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International Day of People with a Disability

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With 1 in 5 Victorians experiencing a disability, Victorian councils play a large role in advocating for, and supporting those, to have better access to community participation.

Today is International Day of People with a Disability (IDPWD) and the theme is Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world.

People with disability in Victoria have been severely impacted by COVID-19 with the strict restrictions imposed throughout the year. Victorian councils are on the frontline delivering essential community services and sharing information.

This day is an opportunity to consider those people with a disability who may have lost important social connections during lockdown and help them to reconnect with people.

Disability advocates also remind us that many disabilities are invisible. Examples are impairments that aren’t obvious to an onlooker and can include chronic pain and fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injuries, hearing and vision impairments or mental health issues.

The MAV and Victorian councils have a proud history of working towards better access and inclusion of people with a disability. Some examples of activities happening include:

  • The Greater Shepparton City Council is showcasing videos by local community members who experience a disability and prominent advocates such as the late Stella Young and elite tennis player Dylan Alcott talking about ableism and their own life stories. Councils are working closely with their communities to challenge ableism, a set of beliefs or practices that devalue and discriminate against people with disabilities or who are perceived to have disabilities.
  • Hepburn Shire Council has outlined key research, respectful terms and effective language to help people navigate how to best communicate with people with a disability.
  • Yarra Ranges Council is encouraging people to share their messages of ‘seeing the ability in disability’ and using the hashtag #DisableStereotypes. They are also hosting an online event with local disability ambassadors and advocates giving presentations on their lives and work.
  • Moreland City Council is hosting an online Facebook event with Award-winning writer, speaker and appearance activist Carly Findlay who will discuss disability and chronic illness representation around the soon to be released anthology Growing Up Disabled in Australia.

While all councils have a statutory responsibility to have a Disability Action Plan under the Disability Act 2006, many adopted them voluntarily before that. Disability Action Plans can take a whole-of-council approach and usually address issues around communications, access to the built environment, accessible community services, transport, options in sports and recreation, access to the arts and events, civic participation, employment, consultation and more.

The City of Port Phillip’s Access and Inclusion Plan 2019-2021 is an example of how councils are improving and developing lasting initiatives to provide better services and inclusion for people with disability. It also addresses the employment gap between people with disability and those without and implementing measures to make council a more inclusive and accessible place to work.

Additionally, the MAV hosts the independent Victorian Local Government Disability Planners Network, which includes 56 council members. This network allows for direct contact between local government officers working on disability access and inclusion in councils covering topics such as disability employment, transport, arts, sport and recreation and more.

Most councils also have Disability Advisory Committees or other advisory mechanisms including local people with a disability.

The MAV developed the Creating a more inclusive community for people with a disability framework (Word - 191KB) to assist councils to address ways in which barriers to participation and access can be reduced. The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) also produced Disability Inclusion Planning – A Guide for Local Government (PDF - 1.46MB) which provides information and tools to help councils update, develop and implement inclusive policies and practices.

Finally, this day also reinforces the opportunity to recognise how individuals can make small changes in their personal and professional lives to make actions and communication more inclusive.

Simple things like writing in plain English, using image descriptions, and adding captions or transcripts to videos can make a big difference. There are a range resources available to help, and many of them have been designed and used across local government.

Find out more on our Disability page.