Ashlee enjoys exploring cafes and restaurants in her city. But often, either accessibility would be a challenge, or she couldn’t find information on accessibility about a place.
That’s when she decided to start her passion project, Access with Ash, her Instagram account.
Support for the things Ashlee loves
Ashlee explains, “I use Instagram to share helpful information with other people who have access needs. There’s such a big gap in the information that’s out there.”
On it, she posts regular photo and video reviews of accessible hospitality venues.
She adds, “So many people do café and restaurant reviews but that was never my biggest concern. I need to know if I can get in the front door and whether there’s an accessible toilet.”
Getting support for everyday life
Getting inside a venue is just one element involved in going out. Ashlee also needs transportation to the gym, work, and the shops.
Her team of support workers provides that assistance. “I try to keep as active as possible,” Ashlee says. “I have a condition where keeping your body moving is really important. I do hydrotherapy, physio, pilates, physical therapy and PT. My support workers fold my scooter and put it in the car, drive me to where I need to go and then bring me home again.”
One of Ashlee’s support workers is a personal trainer who helps her get on and off the equipment. When Ashlee works from home, her support worker drops her to the gym.
“I can’t just jump in the car when I want to and do things spontaneously,” she says. “Everything has to be planned, so I have to book support workers in advance. But the great thing is, I can book ahead, and I can do things independently, with their help. Before, my mum and my sister would have to help me, but now I can make arrangements for myself.”
Aside from her job, Ashlee works in Client Support for Able Foods, an NDIS-approved ready-meal provider. She also has a small floristry business with her mother. The big love of her life is AFL, particularly the Western Bulldogs.
While family provides support at the games, Ash’s Mable support workers help her maintain her own independence in other aspects of daily life.
Finding independence with Mable
Ash struggled a lot with her first NDIS plan because she didn’t know where to get the support.
She found support worker agencies too inflexible. “At first, I only needed support for an hour or two at a time. They wouldn’t take me on because they needed a minimum 3-hour shift.”
About a year into her plan, she discovered Mable. “When I found Mable, I thought ‘how did I not know about this’?”
Today, Ash has a team of support workers on Mable, one of whom has been there for more than 4 years.
“Mable has been wonderful for me. I’ve found people I really get along with and who know me now and know what kind of support I need.”
People with disability need the same opportunities
Being able to access the community and even the workplace is something that Ash believes has a long way to go. “I’d like for people with disability to have the same opportunities as people with a disability.”
She adds, “Statistics are still pretty low on people with disability being employed. The one place where I feel super-independent is at work. I only ever really feel like my disability impacts me when places I want to go are not accessible.”
Ash says the community needs to pay more attention to people with disability. “They need to be more aware of what we can achieve. People who don’t have a person with disability in their life often have pre-conceived ideas about what we can achieve.”
Ashlee adds, “I’m actually the same as everyone else. I just need more help in getting around.”