Change needed now to achieve access and inclusion for people with disability

ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS)

, Women with Disabilities ACT (WWDACT) and People with Disabilities ACT Inc (PWDACT) joint media release.

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today joined with Women with Disabilities ACT (WWDACT) and People with Disabilities ACT Inc (PWDACT) to mark the 2020 UN International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD).

ACTCOSS, PWDACT and WWDACT called on the federal and ACT governments to step up their efforts towards the achievement of an inclusive and accessible Canberra. The three organisations also highlighted areas of the new ACT Parliamentary Agreement relevant to people with disability and urged swift implementation.

ACTCOSS Policy Manager Craig Wallace said: “As we approach the end of a difficult year for people with disability, the focus of IDPWD for 2020 should be a clarion call to banish complacency. We need rights-based policy and meaningful access and inclusion for all Canberrans.

“The evidence from the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, and our experiences through bushfires and COVID-19, expose shortcomings in planning and implementation of policy. It also highlights the paucity of critical investments in services and infrastructure aimed at access and inclusion.”

Mr Wallace said: “Things must change. As highlighted in our recent feedback to the Federal Government, all governments need to resuscitate the lacklustre National Disability Strategy (NDS). In Canberra, we need actions and investments which address the causes of exclusion and discrimination, as highlighted in our disability issues election brief. The Territory also needs to push ahead to deliver promises and aspirations made in the new Parliamentary Agreement.

“To this end, we attach a summary of commitments relevant to people with disability. We call on the ACT Government to prioritise them and ensure their timely implementation,” Mr Wallace concluded.

Kat Reed, CEO of WWDACT, said: “ACT women with disabilities experience violence at approximately twice the rate of non-disabled women. We need to ensure women can access appropriate services that provide protection and support. Priorities include improving accessibility of crisis shelters in the ACT, full implementation of the Disability Justice Strategy including a gendered approach to justice issues, strengthening the role of the Family Safety Hub, continuing funding for Official Visitors and streamlining complaints processes at the ACT Human Rights Commission.

“COVID-19 has reinforced the need to develop and implement a Disability Health Strategy, co-designed with people with disabilities focusing on better services, infrastructure and workforce improvements,” Kat Reed concluded.

Robert Altamore, Office Manager for PWDACT, said: “Today is a reminder of the need to plan for better city infrastructure, planning, development and transport provision for people with disability as well as more universal design housing. This is vital as the city’s population ages. We need a dedicated access committee on transport and the built environment and concrete action through regulation and incentives to increase the availability of universal design housing.

“Today should also highlight mounting problems with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) implementation. Government needs to abandon the flawed NDIS independent assessment process, address issues with pricing and delays in receiving assistance and return real co-design and representation by disabled people into the scheme’s management,” Mr Altamore concluded.

Extracts of commitments and aspirations relevant to people with disability in the new Parliamentary Agreement is at Attachment A below.

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