What is disability?
When a person lives with disability it does not completely or wholly define who they are. Disability is a natural and ordinary part of human diversity and people living with disability live full lives with interests, desires and dreams — just like anyone living without disability.
Sadly though, what it means to live with disability is often misunderstood by the general public.
Through the implementation of the Disability Inclusion Act 2018 (SA), the South Australian Government is shifting the narrative:
“… movement from viewing persons with disabilities as ‘objects’ of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as ‘subjects’ with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.” — United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Disability, in relation to a person, includes long-term physical, psychosocial, intellectual, cognitive, neurological, or sensory impairment, or a combination of any of these impairments, which in interaction with various barriers may hinder the person’s full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others (Disability Inclusion Act 2018 (SA)).
People with disability are diverse and many disabilities are not always visible or apparent. Some people live with a wide range of disabilities while others have one disability. Some people live with disability from birth, while other disabilities may develop later or are associated with ageing.
People with disability are not responsible for the limitations imposed on them by outside forces. Social change is needed to provide equality, inclusion and justice for people with disability.
This is done by removing barriers arising from:
- the physical environment
- law, regulations and policy.
Intersectionality of inclusion
As Inclusive SA has evolved, the intersectionality between a person’s disability and other forms of structural discrimination has become clearer. Intersectionality is about recognising that people living with disability are diverse and may belong to different population groups and may therefore be subject to overlapping disadvantage or discrimination. This includes the priority cohorts identified below, but also other groups such as people with disability who identify as LGBTIQA+, are older and/or who are living regionally and remotely.
Ensuring South Australia has genuine access and inclusion for people with disability, State Government agencies and local councils must design policies, programs and services with diverse groups in mind. The Disability Inclusion Act 2018 (SA) specifies that priority groups need to be acknowledged and considered when working with people living with disability. These groups (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, women and children) are highlighted as having significant overlapping barriers to access and inclusion.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability have a right to respect as the first people of Australia and acknowledgement of their unique history, culture and kinship relationships and connection to their traditional land and waters.
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability face multiple disadvantages.
People from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander backgrounds may have a very different understanding or concept of what it means to live with disability and disability in general.
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities
Culture, language, and other differences create barriers to providing supports and services to people with disability from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Cultural perceptions of what it means to live with disability influence understanding and attitudes towards people with disability within diverse communities.
As an example, within some communities, cultural understandings of disability invoke a stigma that can increase barriers to full and equal participation of people with disability in their community.
Many women with disability face multiple disadvantages and on average, experience higher rates of abuse and exploitation than women without disability.
The invisibility of women with disabilities in the workforce and lack of empowerment and capacity development of women with disabilities in leadership positions and/or participation in decision-making creates an ongoing barrier to respecting their valuable contributions to society.
Children with disability have the right to a full life in conditions that ensures the child’s dignity, promotes self-reliance and facilitates the child’s active and full participation in family, cultural and social life. The voice of children and young people is of significant importance when developing programs and initiatives that relate to young people.
Children with disability are more vulnerable to risk or abuse and exploitation and have a higher rate of entering the youth justice system.
The developmental needs of children with disability must be considered, with particular focus on critical periods in their childhood and adolescence.