If you’re a young disabled person in Australia, you might face challenges related to education, friendships, family, employment and so many other things. Society isn’t built for people with disabilities. According to People with Disability Australia, a shocking 100% of young people with disability have experienced a barrier to accessing youth services, so it’s important that more opportunities exist that include young disabled people.
But there are some organisations and opportunities that are built specifically with young disabled people in mind. These opportunities are created with accessible and inclusive practices.
What kind of barriers are young disabled Australians really facing?
If events or venues aren’t accessible, as a young person, you might miss out on a lot. And if you can’t find information about whether or not an event is accessible, you might not even feel safe or comfortable attempting to participate. Access keys provided by organisations hosting events can reduce these challenges, but it’s best to consider how to ensure everyone can participate as well.
“Access Keys are customised accessibility guides that provide convenient and accurate information about venues or events. They include but are not limited to venue layout, parking, access in and around including ease of movement, customer service/ticketing, toilets including environmental specifications, accessible offerings, procedural and sequential information on accessing services, sensory elements plus much more! They feature professional photographs and supportive text contextualised with experiences.” — Access Ability Australia
Barriers that might exist for young disabled people wanting to attend events or participate in youth services include lack of Auslan interpreting, venues that have stairs and no elevators, or issues that might impact senses (like noisy rooms or strobe lights). These are just a few issues that might pop up.
Organisations that exist for young disabled Australians
There are a lot of organisations that exist for young disabled people. In Victoria, Youth Disability Advocacy Service represents young disabled Victorians. Not only do they provide individual advocacy, but they have programs like Map Your Future to help with NDIS planning and Emerging Young Leaders to foster leadership skills.
The Youth Disability Advocacy Network, or YDAN, in Perth, is a leading advocacy organisation for Western Australians. They run workshops and advocate for young people. There are heaps of other organisations focused on youth advocacy or disability advocacy throughout Australia.
Resources for young disabled Australians
Beyond traditional advocacy services that might support young people in achieving their rights in employment, education, or more generally, there are other ways young disabled people can get support.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was put into legislation in 2013 and has rolled out across the country. The NDIS is administered by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). This scheme provides disabled people across Australia under the age of 65 with ‘reasonable and necessary’ supports. These supports can help in a variety of ways, like funding support workers, Auslan interpreting, help with household tasks, and more. These types of supports can help young people achieve goals, do more social activities, and participating in their own local communities.
Beyond resources that exist which provide funding for supports, there are heaps of organisations that provide a range of services like legal services, advocacy, and information on rights. There’s an extensive list of this sort of information collated by Disability Advocacy Resource Unit (DARU).
There are quite a few national opportunities available for young people with disability. Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) is a national peak body which represents all young disabled people under 25 in Australia. They are hosting a National Young People with Disability Summit in 2020.
The Foundation for Young Australians is another national organisation that supports the voices of young disabled people. In 2019, they hosted a Young Social Pioneer boot camp on the topic of accessibility. Their boot camps help young people pursue their own social enterprises.
Our future should be accessible
Young people are our future, and our future should be accessible. In an accessible and inclusive society, young disabled people won’t experience discrimination, barriers to activities and community events, or barriers to general opportunities. But for now, there are amazing organisations, even more than those that could fit on this list, providing opportunities and resources for disabled young people across Australia.
Haley Zilberberg is a Melbourne-based writer and social worker from Florida. She’s passionate about disability advocacy and currently works as the Workshop Liaison Officer at the Youth Disability Advocacy Service (YDAS). She also serves as the co-president of Accessible Unimelb, a disability advocacy group at the University of Melbourne. She is completing her Master of Marketing Communications at the University of Melbourne.