Written by Hannah Diviney, author, activist and client of CPA.
This month I’m using my column to celebrate. What exactly am I celebrating, I hear you ask? Well, July (most well-known for wintery Christmas celebrations, at least here in Australia) also happens to be Disability Pride Month!!!
If you didn’t know that, by the way, it’s OK. I didn’t know it existed until a couple of years ago and I’ve been disabled for over two decades now. You’re not living under a rock. Disability Pride Month is barely recognised at all on the global stage, and only really exists within disabled communities that have gathered online in spaces like Twitter and Instagram. They might occasionally spill onto the streets of towns and cities, hosting small events for people with disabilities and their allies but that’s about it.
I reckon most people would stare at me with a blank face if I asked them what they were doing to recognise, celebrate or support Disability Pride Month. In fact, when I told my Mum it was Disability Pride Month, her immediate response was; “Why do we have a separate Pride Month for disabled people?” When I looked at her confused, she clarified; “Shouldn’t Pride Month (celebrated in June) embrace all members of the LGBTQIA+ community including those who also identify as disabled?”
I laughed. To me, Mum’s question unintentionally highlighted just how far we have to go. For the record, in case anyone else had similar thoughts to my Mum, Pride Month is about celebrating the diversity of and finding pride in your sexuality and gender identity, irrespective of what other marginalised communities you exist in, while Disability Pride Month is about celebrating the diversity of and finding pride in your life as a disabled person, no matter what your body or your brain has been through.
For a lot of people both within and outside the disabled community, the idea of celebrating your disability and being proud of it is impossible to comprehend. Not so long ago, I was one of those people. How could I celebrate something that made my life so difficult? That robbed me of so many things people my age experience with an ease my body and brain can only dream of? Why would I celebrate something that the world said made me less?
It’s only in the last couple of years, since becoming a proper advocate and being welcomed into those spaces, that I’m learning to feel proud of my disability, a process I imagine would have been infinitely easier if there were other disabled people I could see living the life I wanted to. The road to disability pride is one many of us travel without a map, because we’ve never seen it before.
We have to teach ourselves how to replace pity, shame and anger with joy, wonder and curiosity. Breaking out of the grip of internalised ableism that tells me I am worth less, less capable, not deserving of love or other good things – and an avalanche of other insidious thoughts – will take me a lifetime. It hasn’t and won’t be easy or linear in any way. But it’s happening. Slowly.
My disability has complicated my life tenfold and taken a lot from me, but it’s also given me a hell of a lot. The chance to be everything I never saw and to see my childhood dreams come true. To build a platform made from words, which you all know I see as my superpower. It’s brought people I’ve spent a lifetime searching for, into my world, people I now couldn’t imagine my life without. So, while I’m definitely not all the way there, my pride in who I am is growing. And yours will too – you just have to stop trying to break yourself to fit in a box that wasn’t meant for you. Hang in there.
Happy Disability Pride Month!
Love, Hannah x
We’re about to kick off a series of ‘Youth Lab’ virtual events where young people with cerebral palsy and similar disabilities will have the chance to co-design a set of recommendations that makes school, university, and the transition into the workforce more inclusive.
At this first Youth Lab on Wednesday July 27, we’ll be asking for your help to design what an inclusive education looks like. What do we need to change in the classroom? And what about outside of class?
The Youth Lab events will also be an opportunity for young people with cerebral palsy to share their experience, connect with each other, and be part of co-designing a pilot advocacy and leadership program for 2023.
If you’re a young person (under 30) living with cerebral palsy or a similar disability – please fill out the registration form and we’ll be in touch with the event Zoom link.
On 21st June, we held a Town Hall event with Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott and hosted by Elly Desmarchelier.
Our panel of CPActivists spoke about their lived experiences of social inclusion at school, how they have had to advocate for themselves and the power of networking to get into the workforce. Watch the highlights video now:
We’d love to see you at our next event.
The future of the NDIS is a hot topic, but what does this mean for young people with disability and have we heard enough of these voices throughout this Federal election campaign?
So how do we turn this attention from a ‘moment’ into longer-lasting momentum for the change we need to see to create a better future for young people living with disabilities?
Are you a person with a disability aged 16-24 and have ideas you want to share?
Register now for CPActive’s Youth Future Forum from 7pm on Monday 9 May.
The Forum is your chance to join other like-minded young people for a discussion about what the future could look like.
It could be something local like making a local sporting oval more accessible. Or discuss your experience in areas like education and employment. Or the lack of media representation of young people with a physical disability.
Or it could be something else entirely … it’s up to you and others in this small group chat.
This is your opportunity to be part of something new and co-design and grow a movement from the very beginning.
Register now for this free online event from 7pm on Monday.
Captions and Auslan interpretation will be provided.
The future is unwritten – we’d love you to be part of this.
Yours in action,
PS. If you can’t make it on Monday night but would like to be part of this new movement, email Teigan at email@example.com
The NDIS has been a gamechanger for people with cerebral palsy, empowering our community with freedom and choice. But the NDIS is at a crossroads – help us to ensure that the NDIS isn’t forgotten about this election day.
Join Cerebral Palsy Alliance for a fun, empowering day of community action on 28 April on the NSW Central Coast.
You can meet your local Federal election candidates, ask them how they’ll support people with disability and their families, and help make our voices heard.
You can also gather your friends and family, meet other people with lived experience of CP and enjoy a good chat over a cup of tea, and some musical entertainment, grab a lego fun pack and hear from a panel of speakers about their experiences.
DEFEND OUR NDIS: NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION COMMUNITY EVENT
10.00-11.30am. Thursday 28 April
Parkview Room, Central Coast Leagues Club, Gosford
Free event, RSVP here for catering: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/defend-our-ndis-national-day-of-action-community-tickets-310157668937
Help ensure the NDIS isn’t forgotten about on election day.
The CPActive team hopes to see you there!
Don’t live in Gosford or surrounds? There’ll be local events happening all over Australia on 28 April.
Look up an event near you here: https://everyaustraliancounts.com.au/election-events/
When Tamsin Colley arrived for the 2016 Paralympic Games she was the youngest member of the Australian team, turning fourteen in Rio.
It’s an achievement most of us only dream of. As an athlete living with cerebral palsy, it also made Tamsin an advocate, a role she was eager to take up.
“I was the youngest ever Australian to compete in athletics at the Paralympics,” says Tamsin. “I was lucky enough to get support to participate in sport from a young age and want to ensure other people receive the same opportunities.”
With the Paralympics under her belt at such a young age, Tamsin’s focus turned to her high school studies, ready to bring her determination and drive to excel at this next challenge.
But she was in for a rude shock. The support and encouragement that had helped her reach the Paralympics was excruciatingly hard to find in the education sector. Whilst some individual teachers tried their best to accommodate her, it became clear the system was not geared towards supporting people with physical disabilities.
“People making the decisions about disability provisions knew little about what support we need,” she says now.
“In sport, it’s obvious when someone has a disability they are working with. It can be less obvious in school. My cerebral palsy is mild, but I still write slower, and they just didn’t understand what I needed.”
In an article for the Canberra Times, Tamsin recounts her Higher School Certificate exams. It was an uphill battle to get the support and extra exam time she was entitled to. The examiners were not trained in the ExamWriter software she used, causing Tamsin to lose some of her answers and valuable time to complete her exams. For every mistake a misadventure claim was filed, and each was rejected by someone who had never met her.
Tamsin beat the odds and is now studying Exercise Physiology at the University of New South Wales. But she never forgot the uphill battle to academic success – and she’s demanding our education system does better for students like her.
“Sport seems light years ahead of academia because it provides opportunities to excel. The education system doesn’t. It struggles to give us the most basic support,” Tamsin says.
“If I hadn’t had support from my parents, it would have been a lot harder and probably I wouldn’t have gotten as I did. I really recognise my privilege in having tertiary educated parents to advocate for me and navigate the bureaucracy. Not everyone has that.”
Tamsin’s vision for a more equal education system begins with agency, choice, and a voice.
“Recently I started university and unlike at school, they actually met with me and discussed my needs, which was great. In the HSC they don’t meet the person. They can’t differentiate between who needs support the most, even in the classroom too.
“Educating people in schools and just talking to us would make a huge difference.”
Marley Lyras-Hull is a master juggler, Cerebral Palsy Alliance employee, and is currently studying her fourth degree – and she shares the secrets behind her drive on the Cerebral Conversations Podcast.
She’s raising three daughters, one of whom lives with a disability, and Marley herself lives with cerebral palsy. When there really are only 24 hours in a day, how does she get it all done?
Marley talks about how she juggles ALL the things, what inspires her, and her tips for other parents living with a disability or parenting a child with disability.
CPActive Champion Jerusha Mather is on a quest to find love. Living with cerebral palsy, Jerusha knows that for people with disabilities the journey can take extra twists and turns.
On major dating apps, people with disabilities often experience discrimination, where their prospects of being seen as a potential partner are often judged according to their disabilities.
“I have had many challenging moments with people misunderstanding and judging me at face value because I move and speak differently,” Jerusha says.
Knowing her experiences are not isolated, she wants the big dating apps to acknowledge exactly that.
Jerusha has started a petition on Change.org calling on Tinder, Bumble, e-Harmony to take meaningful steps to increase visibility of people with disabilities using their apps and educate their users to be more open and inclusive when searching for the one.
This includes ensuring that their apps are safe spaces for people with disability, increasing visibility by including people with disability in their advertising, and making mentoring and specialist coaching accessible for people with disability who may need extra support along the way.
The petition already has over 2,000 signatures – click here to add yours!
“Just like the next person, I too am looking for a romantic partner and want to be in love,” says Jerusha.
“People with disabilities have the potential to become great partners. We bring love, care and passion to our relationships just like anyone else. We want to be lovers, parents and experience fulfilling relationships.
“If you’re someone who uses dating apps or websites, there’s a lot you can do to be inclusive of people with disabilities looking for a partner.
“Do not infantilize us and look upon us with sadness, we do not need your sympathy.
“Treat us as you would treat any other person, with respect and dignity.
“Turn up to the date, with the intent to get to know us.
“Do not use negative words such as suffering, problem, vulnerability, and weakness to describe disability, a person’s disability should not be the central focus or be made a big deal of.”
By targeting the gap where many misplaced and uninformed assumptions about dating someone with a disability are formed, people with disabilities can have better and more positive dating journeys and experience the love and companionship that everyone deserves.
You can sign and share Jerusha’s petition here: Bumble, Tinder, e-Harmony: Make your platforms more inclusive of people with disabilities
By Ananya Choudhary
My name is Ananya Choudhary, I am sixteen years old with Cerebral Palsy. I am in my last year of secondary education and currently studying at Macarthur Girls High School. I am interested in technology and I like creating digital content such as social media posts, posters, flyers and many more. As I am growing and slowly entering the real world outside of school, I want to learn more about the work environment. I think that through work experience I will be able to learn about the work environment and how to use theoretical knowledge in the real world.
I got an offer to work in CPA’s Global Influence and Social Impact Department from 14th January 2022 to 28th January 2022. This department works in championing an inclusive society for those with cerebral palsy both domestically and globally and building the community through digital media like websites, emails, social media, blogs and many more.
When I started my work experience in CPA, in the first week I got to edit photos, create email banners and a guide on creating content and design. I found the photo editing and creating the email banners were simple but enjoyable tasks. These two tasks helped me to use my creative mind by experimenting with design elements. I initially found a guide on creating content and design task challenging. However, the knowledge of literacy and creativity that I gained from school assignments allowed me to create and present this guide for professional purposes. Through all these tasks I got the ability to enhance my creativity, organisational and time management skills. It also gave me the opportunity to present my work in a professional layout.
Since COVID-19 was at its highest peak in Sydney, I was not able to travel to the CPA office. This is a downfall because I didn’t get the opportunity to work in a team with the CPA staff and learn about their physical work environment. However, I was able to learn about the online work environment of CPA. I also got to learn how to communicate effectively through emails. This helped to enhance my online communicational skills as well.
Overall, throughout the first week of online work placement in CPA I got to gain many skills such as organisation, time management, execution of different content, creativity and effective communication through online platforms such as email. I also had first-hand experience in applying the learnings from school education to the real world. I hope to learn and gain more experiences in my second week and in the future as well.
My Tips on Work Experience
– Brainstorm what type of career you want to pursue in the future and look for workplaces that can help you to get an insight related to that career stream.
– Try contacting many workplaces to get the opportunity. If you don’t get any opportunity because of COVID-19 or any other reason, don’t lose hope and keep trying.
– Create a relevant resume as evidence for skills you have acquired, just in case workplaces need it.
– Be open to different opportunities as there is a possibility that it might not be an exact fit.
If you or someone you know is interested in work experience at Cerebral Palsy Alliance, you can visit the Student placement FAQ’s on the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Website and register your interest on the students page or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
The employment rates for people with disability are unacceptably low in Australia. Less than 50% of people aged 15-64 years with disability are employed, compared to 80% of their peers without disability. This gap has not changed for decades.
Various projects, strategies and schemes have been implemented by federal and state governments. But despite this, Australia’s participation rate for people living with disability is on par with developing countries – and it needs to change.
Any strategy for inclusive employment needs to be based on the lived experiences of people with disability. That’s why Cerebral Palsy Alliance is conducting consultations with people living with CP and similar conditions to understand your employment journey.
Would you like to have your say? Email project officer Dula Hettiarachchi at email@example.com to express your interest!
The consultation will include questions about:
These consultations will shape CPA’s recommendations for how governments and employers can support people with disability to find and retain a fulfilling and successful career.
If you’d like to participate in this exciting project, please email project officer Dula Hettiarachchi at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re not comfortable speaking directly, that’s okay – feel free to send your thoughts in writing!