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Bang! It’s a sound most of us dread but for Sekou Kanneh, it would be a dream come true. The 12 year old is a runner but being Deaf means he can’t hear the starting gun. Instead of waiting to see when his competitors start the race, Sekou asked for a flashing light to signal the start. Like everything he does, Sekou was in it to win it, and he didn’t disappoint.
Marlon Noble lives the life of a guilty man. He was accused of sex crimes, and despite no trial and no conviction, spent 10 years behind bars. Marlon was released last year, but he is on strict conditions and is under permanent watch. Marlon, who has an intellectual disability, is free from jail, but not a free man.
There are about 3,500 Australians under 60 living in nursing homes around the country. Anj Baker was one of them. Anj was a teenager when she acquired a brain injury after being assaulted. She ended up in a nursing home, a place that brought her shame and isolation. Anj and others believe their rehabilitation would have been more effective in facilities with people their own age.
As a little girl, Scarlett Finney, now 20, didn’t think of herself as a girl with a disability, she was just a girl. But at 7, Scarlett’s choice to go to, what she called “A school in the bush”, turned into a nightmare. The Hills Grammar rejected her but the Finney’s took the complaint all the way to the Federal Court. They not only won, but it set a precedent for other students with disability.
It’s a sport only for the fast and furious, but those two words haven’t meant much to Paul Gooda until recently. Since taking up wheelchair basketball, the former self-confessed book-worm hasn’t considered going back to his reclusive life. Inclusion is what the DDA was designed for, but all Paul needed was a team to call his own.
Disability doesn’t mean incapable. Just ask Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes. But when you can’t see signs at train stations, and audible announcements are, frankly, inaudible, what can you do? Make a complaint. That’s what Graeme did, dozens of them. And he won. Audible announcements are about to become just that.
Bradley Kinsela knew life would never be the same after he was injured in a car accident in 1989. But he never expected being in a wheelchair would prevent him from being able to attend his own university graduation ceremony. The university had booked a hall that had no wheelchair access, a move that saw Brad lodge a complaint, win and eventually don a cap and gown.
Living independently is something most teenagers look forward to. So it wasn’t a surprise when at 18, Dee Holmes told her mum and dad that she wanted to live in her own place, like her brothers. But for people like Dee, who have intellectual disabilities, finding the enough support to live with independence is difficult. Guidance is out there, but you need to know where to turn.
Keith and Patricia Sutton have two sons that share a debilitating illness: “treatment resistant” schizophrenia. 42 year old Peter and brother Ben, 38, were diagnosed about 20 years ago. The diagnosis was devastating for the family, whose daily routine is subject to their needs of their isolated and dependant sons. This story captures a day in the Sutton’s lives, revealing the emotional and practical difficulties in receiving and providing support to which thousands of Australian families can relate to.
Called the taxi? Check. Expecting to be able to fit into it? Probably not. For people using wheelchairs, accessing taxis is much harder than picking up the phone. Greg Killeen got sick of being late to everything; work, dinner, the theatre. More often than not, he simply couldn’t fit in the so-called wheelchair accessible taxis. So what did he do? Greg made a complaint that ended up in the Federal Court in 2011. Not only did he win, but all new taxis built had to meet new standards.
Riding the bus is something most of us take for granted. For Maurice Corcoran, it’s only been possible since 1994 and only because of his complaint. Maurice, who has quadriplegia, was fed-up with getting accessible taxis to work and instead, wanted to travel with others in the community. His case started in South Australia but the case went national and it delivered a massive change in infrastructure; by 2022 all public transport is expected to be accessible.
Aimee Crathern has no idea what she would be doing with her life if she wasn’t one of 5 young women in the girl act, Hot Tutti. Like so many artists will attest to, working with a team can be tough. And this team is no exception; each singer has a disability but in many ways it’s brought them closer together. And they get snapped up for dozens of paid gigs a year.
Geoffrey Scott, sculptor, painter and sometimes, comedian. Being Deaf hasn’t stopped him from being creative that’s for sure. But when it comes to making calls, Geoff’s creative streak hasn’t been much help. He needed to be able to access the TTY service, but Telstra wouldn’t provide one to him. So he pursued a complaint and won. Geoff has since put a whole new meaning into “chatterbox”. And Telstra has changed its ways too.
Jacob Clarke wanted to go to the same high school as his friends. But he needed something his friends didn’t; an interpreter. Jacob is Deaf, so this was essential, but the school didn’t think so. Buddy systems and note-takers weren’t going to give Jacob the education he was entitled to. It ended up in court as a landmark case for Deaf rights and 5 years later, a result worth waiting for.
The Sydney Olympics inspired pride around the nation. Bruce Maguire’s pride was short-lived. He’d promised his family tickets but when it came to finding the schedule and booking, Bruce had no chance. He needed it in Braille, he asked for it, but they said “no way”. The website wasn’t accessible either and a heated public debate ensued. Bruce spent 16 months of his life battling SOCOG before winning and setting a precedent for other event to offer accessible services.
It was a simple attempt to cross the road to grab a cup of coffee that sparked Mark Hopper’s addiction to accessibility. Mark simply couldn’t get his wheelchair onto the road safely. He complained and won. But in his Victorian hometown, Mark scrutinised every building, every footpath, every access point and tested it against the standards which had been in place since the DDA’s introduction. Mark Hopper is a true action hero.
A picture paints a thousand words, but most of us gave up watching silent films decades ago. Soundtracks offer something extra and John Byrne wanted to experience this as well. But as a person with a hearing impairment, this was impossible. Or was it? The DDA made way for John to lodge a discrimination complaint and finally, John can understand what everyone else can hear.
It’s the news that no parent wants to hear; that your child has a disability. Rebecca Kelly remembers that moment vividly as the mum of two children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. But getting practical advice isn’t easy, particularly in her home town in regional Victoria. ASD was enough to get Bec out of her own home and beamed into others, with her radio show, ASD Talk.
Jake Briggs was a qualified carpenter when an accident caused his disability. Carving out his new life in a wheelchair was challenging, but his employer retrained him and created a new role that has given Jake the chance to maintain a career.