People with Disability

People with Disability

(Private Members Statement, 22 June 2023, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

I too congratulate you, Madam Temporary Speaker, on your engagement. Marriage is a wonderful thing. I also congratulate you on your appointment to the Speaker's chair. I commend the Speaker for that appointment. A fair and dynamic society ensures that everyone can participate in all aspects of community and economy and can live as they choose. Inclusion is sanctioned in national law, but New South Wales is a long way from meeting obligations to ensure that people with disability can live and contribute to their full potential.

People with disability should be able to live independently with who they want, safe from violence, abuse and neglect. But people with disability are struggling to secure appropriate housing. They are disproportionately affected by the rental housing crisis because they have few options and can suffer discrimination. I am increasingly hearing from tenants with disability who are facing a rent increase and are unable to find a new accessible and affordable home near their supports and services. Without an adequate social and affordable housing safety net, people with disability are being pushed into insecure, unsafe and undesirable living situations.

We must build 5,000 new social and affordable homes each year for the next 10 years, with every new build being accessible, to meet demand. We need a program to retrofit existing social and affordable housing to improve options for people with disability. Even those with means struggle to find an accessible home because accessible housing stock is so low. The problem is so bad that people with disability often cannot even visit friends and family because they cannot access their homes, yet the State is not changing the way it builds homes. Unlike other States, New South Wales has not adopted the 2022 National Construction Code silver-level accessibility standards, despite it costing 22 times more to retrofit an accessible home. It is time that the State moved forward.

The Disability Royal Commission found shocking prevalence of violence, neglect and abuse of people with disability in group homes. We must improve oversight and independent monitoring of group homes, aged‑care homes and mental health facilities with increased coverage and visits under the Official Community Visitors scheme. Everyone should have the opportunity to obtain well-remunerated and meaningful employment. Ableism in the workplace and segregating people with disability for lower paid work is not only unfair but thwarts innovation and cuts productivity. People with disability have significant job opportunities in the public service, and I welcome the new Government's promise to fulfil unmet past commitments of 5.6 per cent public sector disability employment. People with different disabilities must be included and people with intellectual disability should make up at least 1 per cent of those roles.

Similarly, all children deserve high-quality inclusive education to set them up to participate in employment and the community. The focus must be on support and resources, over exclusion and segregation, and I acknowledge that the Government has promised investment in new resources. We need a road map to achieve inclusion and a work transition pilot project to help children with disability enter the workforce. The education system needs policies to keep students who miss school for extended periods due to illness or treatment connected with their classrooms.

People with disability struggle to get to education, work, appointments and social events. Deregulation of point-to-point transport has taken accessible taxis off the market without replacement, forcing customers to wait hours. We urgently need to resolve the matter to provide a modern and reliable 24/7 taxi option for people with disability. Our public transport system fails to meet the 2002 transport standards, which were due by 31 December 2022. The standards are now out of date. We must deliver on commitments to upgrade all railway stations, and we must train transport staff members in disability support. Transport inclusion must extend to cognitive accessibility. People with cognitive disability face significant challenges to accessing timetable information, wayfinding, and buying and topping up tickets. There will always be people who cannot use digital systems, and we cannot leave them behind.

Accessing government information and applications has become increasingly complicated. People now need various usernames, passwords, PINs, security questions, multi-factor authentication, separate accounts and downloaded apps. Access is challenging for older people who have not grown up with computers, and the complexity of processes and steps also presents challenges for people with cognitive impairments. Alternative options to digital communication and applications must aways be available.

The starting point is to establish an inclusive communications plan for people with disability in collaboration with people with lived experience. People with intellectual disability should be permitted to make decisions about their lives for themselves, and I support a transition away from the State guardianship model to one of supported decision-making with substituted decision-making as a last resort, as recommended by the Law Reform Commission. Inclusive communities are socially and economically healthy. We need to move forward with our obligations to ensure that people with disability have real opportunities and choices in life. I welcome the new Government's promises so far and call for inclusion to be a priority. I thank my constituent Yasmina Bonnet for encouraging me to deliver this private member's statement.

Let's work together to celebrate and protect our great city!