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    In Victoria, around 2007/08, VCOSS convened a committee of disability, local government and housing activists looking to implement ‘Universal Housing Guidelines’ aimed at ensuring that all new housing met basic accessibility standards. They took the same line as you, EL Gibbs, that this would benefit the entire community in many ways.

    From memory, the VCOSS Committee, and the many local governments that supported its aims wanted to make these standards mandatory for all new private housing. There was significant opposition from housing developers who claimed it would add to costs, despite the fact that studies and work by the housing developer, J B. King, indicated it need not.

    At that time, the Victorian Government stepped in and implemented a voluntary code which, I believe, was largely ignored by the building industry. It was a token intervention.

    I believe we need both accessibility and affordability incorporated in any new policy guidelines around housing provision.

    The issue of support becomes much easier when someone has decent and affordable housing. And, as you say, those things are fundamental to people at all stages of life in every community.

    So affordable and accessible housing should be a the top priorities. The political challenge lies in getting the private developers on side, and it’s a very big challenge.

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    Vern Hughes

    It is bizarre to claim that housing options for people with disabilities have only just emerged as an issue. This has been an issue for decades. One of the astonishing things that has happened with the development of the NDIS has been the tendency to assume that disability innovation did not exist until the advent of NDIS ((a quite common assumption amongst social commentators and policy makers). This is quite offensive to the many activists and innovators in disability who have worked for decades for change and empowerment. To correct the record, here a few facts about the disability scene:

    1. People with disabilities and their families pioneered self-directed and self-managed arrangements 20 years ago around Australia. Many have been able to administer a self-managed budget and select and employ their own support workers for up to two decades.

    2. Physical disabilities make up just 4% of participants in NDIS, but people with physical disabilities do all the talking on behalf of people with disabilities. Intellectual disabilities make up 70% of participants in NDIS, but these people do none of the public talking. The term ‘crip’ as in ‘CripCroakey’ is a term only used and recognised by these 4% of the disability scene.

    3. 90% of people with disabilities are in the primary care of their families (including those living in the family home and those living separately but still in the primary care of their family). The support needs of the family unit have been systemically ignored in the disability sector both before NDIS and now in NDIS.

    4. The vast majority of disability service providers were formed by families of people with disabilities. Over the past 20 years as these organisations were corporatised, the founding families were forced out of their organisations by professional managers and replaced with external ‘people with expertise’ (which means lawyers, accountants, local government managers and representatives of other funded agencies).

    5. The NDIS campaign was funded by the largest and least innovative of disability service providers such as Yooralla, Endeavour and Disability Support Australia, many of which still run sheltered workshops and congregate day centres at the same time as they employ the language of ‘personalisation’ and ‘community inclusion’ .

    Disclosure: I am the parent of two sons with disabilities, aged 28 and 25, both recipients of the Disability Support Pension since their 18th year.

  3. 3

    Michelle Biggs

    There are some inherently incorrect assumptions in the comment above. 90% of PWd do not live at home with their mum and dad because for many of us our parents are dead. Blindness rates for example escalates as people get older. There are many people without physical disability who are in self advocacy movements and who speak loudly and the comments above are offensive to them. The numbers of four percent of people with physical dis is wrong too as ndis last report shows. CP is collected separately from ‘other physical disabilities’. In NT the numbers are almost equivalent. The comment is unnecessarily divisive to those of us who are deaf, blind, disabled in other ways than intellectually disabled and also for those crips who self advocate for their communities which include autistics and learning disability communities. But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

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    Vern Hughes

    The comments above are not ‘assumptions’, Michelle, they are facts that have long been suppressed in the disability sector. 90% of PWD are in the primary care of their family – this does not mean the same as living with their family – there are many PWD who live in an independent housing setting but remain in the primary care of their family. The families in this situation have been made invisible by the disability sector for decades – overlooked by providers, governments and physical disability advocates alike, who have a common interest in running the argument (a quite offensive argument to families) that families are largely irrelevant to the lives of PWD. All three groups run this argument because 1) it allows governments to igore the support needs of families 2) it allows providers to present themselves as the key agents of PWD (instead of families) and thereby convince governmens that they should receive the bulk of disability funding, and 3) it allows the physical disability advocates to present themselves as the only authentic voice of users of services in the sector, and enhance their claim to public funding. These positionings are all about claims on government funding.

    Yes there are some PWD without families, as there are people without disabilities who are without families. Yet still the figure of PWD in the primary care of their families exceeds 90&. This figure is hated by the physical disability activists because many of these activists have struggled against stifling familial settings in their life struggle. But in the process, they tragically ignore the fact that the great majority of PWD are reliant upon the primary care of their families, and it is not feasible in the slightest to wish this away.

    The overwhelming majority of PWD do not have physical disabilities. Even if you add in the occasional person with a neurological disorder, the great majority of talking in the public arena about disability by PWD is done by people with physical disabilities. Yet this imbalance in representation is never acknowledged by the physical disability lobby, and in turn governments and the media run with the easy stereotype of a typical PWD being in a wheelchair.

    The use of the word ‘crip’ is a giveaway as to which part of the diverse disability community is speaking. Only the 4% of people with physical disabilities use this term.

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    Dale Reardon


    I publish an Australian website on disability news and opinion at:

    and was wondering if it might be okay to republish this article and any other relevant ones on our website, with appropriate credit and a link back of course.

    It would help spread your work and gain a wider audience for you.

    Hope we can work together and I am quite happy to publish other articles you may have written that aren’t on your blog also.



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