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Why Community Access is Important

February 5, 2024

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Living with a disability means different experiences for different people. Each person’s journey is shaped by their specific circumstances, opportunities, and support systems. Regardless of a person’s age or ability, Community Access is one thing that should remain constant. Community Access refers to the pathway for individuals to fully participate in all aspects of their local community, including:

  • social,
  • recreational,
  • educational, and
  • employment opportunities.

In Australia, nearly 20% of the population is living with a disability. Read on to explore the reasons why Community Access is vital for individuals living with disability and society at large.

 

Defining Community Access

Community Access opens doors to the world beyond our homes. It’s about experiencing life outside, from chatting with cafe workers to using public transport. These simple things are often overlooked, but for people with disabilities, they can be challenging to access.

Community Access includes interactions with others, engagement in communal activities, and the cultivation of meaningful relationships. It includes:

  • A Sense of Belonging: Community Access fosters a profound sense of belonging and connection, which is important for individual wellbeing and social integration.
  • Relationship Building: It provides opportunities to forge deeper connections with friends and family, thereby helping to create social networks and mitigate feelings of isolation.
  • Confidence and Safety: By prioritising a supportive environment, Community Access instills confidence and a sense of safety, which empowers individuals to feel comfortable and at ease in social settings. 

 

Why Community Access Matters

According to a report by the Productivity Commission, Community Access, participation and inclusion levels for people with disabilities in Australia remain relatively low. This highlights the urgent need for improvement, and here’s why:

  1. Improved Health and Wellbeing: Engaging in community activities fosters a sense of belonging and connection, leading to improved health, wellbeing, and overall quality of life for individuals with disabilities and their caregivers.
  2. Cost Reduction: Increased community participation can potentially decrease long-term care and support costs, especially for those with mild-to-moderate disabilities. For example, this allows individuals to gain confidence in using accessible public transport and may reduce their reliance on expensive alternatives like taxis and Ubers.
  3. Workforce Integration: Enhanced community participation facilitates greater involvement in the workforce for people with disabilities and their caregivers.
  4. Social Capital: Encouraging people to interact more and in different ways helps to build stronger connections within the community. This leads to stronger community bonds, higher diversity, and improved networking chances.

     

 

Enablers and Barriers to Community Access

While community participation offers numerous benefits, certain factors can either facilitate or impede engagement. Foundational needs such as stable housing, adequate healthcare, and social support serve as essential enablers. Conversely, negative community attitudes, limited accessibility, and inadequate support services pose significant barriers to participation.

At Interaction, we advocate for Community Access and participation as both a fundamental human right and a pathway to holistic wellbeing for individuals with disabilities. Through our collaborative efforts with clients, we aim to create inclusive environments that promote community integration and acceptance.

 

Jenna’s Story: A Community Access Success 

Jenna, a vibrant 25-year-old with a passion for the arts, had always dreamed of exploring the local art scene in her city. However, as a wheelchair user with limited mobility, she faced significant challenges in accessing galleries and art studios. Determined to make her dream a reality, Jenna reached out to an NDIS disability support partner for assistance.

With the support of the organisation, Jenna began her journey to achieve greater Community Access. Here’s how her story unfolded:

Initial Assessment:
The first step was to conduct an assessment of Jenna’s needs and preferences. A Support Worker met with Jenna to discuss her interests, mobility limitations, and specific goals for Community Access.

Tailored Plan:
Based on Jenna’s aspirations and challenges, a personalised plan was developed to facilitate her participation in the local art scene. The plan included identifying accessible art venues, arranging transportation, and providing assistance during outings.

Exploring Accessible Venues:
Armed with her plan, Jenna set out to explore various art galleries and studios in her city. The support worker accompanied her on these outings, making sure that each venue was accessible. 

Overcoming Barriers:
During their visits, Jenna and her support worker encountered some barriers, such as narrow doorways and lack of ramps. However, they worked together to find alternative solutions, such as using portable ramps and contacting venue managers to advocate for accessibility improvements.

Celebrating Success:
Despite the challenges, Jenna successfully visited several art galleries, attended art workshops, and even participated in a local art exhibition showcasing her own artwork. Jenna’s confidence grew with each outing, and she felt empowered to continue exploring new opportunities for community engagement.

Impact and Reflection:
Jenna’s journey with Community Access success had a profound impact on her life. Not only did she fulfill her dream of immersing herself in the art world, but she also gained a sense of independence and belonging within her community. Looking back on her experiences, Jenna expressed gratitude for the support she received and emphasised the importance of accessibility initiatives in creating inclusive spaces for people of all abilities.

Similarly, the transformative power of Community Access had a positive impact on the greater community. The art galleries and community hubs Jenna visited recognised the need for accessibility and willingness to accommodate people living with disability. 

By overcoming barriers and embracing opportunities, individuals like Jenna can enrich their lives and contribute to a more inclusive society.

 

Interaction: Advocating Community Access in Sydney

Community Access stands as a key pathway to community participation and connectedness. Accessible spaces and resources within the community, such as cafes or transportation services, play a vital role in creating opportunities for people to come together, share experiences, and build meaningful relationships.

By fostering open dialogue, challenging societal norms, and promoting inclusive initiatives, we can create communities where everyone feels valued, accepted, and empowered to thrive. At Interaction, we remain steadfast in our commitment to championing Community Access, and participation and creating a more inclusive society for all.

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