December 3, 2021

International Day of People with Disability

Today is the International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD).






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

There are many different kinds of disability. A disability may affect mobility, ability to learn things, or ability to communicate easily. Some people may have more than one. Disabilities may be visible or hidden, temporary or permanent and may have minimal or substantial impact on a person’s abilities.

Today, we share the thoughts of four people living with disabilities and the challenges they face.

Jane Spracklan is one of the consumer members of our Disability Sub-Committee.

Says Jane, “As a person living with vision impairment, what matters most to me is that I am met with awareness and inclusion. That I have the opportunity to maintain my independence, but that there is also ready support available when I need it. Accessibility features throughout facilities, like large print signage is vital.”

“Pre-conceptions can sometimes be quite challenging. For example when someone grabs hold of me, to physically lead me along.”

“Moving forward, I believe the involvement and inclusion of the disabled community into planning and design is imperative. I would like to see this applied throughout all public facilities,” she says.

Stephanie Grassi is another consumer member of our Disability Sub-Committee.

Says Stephanie, “Because of my physical disability, I use crutches or mobility scooter. At the checkout, it is very hard to see the screen on the eftpos machine and I have to ask for them to tell me just what is the next instruction.”

“Often people in shopping centres or on footpaths will ignore the fact you’re there and need a little more room to manoeuvre and will either not get out of your way or look the other way and walk in front of you,” adds Stephanie.

Michelle Fenwick is the Chair of our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and Executive Director, People and Culture.

“I now have and live with a disability, reducing my mobility after an accident two years ago. It has affected the way I approach each day and caution now has a front row seat. I consider where I park, my footwear, all whilst trying to be somewhat active with a nine year old.”

“Days like today help grow awareness and remove barriers – not just to entrances or stairs – for I now know what was important before, is now super important,” says Michelle. 

Filipina ‘Pina’ Montagna is a patient of Northern Health, who describes her disability as ‘a mild form of cerebral palsy’.

Says Pina, “In my humble opinion, the most important thing is for the disabled to be told the truth about societal attitudes and discrimination against the disabled. We should never feel that, if we’re struggling, it must be because we’re doing something wrong.”

“In reality, as the research shows, the disabled are discriminated against throughout society, not least of all in the workforce, which determines participation in all other sectors.”

“One very important milestone for me was accepting all of the above. I immediately stopped resorting to self-deprecating humour to put others at ease with my disability, and I stopped fighting for approval,” says Pina.

Referring to the theme for this year, Pina believes that leadership is born of participation. “You can’t lead in that which you are not a participant. Any leadership roles would be disingenuous without real participation. And from these participants, we will have great leaders,” she adds.

Today, we re-launch the refreshed Disability Action Plan to mark IDPWD here at Northern Health.

The Northern Health Disability Action Plan sets out Northern Health’s whole-of-organisation approach to reducing barriers and promoting inclusion for staff, consumers and community members with a disability at Northern Health and has four main goals:

  • Reducing barriers to obtaining and maintaining employment at Northern Health;
  • Promoting inclusion and participation with Northern Health;
  • Achieving tangible changes to attitudes and practice which discriminate; and
  • Reducing barriers to Northern Health services and facilities.

Today, we would also like to highlight our new Disability Awareness and Communication Access training, now available on Northern Health’s Learning Management System (LMS). The course aims to raise general awareness regarding disability and improving communication skills when communicating with people with disability.

The training is designed and presented by people living with disability. Staff will hear real-life stories and engage with a range of thought-provoking activities. Staff can access these training modules via the LMS ‘Find Learning’ page and searching ‘disability’.

Chelsea Simpson, Chair of the Northern Health Disability Sub-Committee, says, “On this day of celebration, we acknowledge the contributions of our staff and consumer representatives with a disability. We also thank our consumer representatives for their leadership and participation in implementing the Northern Health Disability Action Plan and participating in planning for our future services and facilities.”

Featured image shows staff from across our hospitals and centres, proudly wearing their IDPWD badge to mark the day.