Improve inclusivity and think outside the chair

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  • Invisible disability campaign graphic symbols depicting people with unseen disabilities
Tuesday, 16 August 2022

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We have joined the ‘Think Outside the Chair’ movement with a pilot awareness campaign to challenge community perceptions and change attitudes and behaviours towards people with invisible disabilities (also known as hidden disabilities).

Invisible disabilities may not be immediately apparent. People with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments and each have specific needs. Accessible public toilets and car spaces are not exclusive for those with only seen disabilities or impaired mobility. 

In Australia, 90 percent of the 4.4 million people with disabilities are living with an invisible disability. Unfortunately, those living with hidden disabilities can experience confrontation and abuse from uninformed people when using accessible toilets or car spaces – because their disabilities may not be obvious.

We all have a part to play in creating a truly inclusive and accessible community for people living with disabilities. Of the highest importance is in our attitudes and behaviours.    

By increasing community awareness of invisible disabilities, we hope to bring necessary change to behaviours and attitudes to improve inclusion and respect.

Some ways we can help improve inclusivity for people with invisible disabilities:

  • Whilst it is illegal to park in an accessible parking space without a permit, please remember that not all disabilities are visible. As long as their permit is clearly displayed and the vehicle is transporting the eligible cardholder, these drivers can park in these spaces and don’t need to explain their disability to the public*.
  • There are many reasons why someone who doesn’t ‘look like they have a disability‘ might need to use an accessible toilet.  Be considerate and kind! Whilst it’s not illegal to use an accessible toilet if you don’t have a disability and don’t need to use one, please leave them free for those who do.
  • Share the message and join the discussion! Repost the campaign image from our social media posts and help the Coast become more inclusive. #thinkoutsidethechair

*In NSW, a mobility parking permit allows a driver to park in spaces showing the international symbol of access for people with disability. The vehicle needs to be transporting the eligible cardholder and displaying the permit correctly. For more information, go to the NSW Government website, nsw.gov.au.

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Video: Think Outside the Chair (carspaces)

 

 

 

 

Video: Think Outside the Chair (toilets)

 

 

The Central Coast is home to a diverse and growing community, and Council is committed to continuous improvement of accessibility, inclusivity, and liveability within the local community.  A key strategy of Council’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan is to promote positive and contemporary attitudes and behaviour towards people with a disability, which in turn will result in inclusive actions. This project delivers on this action and seeks to improve positive outcomes for people with a disability so they can fully participate in day-to-day community life and feel welcome.

As part of raising awareness in this pilot project, campaign signage will be installed at Westfield Tuggerah, and in public toilets and community facilities across the Central Coast.  
Council will consider rolling out the campaign to other locations in 2022-23 following evaluation of the campaign.  

To read Council’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2021-2025 and for more information on how Council is helping to improve accessibility and inclusion for those with a disability go to Council’s website, centralcoast.nsw.gov.au

About the 'Think Outside the Chair' movement

#thinkoutsidethechair is a collaborative movement and campaign designed to challenge and change the current thinking around disabilities. This initiative seeks to inform, engage and educate to see all Australians live harmoniously in communities that celebrate inclusion and diversity in an effort to see beyond the chair because Not All Disabilities Are Visible.

The campaign concept was created by Marni Walkerden in partnership with SOMO Society, Ability Links and Fairhaven, on the Central Coast. 

Join the Movement – see how you can get involved here.
thinkoutsidethechair.com.au

Marni’s Story  

Marni Walkerden lives on the Central Coast and is passionate about raising awareness about invisible disability, so that the community can be an inclusive and accessible community for all. 

Marni is someone living with an invisible disability and is determined to raise awareness so that people have important conversations to help break down the public’s perception of what a 'disability' means and looks like.

Both professionally and personally, Marni has met many people living with an invisible disability who have been harassed while parking in an accessible space, even though they have a valid parking permit.

She hopes that by raising awareness of invisible disabilities, all people living with one, will feel that they are valued members of their community and be able to participate. It's not just about the Accessible parking or toilet it is about an acceptance and understanding.

Marni Walkerden was motivated to make a change, following repeated questioning about her use of accessible car spaces.

"I got out of the car a few times and had strange looks from people,” Ms Walkerden said.

"People were saying 'you're not in a wheelchair, why are you parking there?', even though my permit was displayed on the windscreen. At times people have sworn at me and called me names when I politely asked them to move their truck out of a mobility space that they were using as a loading zone.”

Marni sees herself as a resilient person, though this was tough to deal with. Some people are not as resilient, and that type of abuse can affect a person’s ability to access the community or shopping centres causing them to become isolated.  

The more conversations Marni had with other people living with invisible disabilities, the more she realised that her experience with abuse and harassment while parking was very common. 

The Think Outside the Chair campaign concept was created by Marni in Partnership with SOMO Society, Ability Links and Fairhaven here on the Central Coast. The campaign encourages all of us to remember that everything is not as it seems.

"We need to encourage and support people, and be a compassionate and caring community."

FAQs

Why is Council running this campaign?

Council has joined the ‘think outside the chair’ movement with a pilot awareness campaign to challenge community perceptions and change attitudes and behaviours towards people with invisible disabilities (also known as hidden disabilities).

A key strategy of Council’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP) is to promote positive and contemporary attitudes and behaviour towards people with a disability, which in turn will result in inclusive actions.  

The campaign specifically delivers on an action (AB1.1) from the DIAP– to deliver an annual campaign to educate the community. The focus area explicitly mentions 'invisible disabilities' with the view to increase respectful behaviours and inclusive practices around the use of accessible parking spaces and public toilets. 

In addition to the qualitative findings that arose during consultation for the DIAP, Council's Community Education Team consulted with the Access and Inclusion Reference Group and solicited feedback from the Sector.  Some of the learning was that people who have an invisible disability often face discrimination, confrontation and sometimes abuse from the broader public when they use accessible toilets or car spaces.

This program is a pilot to see if we can challenge people’s assumptions about actual lived experience, and educate people who might see people with a disability as a homogenous group.  


Who long will this campaign run for?

The pilot awareness campaign will be active for 6 months and be evaluated by December 2022. During this time Council’s Community Education Team will record the ongoing feedback and yours will be included in the report. Once this has been achieved, Council will explore closing the loop with the AIRG and invite discussions for Phase 2.

Council will consider rolling out the campaign to other locations in 2022-23 following evaluation of the campaign.  


How did you come up with the figure: 90% of people living with disability have invisible disability?

Millions of Australians live with a disability. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020, 90% of the 4.4 million people with disabilities in Australia are living with an invisible disability.
Furthermore, 4.4% of people with a disability in Australia use a wheelchair.  (Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016, 4430.0. Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers 2015, viewed 4 April 2022.)

It was important to highlight the large percentage of people who live with a disability that can’t always be seen. This assists council to raise awareness of invisible disability and to promote positive and contemporary attitudes and behaviour towards people with a disability, which in turn will result in inclusive actions.

Consultation with the members of the Access and Inclusion Reference Group (AIRG), resulted in the figure be represented as a percentage. 

Invisible disability campaign

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Last updated : Tue 16 Aug 2022