workshops of all kinds, volunteering in my community, employment outside of my home, even accessing government services such as Centrelink – or important health services, such as getting a Pap test in a fragrance-free environment. It’s incredibly isolating. While I may be able to walk into a space, I’ll quickly be overcome with debilitating symptoms that can last for days. Every event that catches my eye, I’ll check for accessibility information. Accessibility information alone is rare, let alone an event that asks people to attend scent-free. There are times I can’t avoid public transport, public toilets, hospitals etc but I will suffer for using them, and the effects are disabling. Chemical sensitivity is a recognised disability in a Australia covered by disability discrimination acts state and federal, but not recognised by service providers, institutions, government departments. This needs to change.

    1. The Social Deck

      Thank you for participating in the online forum and sharing your experience.

    2. Paul

      It’s not just fragrance, it’s all sorts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – things like solvents, smoke, pesticides and various other chemicals that are ubiquitous in modern life.

      And even though these things affect a whole range of people, e.g. people with asthma or other respiratory issues, as Jen says, it is hard to get anyone to pay attention to the issues that they raise.

      The first part of the solution to this issue is that disability policies need to be designed so that they cover all sorts of disability. Disability is complex, it’s not just a matter of ramps, sign language and Braille, and policy needs to reflect that. Then there needs to be adequate support so that the policies that exist can be used by disabled people. There’s no point in setting up a whole load of great policies if you then disable people by making those policies impossible to access because of cost or complexity.

  4. Lewis

    I work for Huntington’s NSW & ACT. So many of our members complain that the NDIS and its staff and service providers don’t understand neuro-degenerative disease and don’t know anything about Huntington’s disease. The overarching ethos of NDIS around reablement and building capacity just doesn’t work for people who are losing capacity due to neuro-degenerative disease. Please can we have a separate category or some other way of acknowledging and supporting people who are eligible for NDIS but who don’t fit the mainstream paradigm?

    1. The Social Deck

      Thank you for this perspective. We have also posted a question about the NDIS in the emerging areas discussion topic. You may like to head there to provide more specific ideas for how people with Huntington’s disease could be better supported in the NDIS.

  5. The Social Deck

    This discussion topic is about accessible buildings, facilities, transport and services
    How can we make sure more people with disability can live where they want to live and go where they want to go? Think about:

    Can you easily go to places you want to go?
    What happens when you use public transport?
    What about housing? What stops people with disability from living where they want to live?

  6. Rae

    I have severe chemical sensitivities. In addition to it being a disabling health condition in itself, it is also a feature of a number of other well-known chronic conditions and disabilities. It means that most indoor environments are inaccessible, due to people’s choices of personal care and laundry products, and the ubiquitous use of toxic ‘air fresheners,’ essential oil diffusers or pest-control devices. Even outdoors, there are very few people who habitually use only fragrance-free products – making all aspects of community life inaccessible.
    Fragrance-free policies can be implemented for businesses and community groups.
    Many around the world are now doing this, to ensure the growing population who have major health ramifications from chemicals, are able to fully participate in society. Australia needs to follow suit.
    I no longer have the energy to keep searching for potential friendships, educating and advocating for myself. I would love to have a support worker to do that for me – but again, that person would need to be fragrance-free and it seems that the health-care industry is one of the worst when it comes to workers wearing toxic chemicals.
    In addition to buildings in general, most public bathrooms are inaccessible due to automatic air ‘fresheners,’ fragranced soap and harsh chemical cleaners.
    Public transport is also inaccessible due to fragrances. Mixed with the dangerous ‘new car smell’ and being in such a small, closed environment, this can be a recipe for disaster when trying to care for my own health and safety.
    I have missed a number of important events, such as funerals, due to people choosing to not make it more accessible for me (eg, by requesting fragrance-free, no dry-cleaning, no candles etc.). It can be done, but few understand the serious consequences of chemicals for me – both short and long-term. I don’t have the energy for continual education. A mainstream ACCURATE media campaign would be good, rather than relying on sick and exhausted people to advocate for themselves.
    The retail world is largely inaccessible so it’s become necessary to have my groceries delivered. This is a much-needed service and I’m glad it exists, however, despite constant feedback, drivers are always saturated in fragrance – leaving a toxic cloud behind them. For this reason, I can only receive my groceries in the garage. When people have a job that involves them entering people’s homes, I feel they have a responsibility to not leave it in a worse and unhealthy state for the occupant. Ie; Fragrance-Free policies need to be implemented and enforced. The same thing happens with tradespeople. Education about the danger of fragrances and where they are found (ie; personal care and laundry products) could easily be included in appreticeships, ongoing education or industry communications.

    1. The Social Deck

      Hi Rae. Thanks for joining the discussion and sharing this experience.

  7. The Social Deck

    This discussion topic is about accessible information
    What would make it easier to find and understand the information you need, such as information from government or others about support that is available? Think about:

    Are there things you find it hard to access information about?
    Have you ever voted and is it hard to do?

  8. waynee

    >>> Accessible buildings <<<

    Autism affects 1 in 70 people in Australia, as a neurological disorder it can greatly affect an individual’s access to the workforce and participation in the ever more collaborative and social world we live in. For myself, I find the greatest impact is trying to maintain productivity in a workplace which expects the same level of performance, yet takes away the means of achieving this (a quiet non-distracting workspace). This is an issue not just faced by members of the Autistic community, people with a sensory processing disorder or mental health condition (such as anxiety or PTSD) will find it increasingly difficult to remain calm and productive (return to work guides for all mental health conditions suggest a quiet workplace too).

    But… the trend is towards open-plan offices with no partitions (or lower partitions), no personal storage and to cram each desk up against each other in a drive to "save money" without considering the cost of lost productivity (or the barriers this presents to anybody hyper-reactive to noise and visual movement or with social anxiety). In this kind of office, there is no reasonable accommodation available, I tried for over a year, but gave up and took a pay cut purely to work in a nicer office!

    So perhaps the “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Declaration 2009” which is currently active Australian Government legislation is there to protect us? It specifically says in Article 1 that persons with disabilities include people with “mental” or “sensory impairments”. It goes on to say in Article 3 that there shall be “equality of opportunity” and “accessibility”, which sounds great. But at the same time, the Department of Finance has a program (its Office Occupancy Report and associated office space targets) to drive a much lower amount of office space per employee (see ). For me, the target of this report would be almost half the space my desk currently sits in and no, I don't have a big office, just a multi-storey office building fit-out designed in 2010 which is perfectly fine and has a great energy rating (yet it is way over target now).

    If you look carefully at the report it encourages removing all storage around each employees’ desk by not including locker rooms or storage rooms in the useable office space calculations as they are "Non-office Area" (whereas personal storage around your work area like a storage unit would be included in "Usable Office Area"). Having some personal storage space beyond the desk (not just under or on it), provides a visual and psychological separation, a sense of place. Without it, the end result with smaller linear desks (which I have seen and personally experienced) is, of course, clusters of smaller densely packed desks with no separating office furniture and often no or very low partitions (unable to remove visual distractions and noise). Entire floors are even opened up so that 80 or more people share one open plan with no separating offices or even partitions, executives share the pain of their team and shed their offices too (which although I've never enjoyed one, they do provide visual separation and noise control between work groups for the rest of us).

    There is not a single mention of disability, the impact on reasonable accommodations or equal access for persons with a disability in this report. I guess it assumes the WHS or HR group will make the necessary accommodations, but once there are no partitions (and people within arms reach of you) it is considered "unreasonable" to ask for any sense of personal space or privacy to be put back. The incredibly noisy visually distracting partitionless officeless workplace cannot accommodate peoples sensory needs, it has failed to achieve universal design (i.e. access to all), but it may meet the Department of Finance office space target. The office space targets must go and workplaces need to provide equal access to the workplace by allowing large quiet areas with high partitions as well as large social partitionless "collaborative" spaces (although the research suggests there is significantly less collaboration in open plan than closed office layouts).

    1. Rae

      I completely agree with waynee, about open plan offices. It’s another aspect of building inaccessibility that makes it very difficult to find employment – which doesn’t have a detrimental effect on health. Chemical, noise and light sensitivities need to be considered in shared spaces. In the case of noise, this is also true from a customer’s perspective. For example, if I call my Internet Service Provider with an issue, all I am able to hear is background chatter and even another person’s call. This can make it almost impossible to concentrate on my own call – resulting in a period of increased symptoms and worsening health.

  9. Stephen Williamson

    In a national survey conducted by Deafness Forum Australia in 2017, 500 participants were asked: Are there any barriers that stop you (or your family member) participating in or contributing to the community? What are they? (please select as many as you like)
    + Poor attitudes of people in the community: 52%
    + Lack of assistance with communication: 45%
    + Lack of income: 24%
    + Lack of disability related equipment: 23%
    + Lack of employment opportunities: 23%

    In the past have you (or your family member) ever had trouble using a mainstream service? These are services that everyone can use like doctors, hospitals, schools, and public transport.
    + Yes-always: 14%
    + Yes-sometimes: 14%

    What did you (or your family member) do about the problem? (you can select as many as you like)
    + Nothing: 27%
    + I didn’t know what to do: 18%
    + I just went somewhere else: 15%
    + I made a formal complaint: 14%

    Did anyone help you (or your family member) with the problem? (you can select as many as you like)
    + No, I was able to solve the problem myself: 48%
    + A family member helped me: 24%
    + A friend helped me: 7%
    + An advocate helped me: 5%

    1. The Social Deck

      Thanks Stephen for joining the discussion and sharing this very important data and insights. It will be interesting to consider this alongside the public survey data for the national disability strategy.

  10. The Social Deck

    This discussion topic is about accessible recreation and tourism
    What stops people with disability from joining in activities in their community or elsewhere? Think about:

    Are you able to play sport, meet with friends or play in other ways in your town or city?
    What would help you to participate more in sport or other activities?
    What would make it easier for you to travel or go on holiday?

    1. Catherine McIver

      Scandic Hotel chain, which has hotels in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Poland, has allergy-friendly rooms where they don’t use fragranced products and exposure to cleaning and some other chemicals is reduced: This would make the rooms more accessible to many people with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), asthma and other conditions exacerbated by fragrance and indoor air pollution, as well as people with allergies. There is nothing like this in Australia.

  11. Stravers

    The Disability Inclusion Act 2014 put in place the need for councils, health districts etc to put in place Disability Inclusion Action Plans to address the issues in this topic. It is my experience that these Inclusion Acts are being treated as tokenistic/symbolic and not actually being implemented in practice across government departments or councils at all. The Act itself lays out no consequences for not abiding by the Act and implementing inclusion plans. Some councils around the country do not even have a dedicated full time role for a Disability inclusion Officer and in my region the Inclusion Officer at Health has just been restructured into CALD/Multicultural/LGBTQIA+ role to save money for the District. There is not priority across the board to really implement these plans and many just sit there on a shelf or staff participating in a 25 minute inclusion training seminar and councils ticking a box that the requirements for training and awareness for staff is complete. These Acts needs to be fully integrated and implemented across the processes of these councils and government departments with an obligation to fully show compliance including outcomes. There is no accountability, no enforcement and no real priority for these plans to be nothing more than symbolic pieces of paper at present and councils and government departments are treating them as exactly that. How can we expect full inclusion, participation and awareness if the public sector itself does not really consider it a priority or even a plan of action that requires one full time staff member to carry it out. Many of these plans, were they to really be implemented properly would need disability inclusion TEAMS to carry out, yet some councils/health districts refuse to even staff one person to carry out the work required to project manage and implement strategies laid out in plans.
    In terms of tourism and recreation, there are no national regulations in relation to venue access and inclusion and many venues and ticketing processes rely on the old paternatistic model of one wheelchair/one carer. For example, you cannot purchase any more than 2 accessible tickets to a concert and the seating layout is almost always carer/wheelchair. For a group of 6 people in a wheelchair to go out together for example, they are denied this opportunity as the venue design and layout is based on that old model. Many venues also deny access to general admission areas citing safety concerns, therefore not allowing PWD to hang out with friends and family in a normal environment at a concert or event. Right now the industry can do what they want as there are no industry standards around accessible venues, concerts or events. Each venue sets its own rules and are accountable to no-one. You can not even book tickets to events online for many of these major events and the accessible booking line is never answered. If events do have specific wheelchair seating the person is almost always segregated up the back or in a “holding pen” style gate system. There needs to be a set of national regulations around event accessibility, fair equitable access to ticketing, recognition people go out in groups or wish to be in general admission areas and that venue seating arrangements need to be updated. For some venues this will involve the state having to alter or upgrade seating in their venues. This needs to be done because the current system is not working. There is almost always no consideration made for those with low vision and no consideration for those with hearing impairments.

  12. Catherine McIver

    Here is an article about how to improve access for bedridden and housebound people: This is a group of disabled people whose needs are usually not considered at all.

    1. The Social Deck

      Thanks Catherine for joining the discussion and for sharing these great resources.

  13. The Social Deck

    A reminder that this forum ends at 5.00pm today (Friday, 21 July 2019).

    We would like to thank all participants for their time and contributions, and for sharing your story and experiences.

    The information and insights provided by participants in this forum will be reviewed, considered and included in our Consultation Report, alongside the information gathered through the public survey and 17 face-to-face workshops held over the past 8 weeks.

    If you would like further information about consultations to help shape the next national disability strategy, please email . You can also visit to sign up to the newsletter for updates.

  14. Yasmine Gray

    One of the biggest hurdles to inclusion in the community is finding information about accessible activities. One resource to combat this is, which I started to expand the word of mouth community to internet scale.