November 29, 2021

International Day of People with Disability: Brodie’s story

The International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD), is observed on 3 December.

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

This year’s UN theme is, ‘ Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.’ 

Since November 2020, Northern Health has a dedicated Disability Liaison Officer (DLO), who provides support to people with disability, their families and carer to access our hospital services and to ensure their hospital stay or outpatient clinic appointment is safe, accessible and inclusive.

This includes equitable access for those with disability from LGBTIQ, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and from a CALD background. The service also has a focus on assisting those with a disability to access COVID-19 testing and treatment.

Says Simone Ortiz, our DLO, “My role entails receiving direct referrals for people with disabilities seeking additional support and assistance to access COVID-19 vaccination, testing or healthcare support within our region. These referrals primarily came from the coronavirus hotline but also from disability service providers.”

“Since June of this year, I have worked closely with the Department of Health to identify ways to better support people with disability access vaccination particularly as they are more vulnerable to the illness.”

Brodie and his mum Melissa have lived in Epping for 18 years. Says Melissa, “I’ve been raising Brodie on my own since he was 10 months old. His dad has Aspergers, so we knew there was a chance any children we had might, be on the Spectrum. At the age of four and a half years old, Brodie was officially diagnosed with Autism and an Intellectual disability. I received a lot of support from my family and from the teachers at Merriang Special Developmental School. He went to this school from 2008 to 2020. He graduated in 2020. I was so very proud of him and everything he achieved.”

Brodie at his graduation


Brodie and mum know Northern Health well.

In 2008, Brodie had an accident in the playground at his school and needed  treatment.

Says Melissa, “It had to be done under general anaesthetic due to him not being able to stay still. From that point on, he attended the hospital four times. As for me, I was in the hospital thrice. Each time the doctors and nurses were fantastic, especially towards Brodie.”

“When the news broke that a vaccine for COVID-19 had become available, I jumped at the chance to get it, but I wasn’t sure if Brodie was eligible, due to his disability.”

“I called Northern Health and explained my situation. They then put me through to Simone. From that point on, I knew I had nothing to worry about.”

“Simone kept in touch with me on a regular basis, updating me with the information I needed including confirming that Brodie was able to get vaccinated.”

“We are now double vaxxed. I can’t thank Simone enough for all the support and help she gave Brodie and me. It made getting the vaccine so much easier,” says Melissa.

Simone says, “The Disability Liaison Program has received close to 800 referrals to assist people with disability access COVID-19 vaccine, testing, treatment or general health care support. The program will be expanding over the coming months and I look forward to better supporting people with disabilities within our community, access healthcare.”

Chelsea Simpson, Chair of the Northern Health Disability Sub-Committee says, ““The addition of the Disability Liaison Role at Northern Health has been integral to Northern Health being able to support so many people during the pandemic and I would like to thank Simone for all of her work in this regard. We look forward to the program expanding and being able to support even more of our community members and patients with a disability.”

Featured image shows Brodie and mum Melissa.