Recapping Q&A Enabled: the ABC’s discussion on living with a disability

Last night, the Q&A studio was transformed as five panellists of differing backgrounds, opinions and abilities tackled issues faced by thousands of Australians living with a disability. Discussing the NDIS, social stigmas surrounding disability, employment opportunities and the lack of training and development in the industry, last night’s discussion signified hope that the NDIS and social circumstances of people living with a disability will soon improve. Here are just a few topics covered in Q&A’s discussion:

The NDIS is an ongoing battle for thousands

The National Disability Insurance Scheme now supports 160,000 Australians and more than a quarter of these people have never before received financial support. This statistic is undoubtedly something to celebrate, however, many NDIS participants took last night’s broadcast as an opportunity to express and share their unhappiness with the NDIA.

Bruce Bonyhady, former Chair of the National Disability Insurance Agency, confronted the problems faced by people trying to accessing the NDIS. He highlighted two elements that are causing instability: firstly, an unfit and unsatisfactory Centrelink-run IT system is making the NDIS portal inaccessible for those who need it most.

Graeme Innes, lawyer and Human Rights Commissioner on last night’s panel estimated the NDIS will need another ten years to roll out across the country: “the NDIS is a huge piece of national infrastructure”. The most disheartening aspect of the NDIS for its participants is that these issues can be corrected with appropriate funding and resourcing.

Training and development within the disability sector

One of last night’s panellists, Kiruna Stamell, passionately shared her experiences with people lacking training in the disability sector.

I think that we’ve got a staffing issue, we’ve got a training issue. So I would like to see more communication, you know, with the men and women who are actually working on the ground alongside the disabled individuals,” said Kiruna.

Stamell highlighted that a lack of training gives way to a lack of empathy and understanding towards people living with disability and this creates a disheartening, unfulfilling experience for those seeking support.

People living with disability face social prejudice

Paralympian and radio host Dylan Alcott spoke directly to the Q&A audience about the impact of mainstream media on the lives of those living with a disability – especially young people. Alcott commented that the first step in allowing people living with a disability to feel socially included, is to break down the ideological barriers created and perpetuated by mainstream media.

You know, people think we are broken, less capable, unemployable, undateable, can’t have sex, don’t travel, don’t do the things that an able-bodied person does,” said Dylan.

Social prejudices infiltrate so many aspects of a person’s life including their employment prospects and social opportunities – one Q&A audience member claimed she wasn’t able to land a job despite completing multiple university courses. These stories highlight that prejudice against people living with disability are concreted within society. Alcott responded to this, stating “Deloitte did a study, saying that people with a disability are 90% more likely to be equal to or more productive than an able-bodied person. They stay in a role an extra year than an able-bodied person. If you take away the fact that they’ve got a disability, that sounds like a bloody good candidate to me”. You can read Deloitte’s study here.

“It’s important that people in powerful positions include in our workplaces, in our advertisements, everywhere, people with a disability, so we don’t have a Q&A special about disability – it’s just normal, it’s a normal part of life,” said Alcott.

So, how effective was the Q&A discussion?

Last night’s discussion was a timely reminder of the prejudices, challenges and concerns that Australians living with a disability face on a daily basis. Bringing awareness to these issues on a national scale is undoubtedly helpful in breaking the social barriers that many able-bodied people willingly and unwillingly create.

At the same time, discussing the opportunities for improvement and sharing stories about the NDIS allows participants to enact change and create awareness of the national scheme.

You can watch last night’s discussion on Q&A here.

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