Where once they were physically segregated many Australians with disabilities

Where once they were physically segregated many

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Where once they were physically segregated, many Australians with disabilities now find themselves socially, culturally and politically isolated. They are ignored, invisible and silent. They struggle to be noticed, they struggle to be seen, they struggle to have their voices heard. What you will read in this report is their attempt to break down the walls of silence and finally have their
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story told. In late 2008, the Australian Government released a discussion paper asking the community to respond to a series of questions about their experience of disability (see Appendix A). The consultations were intended to inform the development of a National Disability Strategy. Reflecting the Australian Government’s commitment to social inclusion, the aim of the National Disability Strategy is to ensure that people with disabilities have the opportunity to fully participate in the economic, social and cultural life of the nation. Developed by the Commonwealth in partnership with state and territory governments, the National Disability Strategy offers an unprecedented opportunity to articulate a clear vision and to marshal resources towards the achievement of common goals. It will galvanise and direct coordinated action between all levels of government to close the gap between the lived experience of people with disabilities and the rest of the Australian community. More than 750 submissions were received in response to the discussion paper, more than half of which were from individuals and the remainder from a range of organisations (see Appendix B). This overwhelming response from ordinary Australians, so often excluded from the process of policy development, is an important indication of the depth of feeling among people with disabilities and their families, friends and carers. They have long called for change. Now they want to see it. More than 2,500 people also attended consultations in capital cities in every state and territory of Australia, as well as in regional and remote areas (see Appendix C). These sometimes fiery, often sad and occasionally funny meetings provided unique insight into the day-to-day struggles of Australians with disabilities. All direct quotes in this report are drawn from the submissions and material obtained during the consultation process. In some cases identifying information has been removed to ensure anonymity, but otherwise all quotes preserve the original words of the writer or speaker. While the issues raised were many and varied, a clear picture emerged from the consultations and submissions. People with disabilities may be present in the community but most do not enjoy full participation in it. Discrimination and exclusion are frustrating features of daily life. People in wheelchairs cannot access the public facilities taken for granted by others in the community, such as playgrounds, swimming pools, cinemas, restaurants, hotels and cafes. Children with disabilities find themselves excluded from local kindergartens and schools. Qualified and competent candidates for jobs are rejected because of their disability. People with mobility aids have difficulty regularly accessing
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