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At the risk of sentimentality, it’s hard to believe nearly 4 years have passed since, fresh faced, excited and nervous, I attended my first Council meeting.

I knew less about the ‘disability system’ than one might expect. As I’ve written here before, one of the ways I’m incredibly fortunate is to have fierce advocates as parents, who wouldn’t take no for an answer. This left me free to get on with the sometimes challenging business of living life (I can’t thank my parents enough for this). I was becoming an expert on me, but I was no ‘disability expert’.

During my time on Council, I have begun to find my ‘disability voice’, I neverwould’ve dreamed I could question a Minister in person – speech impairment and all – but I have.

I’ve learnt that, contrary to the adage, one doesn’t have to let their ‘elders’ speak first. I’ve learnt how to gently push an issue forward, to disagree without creating conflict. I’ve learnt that the loudest voice isn’t always right.

Above all, my eyes have been opened to the true diversity of the disability experience. Just within my disability type, I’ve become friends with people who walk, wheelchair users who need little assistance, and those who use assistance all day. It can feel frustrating sometimes (“I thought you were like me”), but it’s just the way it is.

This year (thanks largely to Council), I was excited to get a ‘day job’ in social policy, and these issues magnified. “What programs really need to stay funded so people with disability can self-activate?” my colleague asked me, and I freaked out. I had a few ideas, but would they fairly represent my friends? What about the perspective of people with intellectual disability, or those from other cultural backgrounds?

My colleague bought me back to earth, “You know I’m asking you as a policy person, not a person with disability right?”. Gulp. Slight weight off my shoulders.

As the NDIS approaches, people with disability receiving formal supports will gain more control over them, and their lives. I’m one of these people, and am both excited and nervous. But a full included life is so much more than paid supports. The world – and NSW within it – needs to be ready for people with disability. Our public places, schools and colleges, transport, hospitals, courts and police stations need to be accessible and offer services in an inclusive way. The role of the NSW Government under the National Disability Strategy is and will be as important as ever.

The Council has a crucial role to play in advising the NSW Government on its inclusion agenda. But I hope representative organisations are around too, stopping the weight of NSW resting on 12 people.

I’ve come a long way in 4 years, but I can be an expert on me.

By Ya'el Frisch

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Last updated: 24 Sep 2019
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