Which of the following statements best describes you?

  • I’m a person with disability
  • I’m a researcher or academic

Question 1:
During the first stage of consultations we heard that the vision and the six outcome areas under the current Strategy are still the right ones. Do you have any comments on the vision and outcome areas being proposed for the new Strategy?

More concrete support needs to be in place for students with disabilities seeking higher education.

Currently, lecturers/course coordinators are able to reject the requirements outlined within a students disability support plan. This is a common occurrence at my university, especially for students with “invisible” disabilities such as autism/ADHD etc.

It’s extremely difficult for a student with a disability to pursue higher education and currently those of us with “high functioning” disabilities are ineligible for any government support whilst studying. There has been so much fantastic work dedicated to enabling indigenous students to pursue higher education with the support of huge scholarships and other financial incentives as well as specific application pathways and bonuses, this same level of support needs to be extended to the disabled community as currently some universities have 0 disability scholarships.

Question 2:
What do you think about the guiding principles proposed here?

There needs to be more clear guidelines into what organisations can and can’t do, as currently the guidelines allow a lot of autonomy. While some flexibility is necessary for corporations to be able to develop guidelines which work for them, some things need to be more concrete such as:

– schools should not be allowed to reject or expel pupils because of their disability
– universities should implement a more solid support structure for disabled students
– penalties should be applied to teachers/lecturers who do not adhere to the guidelines

Question 3:
What is your view on the proposal for the new Strategy to have a stronger emphasis on improving community attitudes across all outcome areas?

Often negative community attitudes stem from prejudices towards those who don’t appear to be pulling their own weight. We as a society are conditioned by the media to believe that another person’s gain is our loss. Enabling people with disabilities to upskill and utilise their individual talents is imperative to changing these attitudes.

Prior to COVID, most workplaces rejected the need of people with hidden disabilities or chronic illness such as CFS, chronic IBD, autism, ADHD, endometriosis to work from home because “they are needed at the office”, however we have now seen that this is not a reasonable excuse. Enforcing corporations to accommodate for the needs of a disabled person, by law, unless they can prove that it will cause undue hardship to the business, will improve career outcomes for disabled people and thus community attitudes.

Question 4:
How do you think that clearly outlining what each government is responsible for could make it easier for people with disability to access the supports and services they need?

Those of us not eligible for NDIS are deemed able to support ourselves, despite being disabled. While we clearly have an easier time than those with a severe disability, we are not able to make the same achievements as a non-disabled person without additional supports in place.

We are the lost generation. I have seen countless talented students drop out of their course because they are not able to support themselves financially whilst studying, or they do not have adequate support from the university so may end up failing because of a missed exam or late assignment. I have even seen high achieving, intelligent, disabled students end up homeless whilst at university. This is a catastrophic failure of the government.

It is not always easy to ask for help, especially for a young disabled person, and current student finance applications are extremely complicated and have ridiculously specific requirements. The lack of NDIS support for those deemed fit to work needs to be counterbalanced by the enabling measures I have already outlined, especially merit-based scholarships for those who slip through the needs-based net. I would also propose a blanket living allowance, similar to NDIS, to support all disabled students who wish to pursue higher education or training courses.

Question 5:
How do you think the Strategy should represent the role that the non-government sector plays in improving outcomes for people with disability?

The guidelines for the non-government sector needs to be more clear cut.

A corporation should not be able to reject the accommodation requests unless they can clearly demonstrate that the adjustments cannot be made without causing severe hardship to the business. In addition, in the event that it does cause financial hardship, a simplified financial supplement scheme should be in place.

The current mechanisms in place seem to pipeline disabled people into low-middle skilled, low wage jobs, when a better plan for both the individual and community as a whole would be to support us to pursue our special interests and talents.

Question 6:
What kind of information on the Strategy’s progress should governments make available to the public and how often should this information be made available?

Realistically, not much will change in 2 years so I would suggest only a mini progress report every 2 years and a more in-depth report every 4-5 years.

The reports should involve consumer research with targeted online questionnaires. These must be multichoice so that numerical value can be assigned to each response allowing the government to instantly measure outcomes. In addition within the form, a qualitative response should be permitted (much like this form), however this will not be used in the mini-report as collating of this sort of data is too lengthy, therefore this information will be used in the in-depth report and to guide the next round of consultations.

Question 7:
What do you think of the proposal to have Targeted Action Plans that focus on making improvements in specific areas within a defined period of time (for example within one, two or three years)?

My agenda is to improve the quality of life for those with a hidden disability. Whilst more research is always a good thing, there is a vast amount of existing research out there which the government needs to utilise to inform its decisions.

A targeted action plan to increase support for disabled students is paramount, this includes working with universities to ensure the correct systems are in place, with corporations for financial sponsorship and scholarships, and providing a blanket or financial support to students who are ineligible for NDIS. Both statistical data and common sense tell us this would lead to a decrease in homelessness, unemployment and suicide rates of people with disabilities, whilst creating a more diverse skilled workforce to strengthen our economy.

Question 8:
How could the proposed Engagement Plan ensure people with disability, and the disability community, are involved in the delivery and monitoring of the next Strategy?

As mentioned, online questionnaires targeted at all sectors, including businesses, educators, carers and people with disabilities.

Large businesses need specifically assigned disability spokespeople who know the legislation, rather than the usual HR. They need to be in a constant dialogue with the disabled community within their organisation.

Question 9:
Is there anything else you would like to share about the ideas and proposals in the position paper?

In summary:

– there is a lost community of those with “hidden disabilities” who have fallen through the cracks in the system
– current NDIS legislation excludes them from receiving any funding
– a new form of financial support is required to enable these people to attend university or other forms of training, this will lead to a decrease in homelessness, unemployment and suicide rates of people with disabilities, whilst strengthening our economy in the long term
– the government, large corporations and universities need to work together to increase sponsorship and the number of scholarships available specifically for people with disabilities
– legislation needs to prevent university educators from rejecting the needs of these people, which can happen even when a support plan is implemented by the university
– legislation is required to ensure employers accommodate the needs of disabled and chronically ill employees. In the event that the employer can demonstrate it will cause them undue financial hardship, financial assistance should be in place