International Day of People with Disability

The 3 December marks 2017 International Day of People with Disability with this year’s theme focused on “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all”. Leave no one behind and empower people with disability to be active contributors of society.

People with disabilities make up the largest and most disadvantaged minority in the world. According to the World Health Organisation, 1 in 7, or 1 billion people globally have a disability. In Australian society people with disability experience high rates of unemployment, poverty, abuse, poor health & social exclusion. For many, stigma, exclusion and discrimination prevent real barriers to being able to fully participate in communities, affecting them economically. All people with disability face barriers to social participation – however people from non-English speaking backgrounds are more likely to face deeper forms of marginalization.

Almost 20 per cent of Australians experience disability and about one in four Australians with a disability are from a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background (FECCA, 2011), making people from a multicultural background the second largest group with disability, after women. There is a higher prevalence of impairment for people born in non-English speaking countries aged over 45 years, especially for ‘first wave’ non English speaking migrants, up to 3 times that of the Australian born population (Response to “Improving Employment Opportunities for People with Disability” EDAC 2013).

People from non-English speaking backgrounds with disabilities face multiple barriers and are less likely to access government-funded disability support services than others with disabilities due to:

  • Negative stereotypes about both ethnicity and disability in the general community
  • Stigma and shame from a person’s own ethnic community
  • No diagnosis or an overseas diagnosis not accepted by Australian service providers. – With no service history in Australia referrals are difficult to obtain
  • A delay in support in the time taken to receive a diagnosis
  • Traditional disability services being unfamiliar with cultural needs
  • Lack of culturally appropriate assessment processes, taking account of cultural and/or lingual diversity.
  • Lack or loss of family or community support to navigate systems
  • Lack of necessary equipment for new arrivals from a refugee background with a disability, due to no prescribed aids or a need to leave equipment behind.
  • Delays in service provision can also lead to families and carers of the person with disability becoming housebound, impacting on their settlement and integration into a new community.

Developing the capacity and capability of individuals and organisations to understand the complexity of support people with a disability from CALD backgrounds need and know how to reach these people across the community is something that we at Fortis, in partnership with our friends at Northcott Disability, have been working on.

Many staff and volunteers in community organisations cannot easily access training to deliver services to their culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) clients or those from refugee backgrounds. Our online resources fill an important gap by providing some basic knowledge and skills which can be built upon with further training. Our resources prepare staff and volunteers to work in a culturally aware and culturally secure way with people of any cultural background.

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