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Over the last four years, thousands of people with disability and their allies have shared their experiences with the Disability Royal Commission (DRC).
These are now part of the DRC’s Final Report, along with 222 recommendations to be put forward to the Federal government.
For me, and many other support workers, there are many key learnings from this report.
This article will explore the themes that resonated deeply with me, and that I feel we can all learn from going forward.
Human rights awareness
The call for a Disability Rights Act one of the most important recommendations to come out from the report.
The Act would ensure that disability rights are upheld through the law, and that instances of rights being breached can be investigated.
This recommendation came in response to reports of breaches of human rights of people with disability, as well as more awareness in the broader community.
As a person who does not live with disability, I have learnt the importance of these issues through people with disability in my life.
Something I believe can help is to be aware of our obligations in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disability.
This is the basis for many of the recommendations made in the Final Report.
In taking the time to understand the rights that people with disabilities deserve, we can ensure we are always acting in line with these.
We can pass on this information with people we work with as they share their experiences with us.
Increased awareness also means we can identify when there are situations that do not match these obligations.
We can seek support to stand up against inappropriate behaviour when we witness it.
Inclusion starts with all of us
One of the most prominent issues raised through the recommendations has been the need for a more inclusive society across all settings — education, employment, housing and more.
A key learning from the report is how we all have a part to play in creating a more inclusive society, especially as support workers and allies to the disability community.
One way we can promote inclusion is by being aware of ableism and taking steps to prevent it.
According to the Disability Royal Commission report’s Executive Summary, ableism describes attitudes that drive harmful or discriminatory behaviour toward people with disability.
Some examples of these attitudes include seeing people with disability as lesser than people without disability, seeing them as unable to exercise choice and control, and as a burden on society.
These views can lead to discriminatory treatment, abuse, and exploitation in all kinds of settings, including between participant and support worker.
It is important that as support workers, we pay attention to how inclusive we are. How do we act, what language do we use, how do we treat the people we work with?
This article by Cara Liebowitz, a writer with a physical disability, explores ways we can avoid ableism in our day-to-day lives.
Nothing about us without us
For a long time, people have made decisions for the disability community, instead of with them.
Even with the best of intentions, as support workers, we can sometimes think we have a solution, or think we know what’s better for the person.
We might want to step in when people are taking the same reasonable risks that we have learnt from ourselves.
This can result in ‘doing things for’, instead of ‘doing things with’ the people we support.
The recommendations can teach us that it is our responsibility to take the lead of the person. This means making sure we consider their choice.
And remember that they are the experts of their own experiences, and their lives.
I believe that as support workers, we owe it to the disability community to take onboard the facts from the Final Report.
The Disability Royal Commission demonstrated that people with disabilities are best placed to decide what they need, and what should be changed.
I hope that this article can help us as support workers to stand with the disability community as their journey towards equality continues.
Above all else, we must bear in mind how harrowing this experience must have been for people with disability and their families. And so, it’s really important to be respectful and sensitive when speaking to them about the Royal Commission or anything related to it.
About the author
Sash (she/her) is a queer identifying social worker with a background in social work. She is passionate about supporting people experiencing complex mental health issues and using her lived experience to support people from the LGBTQIA+ community.