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Posts Tagged ‘disability rights’

This post is the first in an irregular series about accessibility and Sydney’s public transport. I will update this post with links to the other posts as I create them. The second post is here. You can also keep an eye on my list of series to see when posts get added to this series.

One thing that I particularly enjoy when I visit another place is figuring out how to use the public transport system. I like the fact that I can figure it out – that the tools provided are tools I am able to use. Some of the tools which are commonly available (sometimes online) are: timetables and route maps, route diagrams at stations/stops and in the relevant vehicle, stop announcements (visual and audio), signs at stations/stops.

Perhaps it’s ironic, but I think that Sydney is one of the worst places I’ve been when it comes to figuring that sort of thing out. This has a serious impact on the accessibility of our public transport.

It seems to me that the people who will have the most difficulty with accessibility in that regard are (in no particular order): (1) people with visual difficulties of various sorts; (2) people who have difficulty with certain processes (including people who find change difficult or confronting); and (3) people who have difficulty talking to strangers.

What follows is a general summary of the characteristics of public transport in Sydney which may cause those accessibility problems, and then a more specific discussion of the relationship between those characteristics and the people who have the general accessibility difficulties I’ve stated above. It’s quite a long post – that’s because there are a lot of accessibility problems!

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There’s an interesting article in the Guardian today about a report which demonstrates a 17 year gap in the ‘disability-free life expectancy’ of the withs and withouts in the UK. That’s an enormous gap!

This quote caught my eye:

The report says the conditions in which people are born, live, work and age, shape their health; what is needed is a reduction in the iniquities in power and money that benefit the rich from birth.
[emphasis added]

Yes, I would agree that disparities in power and money are iniquitous. I don’t think it’s quite what they meant to say, but it seems appropriate!

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You might have heard the name Kurt Fearnley. He’s an Australian Paralympic athlete (marathon) who recently took on the Kokoda Track. He usually uses a wheelchair. The Kokoda Track is hardly wheelchair accessible. Fearnley walked on his arms.

Fearnley took a Jetstar flight on his way home, and staff insisted that he check in his wheelchair and use an airline-supplied one. Fearnley refused to accept the alternative wheelchair, and instead, used his arms to move himself around the airport.

His reasoning? From the ABC piece linked above:

“An able-bodied equivalent, a normal person’s equivalent would be having your legs tied together, your pants pulled down and be carried or pushed through an airport.”

I am entirely prepared to accept his assessment that using the airline-supplied wheelchair would be a humiliating experience which would have robbed him of his mobility and independence. I have two reasons why I’m prepared to accept it. First, and most importantly, it’s Fearnley’s own account of his experience. To deny it would be to deny that he felt that way, and I’m simply not in a position to do that. Can’t imagine anyone is, quite frankly. Secondly, and much LESS importantly, it actually makes a hell of a lot of sense from an objective perspective that, yes, having someone remove your mobility aid would be humiliating and would rob you of your mobility and independence.

Fortunately, the general atmosphere is one of accepting Fearnley’s experience, and Jetstar has apparently apologised. The ABC article quotes Bill Shorten, and an SMH article quotes Joe Hockey as well as Shorten, and both seem outraged that Jetstar treated Fearnley in this matter.* It’s great that there’s bipartisan recognition that treating people who use wheelchairs like shit is a Bad Thing.

It also allows us to focus on the details of how that acknowledgement is made, in some of which there is Fail.

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DUFC logo

Welcome to the 18th Down Under Feminists’ Carnival! (And apologies for the delay.)

This Carnival has an optional caring theme, thanks to Australian Carers’ Week (which was October 18 to October 24). The theme for this year was “Anyone, Anytime, Across Australia”, which I modified to “Anyone, Anytime” for the purposes of the DUFC.

There wasn’t much sent in on theme, so I’ve expanded the DUFC rules just a little.

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I know it’s no longer Carers’ Week, nor is it still October, the month in relation to which I’m hosting the DUFC (you are still welcome to send me submissions by email, by the way, although anything sent via the blog carnival site will no longer come to me).

However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned about issues faced by carers.

Such as the awful choice apparently faced by a number of parents who are carers for their children with disabilities.

It seems from this article that, if you are in a situation where you can care for your child some, but not all, of the time, you don’t receive a whole lot of respite support. Your care may also reduce the likelihood that your child will be placed in a permanent supported residential position (which may not be what every person with a disability aspires to, or hir carer, but I’m sure many people do).

The solution? ‘Abandon’ your child by leaving them permanently in the care of DOCS and relinquishing all parental rights.

Yeah. Good one.

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Just another reminder that it’s Carers Week this week and I’m hosting the Carers’ Week-themed DUFC early next month.

Take a look at the information about halfway down the linked page under the heading “Impacts of caring”. The first sentence under the heading is:

Carers have been found to have the lowest health and wellbeing of any group yet discovered.

The points I’m most interested in are:

more than a third of carers were found to be severely to extremely severely depressed

more than one third were found to be experiencing severe or extreme stress

carers are almost twice as likely than normal to experience chronic pain

caring could be one of the leading causes of depression in Australia

not receiving treatment for a significant medical or psychological condition is extremely damaging to carers wellbeing

caring compounds the effect of any other factor that leads to reduced wellbeing

it is evident that any level of consistent, daily, immediate caring responsibility is sufficient to severely damage wellbeing

These factors say to me that carers run a real risk that they are, or will become, a person with a disability themselves as a result of their caring work. (This is not to say that anyone affected by anything outlined in the points extracted above is a person with a disability, just that some of those factors may contribute to a person being or becoming disabled.)

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This seems like good news to me:

Professor Cousins, the director of the Pain Management Research Institute at the University of Sydney and Royal North Shore Hospital, has led a national draft strategy to have pain management addressed as part of the Federal Government’s national health reforms.

This doesn’t mean the government will actually do anything, but it is great to see a real possibility that chronic pain may be recognised as a condition in its own right. It seems to me that that would mean: (1) greater likelihood of a doctor listening to someone who is suffering chronic pain; (2) greater likelihood of a doctor knowing what options can and should be offered to that person; (3) greater likelihood that others with whom that person interacts (eg an employer) will understand that a person’s chronic pain is a real and serious problem and not “just” in the person’s “mind”. (Although a better way to deal with #3 would be to recognise that something which is “just” in a person’s “mind” – note scare quotes – is often a real and serious condition anyway!)

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