We celebrated International Day of People with Disability on December 3rd – just before Christmas and New Year. And as with everything, the disability community has a wide range of views as to whether and how it should be celebrated – and each of these perspectives is valid in its own way. So for me, it’s always a time to pause and reflect – especially last year, with the release of the final report from the Disability Royal Commission. It is one thing to know how devastating ableism can be and live with its impacts in your own life every day. It is another to see this widespread insidiousness in black and white, only for it to be dismissed by the majority of those outside the sector.
Of course, I face many barriers. But for now at least, I am fortunate to have the effective support I need that allows me to live my life and do the things I want to do.
So I thought it would be interesting to really look into the qualities and outcomes of great support for people with disability. Because even though support is very individual, we need to keep opening up about these types of issues – so that inclusion is the basic standard, not some lofty future goal. That’s one way we can work together to make the world better and fairer for people with disability.
In 2023, the United Nations focused on a number of Sustainable Development goals – and we can all do something to help achieve them for people with disability. Some of them include good health and well-being, decent work and reduced inequalities.
The best support for me comes when I am listened to and treated well. We both enjoy being together, and the relationship is based on honesty, respect and a shared understanding.
Once my workers get to know me, they can often respond to my moods and cues, and anticipate what I might need – but they still ask if they have it right. I still have the choice and control. My workers know not to make assumptions.
We make time and space for fun as well as the work and things I need to do – even something as simple as listening to music or a podcast, or going to our favourite coffee shop. These little moments of joy can have a huge positive impact on my mental health, especially amongst the daily challenges of living with disability. Most of my support is through long-term workers, and I think we genuinely make a difference in each other’s lives.
Having such great support benefits my life in ways you wouldn’t think of, which reduces the inequalities I face. I’m less stressed when I know I have people I can rely on to show up for me, and it also makes me more likely to go out on adventures, to meet different people and try new things. It just opens so many doors!
When I feel well-supported like that, I’m much more confident and optimistic about the future too. Partly because I can get so much more done, while being more independent.
As we know, some people are not as readily able to access high-quality support like this. I hope that reading about the qualities and outcomes of my most effective support has encouraged you to think about the support you give (or receive) at the same time that you reflect on 2023 and think of the possibilities that 2024 could bring. It might have sparked some ideas about whatever gaps you might have, and how you can bridge them. I also encourage you to reach out to your service provider if you have any concerns or need further support.
Support for people with disability is so crucial, and we need to get it right. We need to make it better. We need to make it fair. But that can only happen when we talk about and reflect on it together. After all, nothing about us without us. When we keep that in mind, it gives us such a strong basis to move forward from.
Emily Dash – Artist, Academic, Member, and Advocate