Empowering people of all abilities

| December 2, 2015

The 3rd of December is the International Day of People with Disability. This year’s Patron of the day, John Walsh AM, says the NDIS can support greater independence for people of all abilities while returning an economic benefit to Australia.

I am honoured to be Australia’s Patron for the 2015 International Day of People with Disability and to support this year’s theme, “Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities”, which promotes inclusive, empowering and accessible cities and society – along with sub-themes emphasising the inclusion of people of all abilities, and particularly those with invisible disabilities.

A focus for this year, which is particularly dear to my heart, calls for improving disability data and statistics which supports one of the fundamental tenets of Australia’s new National Disability Insurance Scheme.

In promoting IDPWD 2015, let me take the opportunity to highlight the potential of the NDIS to support greater independence and empowerment of people of all abilities, and to provide a structure which will allow this to happen while returning an economic benefit to Australia. Far from being a net cost to the people of Australia, the NDIS provides an opportunity to harness the potential of a rich source of social capital and to redirect investment towards a tangible and positive outcome.

To achieve these outcomes the NDIS will be relying on the much broader National Disability Strategy aimed at eliminating the many barriers to accessibility, empowerment and independence throughout our communities. These barriers may be physical, as in the built environment, or they may be attitudinal, as in the sometimes misguided or discriminatory views built up over centuries of ignorance regarding the nature of disability. They may be economic, as in a reluctance to employ people with disability, or they may be social, as in a fear of communicating with or including a person who appears or behaves differently in some way.

Removing these barriers will need a concerted effort from all of Australia’s governments, in meeting their obligations and promises under the National Disability Strategy – promises which extend across the whole spectrum of our social environment – our childcare, our schools, our health systems, our jobs and economic framework, our transport and our accommodation and built environment.

But most important of all, these barriers are created by people, and it is up to the people of Australia to support these initiatives. Let’s start by recognising and celebrating the achievements of people with disability and those who support them. Together, we can make Australia accessible and inclusive for all.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed in 1992 that 3 December each year would be recognised as the International Day of People with a Disability to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.