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Social inclusion for the disabled is a mirage

By Peter Gibilisco - posted Tuesday, 8 August 2006


Here are some extracts from the Department of Human Services (2002a) State Disability Plan, which illustrate the principles underpinning the plan:

This State Disability Plan outlines a new approach to disability that is based on fundamental principles of human rights and social justice (The way forward).

The Principle of Dignity and Self-Determination (Choice) is about respecting and valuing the knowledge, abilities and experiences that people with a disability possess, supporting them to make choices about their lives, and enabling each person to live the life they want to live (Guiding principles).

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The Victorian Government wants disability supports to focus on supporting people with a disability in flexible ways, based on their individual needs, so that each person can live the lifestyle that they want to lead (The New Approach).

But in reality the State Disability Plan has fallen far short of its stated goals. In particular, the HomeFirst program of support and care, while an integral part of Victorian disability support services, does not embody the principles and rights of people with disabilities outlined in the State Disability Plan.

For example, Steve Bracks is quoted as saying, “The State Disability Plan 2002-2012 provides a strong and flexible agenda for change. It reaffirms the rights that people with a disability have, to live and participate in the community on an equal footing with other citizens of Victoria.”

Indeed, the practical implementation of the theoretical principles outlined in the State Disability Plan has caused confusion and developed new forms of exclusion in support services for people with severe physical disabilities, their families and carers, as well as considerable anxiety and frustration regarding access to support services in everyday life.

To use my own example: I am a severely physically disabled person, suffering from a disease called Friedreich's Ataxia. I was diagnosed with the onset of Friedreich's Ataxia at the age of 14, and I am now aged 44.

This is a progressive disease that causes impairment through a failure of timely muscle reaction to messages sent from the brain (the slow reaction to the stimulus of neuro-transmitters). It also affects muscular growth, giving rise to severe medical deformities, limitations and other problems (for example, severe scoliosis and cardiomyopathy), and had me in a wheelchair by the age of 23.

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The progress of my disability has left me vulnerable, but not inadequate. My vulnerability is due to a lack of assistance with my disability.

HomeFirst is a program run by the Department of Human Services Victoria. It incorporates the In-Home Accommodation Support program, which provides a range of home and community based support. This program provides people with disabilities with essential goods and equipment to enable them to live independently and not in residential accommodation, such as nursing homes or hospital style accommodation.

It allows many people with disabilities to remain living in their own home, while increasing or maintaining independence.

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This article is based on one previously published in Just Policy, March 2006.



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About the Author

Peter Gibilisco was diagnosed with the progressive neurological condition called Friedreich's Ataxia, at age 14. The disability has made his life painful and challenging. He rocks the boat substantially in the formation of needed attributes to succeed in life. For example, he successfully completed a PhD at the University of Melbourne, this was achieved late into the disability's progression. However, he still performs research with the university, as an honorary fellow. Please read about his new book The Politics of Disability.

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