It’s exciting to finally announce that Braeden and I are joint ambassadors for International Day of People with Disability 2022. We’ve known for a while, but we had to keep it under wraps until today’s official announcement. So, it’s lovely to finally be able to share it with you all. The United Nations recently announced the theme. If you haven’t heard, this year’s theme is, “Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world.” We share the honour with several other amazing disability advocates including, Akii Ngo, Nathan Bash, Chloe Hayden, Uncle Wilfred Prince and Eliza Hull. You can read about the achievements and work of our fellow ambassadors on the International Day of People with Disability website.
I’ll be sharing another blog post soon about behind-the-scenes and how the fabulous team organising the video shoot ensured Braeden was involved in a meaningful manner.
International Day of People with Disability 2022 ambassadors
I’ve always enthusiastically promoted International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) so I’m proud Braeden and I can contribute in a small way as ambassadors this year. I know there is a day for just about everything so it’s easy to underestimate the impact such a day can have, but I’ve always used International Day of People with Disability as a time to start a chat about accessibility and inclusion. In the lead up to IDPwD I always encourage the tourism industry to highlight the accessible and inclusive facilities or opportunities they have, or offer. I have to admit that I’m always trying to open up conversations with the industry so that’s nothing new, but having a day focused on people with a disability seems to make the industry take action. I talk about the importance of imagery of real people with a disability being used in campaigns, I also encourage the industry to share posts on Facebook, Instagram or on their websites about what they have to offer in terms of access and inclusion. December 3 is a great time for businesses to reach out to the community and let them know that they are welcoming to people of all abilities. And before you say it, I know, we want this to happen every single week. Inclusion means that we incorporate this messaging every day, but my hope is that if a business sees how easy it is to be inclusive, that it will become an integral part of what they do.
What you can do for International Day of People with Disability
If you’re a business reading this post, whether in the tourism sector, or a local business serving the community in another way, I urge you to share your accessible or inclusive offerings. If you are the friend of someone who cares for a loved one with a disability, be on the lookout for accessible facilities you can share with that friend. I love it when our friends tag me in posts about something being offered in Sydney that might suit Braeden.
Innovations we like – International Day of People with Disability 2022
Innovation comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s an idea, sometimes it’s the development of a piece of equipment and sometimes it’s parents and caregivers thinking outside the box to find a solution because nothing is commercially available to solve their problem. Thank goodness there are so many innovative people in this world constantly ensuring that the options available to people with a disability are evolving, improving and allowing for greater inclusion. Do we need more? Yes! And that’s exactly why we need International Day of People with Disability to celebrate what is available, highlight what’s needed to make the world more accessible and inclusive and encourage the community to step up and assist.
Here’s a few things we think are innovative and are improving the lives of people living with disability.
A friend recently tagged me in a post that announced that Westfield will have Santas who will be fluent in Auslan and be offering meet and greets with sign language. How awesome is that! It’s wonderful to see Westfield looking to increase the inclusivity of visiting Santa.
For someone who needs a pool hoist to access a local pool or a hotel’s facilities, knowing that this facility is available is a game-changer. Access is suddenly made possible.
Eagle Passenger Lifter
Airline travel is also tricky for someone needing assistance from their wheelchair to a seat. An Eagle Passenger Lifter being available at the airport might be the difference between being able to travel and not.
Changing Places Bathroom
Changing Places Bathrooms are popping up around Australia in greater numbers than I could have ever hoped for. A bathroom facility with a hoist and adult-size change table allows people who need a hoisted transfer from a wheelchair to a toilet greater ease to use the bathroom when out and about. For people needing to change an older child, teen or adult the Changing Places Bathrooms provide dignity and comfort. Prior to their implementation, and even now when there isn’t a suitable facility available, people are changing their loved ones in the back of a car/van, on public bathroom floors or leaving an event or attraction just because there is no facility availability to suit their needs.
The Liberty Swing is a world-first Australian innovation that was developed by a man who saw a young child in a wheelchair unable to join in at the playground. He wanted to build something that would solve that problem and it was the first piece of accessible playground equipment we could use with Braeden. Although it is somewhat controversial now because of the fencing necessary to keep kids from running in front of this heavy swing, I still believe nothing feels as freeing as the joy of swinging and for children and adults dependent on a wheelchair, the Liberty Swing provides that.
I’ve been delighted to see accessible and inclusive playgrounds being developed around Australia and the world. Playing, but especially being able to play with siblings, friends and peers is so important and something I remember fondly from my childhood. In Australia our friends at the Touched by Olivia Foundation had a vision that all children should be able to access a playground and that vision started a movement around the country. Now I’m happy to say there’s many wonderful play spaces around the world. I’ve listed many in my review of accessible and inclusive playgrounds.
I’d also like to shout out the Magical Bridge Foundation in the USA. Olenka Villarreal, Founder, Magical Bridge Foundation and mother to a daughter who lives with a disability. When Olenka found playgrounds didn’t cater to her two daughters and their varying needs she found playgrounds to be isolating and set about creating an inclusive and accessible playground in Palo Alto. I had the pleasure of visiting Magical Bridge in Palo Alto and found it to be one of the most innovative and inclusive playgrounds I’ve visited. Olenka certainly put the magic into the design and her vision is now enjoyed by families of all abilities. You can read about my visit in this blog.
The TrailRider was invented in the early 1990’s by a Canadian named Sam Sullivan after a skiing accident resulted in him becoming a quadriplegic. In order for Sam to continue enjoying his outdoor lifestyle he came up with an innovative design of an all-terrain wheelchair, now known as the TrailRider. My friend, the late David Stratton, travelled to Canada, tried the TrailRider and came back to Australia determined to have it available for all. Thanks to Parks Victoria being open to the idea, we can now enjoy trail walks with Braeden using the TrailRider. We had the most magical day exploring the rainforest floor at Dorrigo National Park. You can read about our experience in our review.
Just as going to the beach was getting too hard with a growing Braeden, beach wheelchairs became available. Owning a beach wheelchair, or having access to them free to use at beaches, has been a game-changer for our family. Whether it’s a walk along the beach or a dip in the ocean, beach wheelchairs ensure Braeden and our family never miss out on a day at the beach.
It would be remiss of me not to include a little bit about technology. It’s probably the first thing that comes to people’s minds when it comes to innovation because technology has certainly improved access in many ways. For our family, the iPad, guided access and programs like Pictello have made it easier for Braeden as a person who is non-verbal. The iPad has allowed Braeden to share news, photos and his thoughts on his days out. You can read about Braeden’s first iPad set up and guided access in this review.
Hidden Disabilities program
In recent years it’s been wonderful to see the difference the Hidden Disabilities program is making at various attractions and airports. It’s not only important to have a program which assists people with hidden disabilities but it’s a major step forward in recognising that not all disabilities are visible.
I’d love to hear about the innovative solutions that you feel have made your life more accessible and inclusive. Pop your ideas in comments below or over on our Facebook page.
Hopefully society continues to strive to make the world even more accessible and inclusive in the future. One day I hope we are adding solutions that have been developed to make air travel easier for those who need supportive seating. What other innovations would you like to see developed?