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21 Changes in the area of disability

In the last 21 years there have been many changes in the area of disability. I’m sure most of you would argue that we need to see greater change and faster but when I thought back over the changes we’ve seen I was impressed. When things aren’t good it is easy to forget how far we have come in recent years. I look forward to seeing even greater change in the next 21 years. I’m sure there are many I haven’t thought of or some I don’t even know about. I’d love you to share them in comments below or over on Facebook.

1.       Technology

21 changes in the disability sector
BJ with his iPad

Ipads and tablets have been a game-changer for so many people with additional needs. It is amazing to see a mainstream device providing a tool for learning and communication.

There have been many advances including the availability of eye-gaze technology allowing someone to use their eyes to communicate.

2.       Terminology

Thankfully many terms to describe a person living with a disability have been ditched. I still regularly hear “wheelchair-bound” used in the media and hate it. In our time special needs has been replaced by additional needs and there have been campaigns to get rid of the ‘R’ word in society. I still hear people using the word spaz but far less frequently than when I was growing up.

3.       Thoughts on mobility

21 changes in the disability sector
The Whizzbug power chair for little ones

Kids are now encouraged into power chairs so much earlier. It is amazing to see such little ones able to keep up with their peers. It must avoid so much frustration.

4.       Options

21 changes in the disability sector
Options galore

When I go to equipment exhibitions I am overwhelmed by the options on display. There is far more available in the market. Some things are still so niche they are super expensive but it’s so nice to see choice.

5.       Recreation

21 changes in the area of disability
TrailRider for bushwalking

Equipment is no longer just built for function. There are many pieces of equipment aimed at giving wheelchair users and those with mobility restrictions access to recreational pursuits. Beach wheelchairs, TrailRiders and motorised vehicles all contribute to people being able to get out and enjoy life.

6.       Awareness

21 changes in the area of disability
Taking BJ’s wheelchair to the aircraft door

We have found when travelling there is more of an awareness from airline staff as to what we need. We used to feel we were educating check-in staff each time we booked in for a flight about needing to take BJ’s wheelchair to the gate. Now we find they don’t even question it.

7.       Funding

In the time we’ve been in the system funding has changed, with the biggest one yet to be fully rolled out. We are yet to access the NDIS but it is definitely the greatest change people with a disability have ever seen in Australia. The one thing that doesn’t seem to change is the fact that there is never enough funding to go around.

 8.       Look of equipment

21 changes in the disability
One of our FB friend’s wheelchair – art from Mogo Wheelchairs

Equipment is no longer basic, fancy paintwork, optional extras like patterned wheel guards, all make it easier for people to reflect a bit of their personality through their choices.

9.       The Liberty Swing

21 changes in the area of disability
Liberty Swing fun

I remember seeing the man who invented the wheelchair swing on an inventor’s program. He explained he had been at a park and seen a little girl in her wheelchair watching the other children play. He thought it was sad she couldn’t join in and went about designing a wheelchair accessible swing. He made numerous prototypes before the end result was the Liberty Swing. I realise that the Liberty Swing isn’t popular with everyone because some say it isn’t inclusive. I argue that for children who cannot get out of a wheelchair it is sometimes the only piece of equipment they can play on at a playground. I also don’t think anything replaces the exhilaration of swinging.

10.       Accessible and inclusive playgrounds

21 changes in the area of disability
Accessible playground fun at Livvi’s Place Ryde

How wonderful it has been to see the accessible and inclusive playgrounds pop up around the world. Playing side-by-side with other children is something no child should be denied. Not being able to play at the park also has a knock-on effect for siblings and parents when it comes to meeting friends and family at the park.

11.       Larger toilets on A380

21 changes to the area of disability
Toilet on Qantas A380

Flying and wheelchair accessible toilets are still a major issue. We were pleased to see there has been some progress with larger toilets on the A380 aircraft but I acknowledge we have a long way to go in this regard. You can read more about this here.

12.       Looking to parents for feedback

We’ve noticed a change in therapists and doctors who now seem to look to parents for input and guidance at times. It won’t surprise those that know me and those who have been following along for a while to know that I like having a say in things!

13.       Sign language on news and at shows

When there is a disaster or emergency I love that on news programmes there is someone relaying the news in sign language. I’ve also been to several live shows where there is someone signing for the comedian.

14.       Public transport

21 changes in the area of disability
Assistance on transport

When BJ was little the public buses weren’t wheelchair accessible and the majority of rail stations were only had stairs. We also find staff are helpful and aware of passengers using a wheelchair.

15. No longer so ‘functional’ in approach

21 things that have changed in the area of disability
No longer simply functional

I remember the day I first walked into the Cerebral Palsy Alliance office (then known as the Spastic Centre) and I was horrified. Equipment lined the hallways and it was not pretty stuff, it was equipment that came with straps and things I’d never imagined for my baby. Everything was very beige. Although BJ had fun in the therapy room it was all very functional. Even when he was first going to the holiday program the house was very bland. There was nothing wrong with it but it didn’t scream fun! Now the Cerebral Palsy Alliance is light and bright, colour on the walls, a playground outside and a totally different feel. The same with the holiday program house which is where BJ goes for respite. It makes such a difference.

16. What’s in a name?

I remember a group of us young Mums being asked to give our feed back as to what could change to make services better. Top of our list was to change the name of the Spastic Centre. We were told that other organisations had lost a lot of money in donations through a name change and it wasn’t likely to happen. Thankfully over time the thinking changed and we saw the Spastic Centre change to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. I had a personal issue with the name The Spastic Centre because it didn’t encompass BJ’s type of cerebral palsy. You see BJ has no spasticity. He has athetoid cerebral palsy and of course people would assume he had spasticity because he was attending the Spastic Centre. Family and friends were already confused and this just added to my explanations.


17. Mainstream media

21 Changes in the area of disability.
Current issue of Out & About with Kids magazine

Seeing information regarding accessible tourism in mainstream magazines used to be non-existent. There’s a long way to go in this regard but I’m thrilled that through this website I’ve had some success. In the current Out & About with Kids magazine I’ve written a story on an accessible holiday to Canberra. It is great to see photos and information in a mainstream publication. We just need more to follow this example. Fingers crossed.

18. Young people out of nursing homes

I remember years ago seeing a few news stories about young people with a disability being in aged cared facilities. It was horrifying to see and something I’d never thought about. Thank goodness for Youngcare and their work to allow young people with disabilities to be with other young people in a more appropriate setting. I’m sure this is still happening around the world but hopefully this will continue to change and eventually no longer be a problem.

19. One size doesn’t fit all

21 changes in the area of disability.
Three beach wheelchair options and beach matting at Avoca Beach

When we visit hotels and attractions we try and explain the differing needs of people with a disability. We have certainly had our eyes opened to the varying needs through the comments people share on our Facebook page.  It is great to see that people are recognising that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to disability needs. We were thrilled to visit Avoca Beach and see three different kinds of beach wheelchair on offer, plus beach matting. This project was led by an Occupational Therapist and it shows that we need people in the know implementing change.

20. Accessible stand-alone rest rooms

21 Changes in the area of disability
Accessible bathrooms

Accessible bathrooms have changed for the better. There are more stand-alone bathrooms which means that if a partner or carer needs to help a wheelchair user there is no need for the embarrassment of going into the male or female bathroom. Press button entry and auto flushing all make these bathrooms more accessible.

21. Car options

21 changes in the area of disability
Car modifications

We’ve seen a change in the variety of accessible vehicles on the market and we were impressed with all the models that were shared by our readers in this blog. There’s also been advances with the wheelchair lock-down system in cars and vans. It is great to see auto-lock saving people from repeatedly bending over to tie down the wheelchair.

So, that’s my list of 21 changes in the area of disability. What have I missed? Is there something that has changed, that has made life easier or better, that you’d like to share?



4 thoughts on “21 Changes in the area of disability”

  1. I love your attitude Julie – that things can improve but are getting better. it is my impression too and I get tired out by the “disability nazis” who cannot see the upside.

    I am excited by the A380 toilets – maybe Ros and I will fly again somewhere.

    Thank you for flying the flag.

    Do you have recent contact with Christina?

    • Hi David,

      I think there are plenty of people happy to share the negative stuff. I really like sharing the good bits and there are good bits.

      Yes, A380 is an improvement but we need more in regards to air travel.

      I’ve emailed regarding Christina.


  2. The use of general terminology. Parts of society (particularly teachers) are learning better terminology. I think a parents we could also learn better ways to talk about disabilities.
    Special needs, additional needs, needing additional support
    Suffers a disability, lives with a disability, manages a disability
    Special school, school in a different setting
    Disabled child, Child with a disability, Child with a diagnosis (this works really well in a formal school setting)
    Person with a disability, person Who has …

    I’m sure there are heaps more I haven’t come across.


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