Friday, August 18, 2017

Independent Information (and IDEAS) Being Axed by NSW Government

IDEAS, the expert independent information providers, among many important advocacy organisations, are being axed by the NSW state government in June 2018.

IDEAS has been in service to people with disabilities, their families and carers since 1981. Cumulatively with the other organisations on the chopping block, there are hundreds and hundreds of  years of lived disability experience and sector knowledge, which will not be available to the largest single minority population in NSW.

Independent information services have to be a sustained practice. They should not replace or prevent new entrants to the market, and disparate means of distribution, but IDEAS asserts that it is only fair to have a trusted source that people may use to get a gold standard of information, that is customised to the person’s access needs, to support their decision making. 

The markers of these information services are:
  1. They should be unconflicted (that is service providers information is conflicted by their offer of service contracts from which they profit)
  2. They should be independent, that is, away from government, away from the Agency and away from direct service provision
  3. They should be accurate
  4. They should be timely
  5. They should be relevant
  6. They should be value for money
  7. They should be free to people with disability, their families carers and supporters
  8. They should have diverse distributive channels in an “omni” environment, so web, phone, letters, e-mails, community face to face engagements, newsletters, enewsletters and all the digital and social realm.
  9. The data must be maintained. Records must have a process of accession and de-accession.
  10. They should be “trusted” services and known to be on the side of people with disabilities . 
As the NDIS starts to serve unfunded participants in greater numbers, the schisms at the interface of health, education and transport will become more apparent. The cohort of people who will be unfunded participants in the NDIS scheme will be around 2,090,000 people living with disability. Their number of carers is around 394,000 persons.

IDEAS predicts that the most urgent of these is health. The ‘wrangle for nothing about us without us’ is real and the health system, and its specialties are largely unprepared. This is in an environment where people with disability have determination to be treated as whole persons and with the attitudinal shifts required to be treated as a person not as a condition. 

Concurrently there has not been nearly enough time, resources or determination to do the community capacity building, and develop greater individual capacity amongst people with disability to self-advocate in the mainstream systems of health, education, transport, work, puberty, sexual health, travel and relationships.

Information Services, Awareness Services and Disability Inclusion education need to be expanded to meet these obvious burgeoning needs.

Acknowledgement needs to be made in that the digital divide is greater than then bandwidth alone. This is a financial, educative, social and age marked engagement. The choices need to be there, because even if people with disability may be very proficient in the digital world, that may be intermittent due to money or other issues.

If independent information services are not a sustained investment, then the  NDIS risks losing choice and control for individuals and their engagement in mainstream provisions in their life domain. 
What can you do to help?

At IDEAS we always say that it is not about us, it is about the thousands of customers we serve every year with free accurate information, but now it really is about us. 

We need your help to tell your state local member, the state Minister for Disabilities, Mr. Ray Williams, and the Premier Ms Gladys Berejyklian that without IDEAS, people like you will have no one to go to for free accurate independent information that is not selling anything to make your choices truly yours. 

Can you help us remind them that they won't know what they've got till it’s gone, and that you still need IDEAS to stand by you in the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, whether you have a funded package or not? We counted you in, and now we are counting on you. Here are the contact details for Ray Williams and Gladys Berejyklian: 
  • Ray Williams - email: or call 02 8882 9555
  • Gladys Berejyklian - use this online form: or call 02 9439 4199

If you would like assistance to get your message to the Premier, Minister or Local Member please call the IDEAS info team at 1800 029 904. If you would be happy to share your IDEAS story with us to try and get in the media, please let Diana Palmer  our Executive Officer know on 1800 029 904, or

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review of the DIYModify App

Hillary Wilde, IDEAS Database Support reviewed the DIY Modify App, an app for people looking to modify their existing homes.

The DIYModify app is an excellent information resource for people wanting to modify their existing homes for increased mobility and accessibility, in and around, their homes.

It is developed by HMInfo (Home Modification Information Clearinghouse – a website providing free, universally accessible, evidence-based design resources), which is part of the University of New South Wales’ Faculty of the Built Environment.

The app provides descriptions, diagrams and a limited price guide for accessibility related items. It is laid out very well aesthetically, providing a very simple and easy to understand user experience.
However, some of the usability features are a bit clunky. Having to rely on the “Next” button to move to the next page is not as user friendly or intuitive as it could be. The button is small and is a white button on a white background, which doesn’t stand out straight away.

A lot of time was spent trying to use the standard swipe gesture to move to the next screen to no avail. It is understandable needing a ‘next’ button for page readers, but both standard finger gestures and buttons can be utilised simultaneously, and perhaps this would create a smoother end user experience.

Another consideration would be to include accessible light switches and adjusting light switch heights, as well as benchtops etc. as further options.

Ultimately, integration with the HMInfo database to provide links to suppliers in the end-user’s location should be considered a top priority for the developers of this app. All in all, this app has great potential and is well thought out and developed. 

For more information about the app or modifying your home, contact IDEAS or call 1800 029 904. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Light up your night with Vivid

[Image description: The Sydney Opera House lit up in colours of pinks and blue in an abstract design during the Sydney Vivid Festival in 2017. Image source: Sydney Vivid website.]

Running from 26th May to 17th June, Sydney’s Vivid Festival is the largest of its kind in Australia. And we are pleased to see the continued investment by the Festival organisers into making the event more accessible year on year. 

This year’s festival has even more sensory friendly events, audio described and Auslan interpreted events and wheelchair accessible areas than ever before, to make the festival an event that everyone can enjoy. 

The event is split into three areas: Vivid Light, Vivid Music and Vivid Ideas. 

Vivid Light

Vivid Light is the main attraction for most visitors to Vivid and where light art installations are projected onto the side of iconic Sydney buildings such as the Opera House, Customs House, and The Museum of Contemporary Art. 

Additionally, there are standalone art pieces and sculptures dotted throughout precincts across the city. These include Barangaroo, Chatswood, Darling Harbour, Opera House, Taronga Zoo and the Rocks, amongst others. 

There are 58 installations that are wheelchair friendly, 67 that are audio described, 1 Companion Card and 1 that is sensory friendly. 

From ethereal columns, to sunflowers, to the harbour bridge and beyond to the Sydney Opera House, there really is a vast array of interactive and beautiful lights displays. 

For more information about the light installations, visit: 

Vivid Music

Vivid Music is a dynamic program of cutting-edge music including live performances and music collaborations from local and international artists. 

There is a multitude of music events across the city. An example of an accessible, Hearing Loop friendly experience is Dianne Reeves, who is a jazz vocalist. This show takes place in the City Recital Hall which is an accessible and inclusive venue. Featuring a T-Loop system, National relay Service is supported, as are Companion Cards and offers lift access, accessible toilets and seating. 

There are a number of accessible music events taking place with more information available here:

Vivid Ideas

Vivid Ideas lets visitors connect with leaders and learn new skills through a series of lectures and discussions. 

Taking Artists with Disability Seriously

This event discusses how theatre makers, visual artists and dancers with disability get taken seriously by bringing together findings from across Europe, the US and UK where professional inclusive arts are explored. 

Three recent Winston Churchill Fellows, Sarah-Vyne Vassallo (Murmuration), Gabrielle Mordy (studio A) and Alison Richardson (RUCKUS) headline the event, with a panel discussion chaired by the CEO of Accessible Arts. 

There are many more interesting events taking place throughout Vivid Ideas. For more information visit here: 

There are many more resources available at the Vivid Festival website including an interactive accessible map, information on interactive tours and volunteers who can assist. 
Or if you need more assistance, contact IDEAS on 1800 029 904. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Being Female and Living with a Disability in Rural Australia

In partnership with Women with Disabilities Victoria, Women’s Health Goulbourn North East (WHGNE) carried out a study which highlighted a number of concerning barriers for women with disabilities living in rural communities.

There are worrying trends exposing discrimination and harassment, as well as longer-term health and well-being effects.

The study found that the main barriers included:

  • Transport 
  • Medical supplier choice
  • Escaping disability medical model

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2014 people with a disability were less likely to have had daily face-to-face contact with family or friends living outside the household, compared to those who did not have a disability (16% compared with 20%). With community transport standards varying wildly and almost non-existent transport links, it is easy to see why people with disability in rural communities suffer from social isolation.

With the exception of main towns, access to public transport is very poor. Veteran Affairs appear to have a better handle on understanding taxi subsidies, but clients and sometimes even taxi operators struggle to understand them.

If living with a disability rurally, there is generally less choice of medical suppliers, with perhaps one service provider supplying “everything”, transport, accommodation, work, access to day and community engagement programmes. And if there are not strong enough advocates for that individual defining acceptable service standards to operate by, then there is an increased risk of less access and poorer standards.

Often, the medical model of a person’s disability defines them and escaping can be difficult. This keeps an individual isolated except for accessing their medical supports.

Community culture can play an important role on the isolation and inclusion that a person with disability can have. Although culture is driven by a community, individuals can benefit. If a person is recognised by their name or belonging to a particular family, their neighbours and fellow community members speak about the individual as a whole, regardless of their disability. This can provide positive acceptance and engagement at all levels within the community from education, social, church and sports.

Although social isolation can be rife, there are some positive stories of rural communities pulling together and embracing an individual’s unique differences.

Julie, a young 50 year old woman was involved in the community world music choir for some years. A great director, great choristers, great repertoire of world music, drumming and dancing in a rural location. She suffered a medical misadventure which rendered her very ill for a long time and without a voice.

After she was well enough she approached the choir director and asks if she could return to the choir (because she loved the music). However, she wished to be an elite lip syncer and enjoyed the music around her, the dance, and the fellowship of the other choristers. The director had no qualms with it, however, realised that he has to put it to the choir. At the next rehearsal, Julie had two minutes to introduce herself by telling them about her condition as much as she felt comfortable.
After her introduction and lip syncing audition, she was wholly accepted into the choir. Since she joined, there have been a number of additional members join, one who has a visual impairment, another who has had a stroke but can sing.

The moral of the story is that from small things, big things grow. And with the right support and choices to make informed decisions, people with disability should not feel isolated.

Do you have a disability or care for someone with a disability and live in a rural community? Are you looking for information to make better decisions? Contact IDEAS on 1800 029 904 or visit us at

Friday, February 24, 2017

Disability Future Planning - Wills and Trusts

Being the carer of a person with a disability carries huge responsibility. What happens though, when you are no longer able to look after that person? This can be majorly concerning for you, especially when it relates to family members. The majority of individuals with disability can make active decisions about their future, however, there are some people who are unable to participate directly within that process.

In these circumstances, you may wish to provide ongoing financial assistance for family members but are confused by the financial and legal jargon, are unsure how things should be structured, what questions to ask and where to go for further assistance.

The following provides an overview into the different areas, however, is by no means legal documentation or advice. You should seek the services of a professional lawyer when consulting about your future financial wishes.  

What is a Will?

A Will is a legal document that clearly sets out how you wish your assets to be distributed after you have passed away. Ensuring that your Will is up-to-date is the best method for protecting your assets and making sure that they are distributed in the way that you wished.

It is probably the most important document you will sign, therefore, it is imperative that you seek legal guidance and expertise when preparing it.

If you haven’t prepared a Will, no one will know how you want your assets to be split up and who should receive what. Your assets will be distributed to a set formula.

What are Assets?

An asset is an item of property that is owned by a person or company and is regarded as having value.
Examples of assets can include jewellery, artwork, savings accounts, houses, land and car. There are a lot more examples available.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal concept that can look complex, but when explained, are easier to understand.
A trust is a legal obligation placed on one person, called the trustee, to look after the assets of the trust for the benefit of another person or a number of people, called a beneficiary or beneficiaries.
A trust is a good way to control the assets for the benefit of a person with disability. A trust can continue to look after some of the interests of a person with disability after your death. It is a structure you set up to operate before or after your death, which can continue into the future.

The main decisions required to make up a trust are:

- Who will be the trustees?
- How will the assets be divided up fairly between the person with the disability and other family members?
- What accommodation and care options should be provided for?
- How much discretion and direction should the trustee have? 

What do Trustees do?

The trustee is the person or persons who have the right to administer and control the trust’s assets, but only for the benefit of the beneficiary, in this example, the person with disability.

The recipient will gain from the trust, without having control over the trust itself.

Who should be appointed trustee?

This is an extremely important decision, however, legal structures do not always guarantee that individuals will do the right thing.

That person should share the same views about how your family member should be looked after by the trust.

What is a Special Disability Trust?

A Special Disability Trust is the provision of social security and veterans’ affairs means test concessions, set up by the Australian Government to help families with planning their estates. A Special Disability Trust can be set up by anybody for a person with severe disability, as long as certain legislative conditions are met.

People are encouraged to make their own provision for accommodation and care costs for family members with severe disability. This type of trust may alieve concerns about how funds held in trust may affect entitlements. However, if the assets are limited and reduction of social security entitlements is not a significant risk, a Special Disability Trust may not be relevant.

Trusts and Wills and when to choose the right option

You do not have to make special arrangements for a family member with disability. This will be dependent upon the abilities of the person with disability, available resources and future wishes.
If the person can manage their own money or through an informal process, there is less need for special arrangements. They can be left money through your Will or Trust as other family members would. There are certain times when special arrangements should be put into place:

- If the person’s disability affects their mental capacity (intellectual disability, brain injury, mental illness or dementia) – they may need help with managing money or assets
- Or if you want to keep more control than usual over how family resources are used in the long-run

Issues for Consideration

Information to take to the Solicitor

If you would like a more accessible version of these questions, contact IDEAS' Information Officers on 180 029 904 or contact us. 

Easy English Wills

It is essential that everyone has an understanding of what wills are and how they would like their assets to be distributed. The following Easy English guide is a template to help every one with the planning process. 

Information sourced from: A Resource for people planning for the future, Easy English Planning Guide, NDIS Help. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Growing Demand for Cricket Creates All Abilities Leagues

In Australia, cricket and summer go hand-in-hand. Its’ popularity evident in the number of series and tournaments that occur during the summer season, from Boxing Day Tests, through to the Big Bash League. It is no wonder that cricket is Australia’s number one participation sport.  

However, for some Aussies donning the whites, grabbing a bat and going out onto the cricket pitch isn’t as easy as it sounds, or should be. People with disability often have a desire to participate but barriers exclude them.

Not for much longer though. New, all abilities, integrated leagues in Victoria and Western Australia have been created (as well as South Australia and NSW).

The aim of the leagues are to create inclusive environments for players and to bridge the gap between able-bodied players and persons with disability, whether physical or intellectual.

Games are played on the same venues and at the same time as other games, with only minimal moderations to build confidence and create inclusiveness.

Participants have expressed excitement about the inclusive leagues “I see this as another way to make friends and to keep fit”.

The success of the leagues could not have been achieved without the determination and determination from volunteers and members of the cricket clubs to bring these leagues to fruition.

For more information about inclusive sports clubs and activities in your area, contact IDEAS on 1800 029 904 or visit

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Where does hope lie, when leaders aren't even embracing diversity? 

[Image depicts actress Meryl Streep holding her Golden Globe and giving her acceptance speech]

At the recent Golden Globes, during her acceptance speech, Meryl Streep, in an unnamed accusation, highlighted the incident where Donald Trump, the US President-elect, mocked a reporter with a disability.

There was huge outcry from media, celebrities and the general public. Donald Trump retaliated saying that Meryl was ‘overrated’ and denied mocking the reporter.

Whatever your thoughts about Meryl Streep, Donald Trump and Hollywood in general, she did raise some very important points.

If a person in a position of leadership, of power, can humiliate by mocking an individual in such a public forum, where they are unable to defend themselves, then what hope do the underrepresented in society have?

Humiliation is a form of bullying. If leaders are doing it, then others perceive it as an acceptable form of behaviour, giving permission to do it.

For too long, mocking, bullying and humiliation have been rife in society. Yes, there are certain attributes that make a leader such as confidence, stoicism and passion, yet there are so many other attributes that make a great leader such as open-mindedness, integrity and inspiration.

Perhaps some of the best leaders are those from a diverse background, where their abilities outweighed their disabilities. From large companies such as the founder of Braun Corporations to previous US President Roosevelt, knowing what opportunities inclusiveness brought made them great leaders, which is something that perhaps some of today’s leaders should think about implementing.

Luckily here in Australia, we are seeing far more stories about embracing diversity and greater rates of inclusiveness. Leaders, please take note: embrace diversity, realise that every person has different strengths and that there is opportunity to grow in every strength, whereby no opportunity is missed.

Wondering how you can become the next leader, why not get information from IDEAS on 1800 029 904 or