People with a disability in NSW are being urged to speak out and share their experiences to help shape the City of Sydney’s inclusion (disability) action plan.
You can have your say by completing a digital survey, attending an online workshop or speaking with someone over the phone.
“While we have made real progress in reducing physical barriers in our city, there are still many barriers that prevent people with disability from fully participating in our city life and living at ease in our community,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.
“Our vision is for an inclusive and accessible city, where people with disability have equitable opportunities to participate in every aspect of social and cultural life, as well as access to meaningful employment and participation in the decision making process.
“We know that the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened existing inequalities for many people with disability and those caring for someone with disability. We want to hear about your experiences and work with you to create a more inclusive, accessible and liveable city.”
The City of Sydney would like to hear from people with disability, people with mental health conditions, carers, disability workers and disability organisations.
The consultation will investigate the less visible barriers people may face, including lack of community awareness, community attitudes and behaviours, and difficulty accessing information, services or employment. It will also explore the physical barriers that may prevent people with disability from moving around our city and accessing our public spaces, parks, playgrounds and facilities.
Mark Tonga, chair of the City of Sydney’s Inclusion (Disability) Advisory Panel, has experienced many of these barriers first-hand. As a tetraplegic, he faces many physical barriers but it is the invisible obstacles such as community attitudes and perceptions that are at the top of his list for further action.
“Once you start shifting attitudes and perceptions, everything else will follow,” Mr Tonga said.
“Changing attitudes and influencing the narrative around disability and inclusion will help shape policies, overcome physical barriers and create new opportunities.
“You may feel disempowered but in this consultation you’re empowered to come forward and contribute to decision making. It’s the perfect opportunity to influence decisions.
“I know from my experience on the advisory panel that the City of Sydney takes this seriously. It’s not going to be policy that ends up on the shelf. There will be real actions taken out of this consultation.”
Mr Tonga said the Covid-19 pandemic has created both opportunities and challenges for people with disability. “People who have been bed-ridden and unable to leave their home to access cultural institutions have now been able to experience virtual visits to museums, galleries and libraries through online platforms,” Mr Tonga said.
“We’ve seen the benefits of remote working for people with disability, but it has also highlighted ongoing inequalities and the digital divide. There are some people on disability pensions that just cannot afford an internet connection, while others may not have the knowledge or skills to fully participate online.”
Tara Elliffe, fellow advisory panel member, has benefited from greater access to services now being offered online due to the pandemic.
“I’m doing online yoga classes twice a week and I’m feeling stronger and healthier. It’s great to be connected with other people across NSW online,” Ms Elliffe said. “I’m also enjoying work meetings and advocacy meetings online.”
Ms Elliffe said lack of community awareness, access to affordable housing and health services were ongoing challenges for people with disability. She said there was still a lack of community awareness, especially for people like herself with Down Syndrome.
She encouraged people with disability to be involved in the consultation and to share their experiences.
“Have a go, speak up and reach out. It’s great to have a voice for ourselves so people can understand what our struggles are,” Ms Elliffe said.
An inclusive city is one where people with disability are viewed positively by the wider community and acknowledged and celebrated for their diverse contributions and experiences.
Online workshops will be held on:
Tuesday 22 September, 1pm–2.30pm – community workshop
Thursday 24 September, 5–6.30pm – community workshop
Wednesday 30 September, 10am–11.30am – disability sector workshop
The community consultation closes on 9 October 2020.