Resolve disability brickwalls

IT WAS the straw that broke the camel’s back when my friend, my Guide Dog Val and myself were refused entry to a Chinese restaurant in Clayton on 29 October.
Most of the time when initially refused entry, I like to explain about my guide dog and what she does for me. Often that resolves the issue. Occasionally, I also need to show my Guide Dog Vic ID card which had my details and a message from the Attorney General explaining that it is an offence not to allow access to Guide Dogs which overrides the Health Act.
I’m keen to make it clear why we use these dogs. My Guide Dog is not a pet. She’s my lifeline. My vision is like looking through a drinking straw except sometimes the straw is blocked. I’d be isolated inside my home without Val.
I’m quite effective at self-advocacy since I’ve been heavily involved in disability and social issues for many years.
I was a member of the City of Springvale’s proactive Disability Action Group (now defunct) which comprised people with disabilities, councillors and council workers.
We had no major issues with the council because they consulted with us often prior to providing any permits. After the amalgamation of Springvale and Dandenong councils, sadly the group was disbanded. The replacement disability consultative framework at Greater Dandenong Council is not as accessible.
Greater Dandenong has taken a lot of power away from disability planning officers and the council doesn’t consult as much with people with a disability any more.
At the moment, the only voice for people with disabilities that I am aware of in Greater Dandenong is the Disability Action South-East (auspiced by the Disability Resource Centre).
I used to be on the DAS committee but I’m not taking part anymore. We have tried advocating to Places Victoria, the council, Metro Trains and Dandenong Taxis about Dandenong railway station and the Revitalising Central Dandenong project. I got sick and tired of them not listening to us. They first take action then consult with people with disabilities after the event.
Since the 1970s I have been advocating with other individuals and groups. It’s taken a long time and a lot of hard work to move past tokenism, to get legislative change so that we are not treated as second class citizens.
There has been progress with various legislation passed (Disability Discrimination Act 1992 just to mention one). We have got the National Disability Insurance Scheme being rolled out – positive stuff!
However, we have policymakers who have no knowledge of disabilities or chronic illness. They don’t consult with us. If they did, a lot of access issues and money could be resolved and saved prior to them becoming problems.
I’m always the optimist. However, what saddens me is we can learn from our past history to improve on this but we don’t learn from our past.
Photo courtesy Emma Carmichael, City Journal.