Disability, Accessibility and
Content Warning: This page and links embedded on it discuss topics of disability, mental health, and ableism.
Terminology Defined...in a text book way
Disability: A permanent or likely to be permanent condition, categorised by one or a combination of physical, sensory, psychiatric, neurological, cognitive or intellectual impairment, restriction or limitation (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018).
Accessibility: The presence and provision of services and facilities that allow people with disability to have the same opportunities as others to participate in everyday community life (Government of Western Australia, 2019).
Ableism: The discrimination of people who live with a disability
18% of people in Australia - equating to about 1 in 5 - were reported to live with a disability in 2015
People with a disability often rate their health as poorer than Australian who do not have a disability
The prevalence of mental illness, particularly generalised anxiety disorder and depression, is higher in people who live with a disability than non-disabled people in Australia
Australian's who live with a disability are often faced with discrimination (ableism) from members of the public, in the work place and medical professionals
Australian's who live with a disability are more likely to be impacted by the social determinants of health:
(Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019).
I do not consider myself as a person who lives with a disability, but I have lived with severe, chronic migraines since I was a child. The debilitating symptoms and pain that such headaches are known for fluctuate and vary from person to person. For me it's a combination of visual aura - tunnel vision and loss of central vision - nausea, and an inexplicable 'stabbing' type pain in the side of my ear. These symptoms can last anywhere from ten minutes to several days, and as a result of having them present in my life I often find myself on high alert for bright lights, strong scents, and loud noise; factors present in most places I tend to frequent as a busy adult.
I have also had several doctors overlook my symptoms and prescribe me with medications I now know were actually really dangerous for me to be taking. I've had others tell me to take two Panadol and sleep it off, as though I can spend most of my life in bed taking a medication that is known to be insufficient in managing migraine pain. Last year I was finally referred to a wonderful specialist who has helped me understand my brain and what happens when things don't seem to be going quite right - despite this, it shouldn't have taken almost 20 years to receive the help I needed.
If you live with migraines also, please feel free to get in touch if you'd like to talk about life with them!
I have included this story because this experience has given me a small insight into what the hurdles of inaccessibility can be. The ableism I have experienced, while on a very small scale, is consuming and exhausting. I get incredibly frustrated by the way the condition I live with is misunderstood and how the severity of it is misinterpreted and overlooked.
Through this, I am learning to acknowledge the lack of accessibility in the spaces I frequent, and to consider the ways in which accessibility can be increased or enhanced within them for other people. I encourage you to do the same by looking around you and asking yourself whether all people in your community can access it also. Is there a ramp? Is there a hearing loop? Is the website you are on friendly to those who use screen readers? Are there strobe lights? The list goes on, but use these to start!
In educating myself on this topic there have been some fantastic people I have come across in the social media world, most notably Carly Findlay, Dylan Alcott and Ruby Allegra. There are of course many other disability advocates, and I'd recommend doing some searching of your own. The best way to learn is to follow, watch, read, or listen to the stories of people who have a disability, and pay for their content where possible.
Resources and Essential Reads