Category: AIIDD

Australian Institute on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is the publishing division of Inclusion International (NCID)

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I am here to remind you, not to teach you …

Standing beneath a huge circus tent you have to wonder how they put it up. For someone who struggles with putting up the family tent each Christmas on our annual camping holiday this tent it is unimaginable, how they not only get this it up but that it is still standing days later!

We are standing not sitting as we are not watching a circus. We are standing as the rhythms of Afro Moses demand that you are on your feet moving, something that thankfully does not require too much skill. Our family is spending the weekend at our ‘funky little festival’.

One line from Afro Moses reminds me of the week I just had, 3 days in the Hunter/New England region talking to people with disability and their families about their transition from school student to employee in the open labour market. How to use their NDIS School Leavers Employment Support funding to choose a provider which will support them into a job of their choice. No one said that they wanted to be a afro/blues singer but they all had aspirations to have a job; including a graphic artist, a mechanic and a teacher.

In talking to people with disability and their families about work in the open labour market; about the opportunity for people with significant disabilities not to be reliant on the DSP, to be able to afford the ‘extras’ that working people take for granted; about the opportunity to build skills for independent living , to be able to travel by themselves; to have the opportunity to make friends through working with a wide range of people; I am not telling them something new. When our children are born we all have expectations and hope for them. Without an awareness of what lies ahead we plan a future of happiness and being part of their community. As the years roll by hopes are dashed as our daughters and sons are constantly reminded of their deficiencies and what they will not be able to do because they have a disability. They are separated from their peers and so do not see themselves reflected in the expected activities of their community, work, sport, music, etc. All manner of people, teachers, therapists, social workers, government agencies, etc, tell them that they are different, not different special like Afro Moses who has an enormous talent for music, not like the special people who put up this enormous tent, but special because they cannot do …

The choice of our daughters and sons to be a graphic artist or a teacher reminds us of our first hopes and aspirations. Wanting to be like their brothers and sisters reminds us that we all live in our community and we should all be fully in it. Wanting to have a job that pays well and is interesting reminds us that service providers have a responsibility to make choices happen, not to remind people of the low expectations of the past.

From now on I will open my talks with the phrase, “I am here to remind you not to teach you …”

Inclusion Australia - Logo Icon

Inclusion Australia is here to stay …

Dear Members and Friends,

over the last couple of days there has been a lot of conjecture about the future of Inclusion Australia following our unsuccessful application for funding to the Abbott Government. Our application for funding to represent people with intellectual disability and their families to the Commonwealth Government was not successful – no applications on behalf of people with intellectual disability and their families were!

Minister Andrews, in his previous capacity as Minister for Social Services, decided that the voice of people with intellectual disability and their families has no value; despite people with intellectual disability being 70% of NDIS participants and the third largest group in receipt of the DSP. His decision is clearly at odds with the Prime Minister’s stated aim of including all Australians in the social and economic life of their communities; and importantly increasing the number of people on DSP in the workforce.

Inclusion Australia has always been a constructive partner in the development and implementation of Commonwealth policy and while this decision is disappointing it will not silence us from ‘having a say’ in the welfare reforms that will dominate 2015 and ongoing development of the NDIS.

Inclusion Australia has a strong membership base of over 5,000 and though the Commonwealth funding would enable us to have more constructive contact with them, we are not dependent on this funding and will continue to work with people with intellectual disability and their families and represent their best interests.

Kevin Stone – President

Mark Pattison – Executive Director

Read media release from Australian Federation of Disability Consumer Organisations (AFDO)

Interaction logo 274

Who am I?

Who am I?

Who am I, is a very loaded and contested question for people with disability. A question of identity.

For decades people with disability have had this personal question answered by others. Their identity as a person with disability has been described and viewed by people without a disability. I was prompted to think about this by Andrew Solomon as I read his book, Far from the Tree. An inquiry into identity, or more rightly identities; how some children are born with an identity that sharply contrasts with the identity of their parents, or the identity that their parents wish for them.

Andrew Solomon looks at groups of people who fall ‘far from the family tree’ and how they relate to their families and the community. The groups that he looks at include people with Down Syndrome, people who are deaf, people of short stature and people with multiple disabilities. A fascinating book from a man who himself fell ‘far from his family tree’.

Andrew Solomon uses the concepts of vertical identity and horizontal identity as the framework for his discussion, the vertical being the family, the horizontal being the person’s peer group – those others who they identify with as being members of their community.

Identity whether defined by us or others is closely linked to the language we use to describe ourselves or others; it is language which includes, affirms my identity as a member of my community or excludes me from my community by segregating me or hiding me from public view.

Over the last 10 years identity has become a crucial issue for people with disability as the conceptualisation of disability as a medical condition to be fixed/cured was challenged by the social model of disability which attempted to describe a person with disability as an interaction between the disabling aspects of society and the impairment of the person. The emphasis became not on the person with disability but on society and the identities of people with disability became subsumed under a generic catchall ‘people with disabilities’ as the focus was on society. This strong reaction to the medical approach was needed to bring about the conceptual change that was necessary but in the creation of the vertical ‘disability’ identity people lost the horizontal connection with their peer group, with people who have the same distinct life experiences as themselves.

The social model of disability is now being challenged by the human rights framework that is asserted by all people who are ‘different’. Whether it is a question of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc, the right to be different and to be accepted as different (no matter how far you fall from the tree) is a dominant movement within our society and people with all types of disability are members of the movement, the right to be different.

When ‘disability’ becomes the dominant identity, as opposed to a person with Down Syndrome or a person with autism, what happens is that they become invisible. Disability is represented by the articulate person in a wheelchair, the media get comment from the blind person who wears a suit. The come to represent all people with disability and other groups become invisible. This is not to say that people in wheelchairs or suits do not have a role or right to speak but that right only extends to their experience as a person who uses a wheelchair or who is blind. A person with Down Syndrome, for example, has a right to speak on their own behalf about their life experiences.

The language of rights is different to the language of the medical or the social. Discrimination is experienced in the real lives of people. The experience of discrimination is personal and can only really be shared by people who have the same expectations, perceptions placed on them by others. Discrimination can not be defined or explained by medical terminology or broad social references only by the language of lived experience. As a community it is our responsibility to listen.

The use of old medical and social language will not be easily replaced. Just as there was not an acceptance of the change from medical identities to social identity the assertion of a right to define my own identity will be resisted by those who are unable to accept that people with disability have a unique voice or who will be unable to reliquish the power that comes with controlling the identities of others.

Just as homosexuality is no longer defined as a mental illness people with disability must not be defined as ‘diagnostic’ groups; just as all people with a different sexual orientation are not longer defined as being part of a generic homosexual/gay group but as as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transexual, people with disability must be defined by their lived experience as a person who is blind, as a person who uses a wheelchair, as a person living with intellectual disability. (1)

It may be convenient for the media and governments to see people with many disabilities as a homogenous group (or to narrow them down into acceptable social groups) but this is not their decision to make and we must give all peoples the right to define ourselves and who we identify with. How we measure the distance we ‘fall from the tree’ and who we ‘fall with’ is up to us to identify with.

Footnote:

(1)  the analogy of race could also be used, from immigrant, to ethnic, to Greek-Australian; as the lived experience of different groups is not identical. There will be some similarities but there will also be differences and within a rights framework these must be acknowledged.

Mark Pattison

Executive Director

Inclusion International

Editorial from Interaction Volume 24 Issue 4 – subscribe

Real Businesses Pay Real Wages

Real Businesses Pay Real Wages – Wake Up! It’s a reality!

A response to Minister Mitch Fifield

Minister Fifield said in his article, Idealism threatens jobs for the disabled, that “accusations that ADEs exploit people with disability is unfair”.

The Federal and High Courts of Australia ruled that 10,000 employees with intellectual disability were disadvantaged by the use of the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT). What is unfair is the Commonwealth’s refusal to accept responsibility for this unfairness and pay fair compensation.

  • There are some ADEs that do pay employees with intellectual disability fair wages based on the Supported Wages System (SWS), and are not exploiting people with disability. 
  • There are employers in the open labour market that employ people with intellectual disability and pay full award wages or wages based on the SWS.
  • Fair wages for people with intellectual disability is a right and a reality. Disability discrimination is unlawful.
  • If some ADEs can pay fair wages based on the SWS and be viable, why can not all ADEs pay fair wages?
  • What is it about the ‘business structure’ of ADEs that they are unable or unwilling to pay fair wages?
  • If there are ADEs paying employees a fair wage using the SWS, why is there a need to develop a new system?

These are the questions that Minister Fifield fails to address in his article.

The application to the AHRC for an exemption to continue to use the unlawful BSWAT was made by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth held consultations with people with disabilities, ADEs, and the advocacy sector. The AHRC also provided several months for people to provide submissions.

When the Australian Human Rights Commission asked for evidence that its decision would make ADEs unviable the AHRC reported that the evidence provided was limited and anecdotal. They made a reasonable determination that the Commonwealth and ADEs should change within a year.

Minister Andrews says that people with disability with capacity should work and reduce their dependence on the Disability Support Pension (DSP). Yet Minister Fifield says that we should see the pension as compensation for work.  Does this mean that the Minister is promoting ADEs as a “work for the pension” scheme? Is not dignity in work all about being paid fairly for work done? How can work be dignified if you are being discriminated?

There are people with disability in ADEs getting real wages, getting a reduced DSP, paying tax and accruing superannuation.

There are people with significant intellectual disability working in open employment on real wages, getting a reduced DSP, paying tax and accruing superannuation.

Minister Fifield,  not for the first time states, “there will always be some people with disability who won’t be able to participate in the open workforce”, and yet he also states, “we must stop limiting people by placing low expectations on them”.

The evidence is very clear that people with significant disability intellectual disability can work in jobs that pay real wages. Statements that place low expectations on the work outcomes for people with intellectual disability are discriminatory and at odds with the aims of Government policy and the NDIS.

The Coalition Government’s “commitment to increasing employment for people with disability in the open workforce” is fine rhetoric but where is the action? Inclusion Australia has set out a detailed submission to the Commonwealth government, based on current Australian best practice, on how to build such a system of support. We know what helps to get people with significant disability into the open workforce. Why is the Commonwealth not contracting for best practice?

Inclusion Australia wants the discrimination to stop (we do not want ADEs to close). We have a fair wage assessment tool in the SWS. We have also proposed that the Commonwealth fund ADEs to assist in making the transition to fair award wages using the SWS. Where transformation is not possible Minister Fifield must support ADEs to become community participation programs and work with real businesses to ensure that individuals with significant disability have real employment support options in the future.

Mark Pattison

Executive Director, Inclusion Australia

mark.pattison@inclusionaustralia.org.au

0407 406 647