Q: Tell us about yourself
A: I’m a Newcastle local and I love living and working here. I first came to live in Newcastle when I was 18 and starting a degree at the University. Once I finished I didn’t want to move away.
I’m very passionate about the equal opportunity and genuine inclusion of people with disabilities. I’m lucky that I get to channel this passion into my everyday work. At the moment I work as a disability advocate. I’ve also worked at a more systemic level in community development and strategic planning with the goal of fostering a more inclusive community for people with disabilities.
I was born with a condition called Peter’s Anomaly which means I am legally blind. I use assistive technology in my day to day work including screen reading software, a refreshable Braille display and various other clever gadgets. My favourite and most essential aid to everyday life is my Guide Dog Sadie.
Q: What do you do at Disability Advocacy NSW?
A: I work as an advocate and NDIS appeals officer.
I support people with lots of different disabilities to work through a variety of different challenges. These challenges might be at school, with service providers, or to do with getting the support they need. A lot of my work is specifically assisting people to work through the process of appealing decisions about their NDIS plans or access to the scheme.
Q: Why do you think your role is important and what do you like most about it??
A: I think my role is important for many reasons but not least because, I know as a person with a disability, it can get exhausting fighting for inclusion and equality and it’s not always possible to do it alone. As people with disabilities we come up against frequent obstacles that can make it trickier to do everyday things. We often have to prove our capabilities and assert our rights on a daily basis. The role of an advocate can help lessen that load for individuals. To have someone by your side can mean the difference between being able to take on another obstacle or not. My favourite part of the role is being there to enable others to take on those battles for equality and knowing that hopefully, assisting to resolve a matter will enable people to just do the other, everyday things they want to and need to do in life.
Q: As a person with disability, what are some of the personal challenges involved your role?
A: Sometimes because I have a disability I need to take on my own little advocacy missions to enable me to best do my job. I might have to liaise to get a printed document in an accessible, electronic format. Sometimes I have to think creatively about how to do certain tasks that are very visual. Luckily as people with disability, we often have great problem solving skills so I always come up with solutions. I actually think having a disability provides me with far more advantages than disadvantages in my role. I know lots of little self-advocacy tricks that I can pass onto others. I often know the systems and processes that my clients are negotiating from a personal perspective as well so that gives me some handy insight.
Q: What do you hope people take away from the planning café
A: I hope that after people have attended Thursday’s planning café they come away a bit more confident about asking for a review of a decision with the National Disability Insurance Agency. It can be daunting understanding all the lingo that is used by government departments so I hope we will be able to demystify some of those words and phrases that can be so confusing. I hope that people will come and share their experiences with each other and we can all learn something from one another.
Q: What will be covered at the planning café?
A: We will be sharing all sorts of information about your options when you aren’t totally happy with your NDIS plan, or if you’ve come up against challenges being accepted onto the scheme.
We can talk about how to ask for reviews on decisions, the best words to use, how to put it into writing and where to get more help if you need it.
Q: CDAH’s all about peer support. why do you think peer support is important, and what impact has it had in your life?
A: I am incredibly passionate about the importance of peer support. I see peer support as an absolutely essential part of my life and a central part of my journey to becoming the person I am today. As a young person meeting other people who were blind showed me all the things I could do and all the things I could work towards. I learned from my peers with disabilities that you don’t have to be treated unfairly, and it shouldn’t be that you have a lesser quality of life because you have a disability. I am always learning new ways of doing things that maximise my independence and my skills from my peers and in turn, I love to pass that knowledge onto others. The most important thing about peer support is the fabulous community you can become part of, where you belong by default. You don’t have to worry about proving your capabilities or negotiating for your needs to be met amongst your peers with disabilities.