blog 240411 disabilityadvocate

I’m a 41-year-long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS. I’m severely vision-impaired from cytomegalovirus (CMV), and mobility challenged from one of the early drugs designed to prolong our lives.

I used to see HIV disability as a singular issue, but ageing…I’m now 70, has turned that thinking around. No matter if you are disabled as a result of birth, accidents, or illness such as HIV, all disabled people share one thing in common. We’re disabled! Quite often, this world is designed manufactured and built by people who aren’t. To make things worse, many think they know what disabled people need…without consulting with us!

I live in a Central Coast village. Footpaths here are a luxury. Residents usually walk on the roads, as having a sand base, the grass verges are a minefield. I’m lucky in that we have several new paths, though to use them when walking into the village adds several minutes to my journey. I also have to cross three busy roads. There is a pedestrian refuge on one, and a crossing on another, but the busiest middle one has no safe crossing.

You not only need to watch traffic from four directions, but you have to step onto the road to see around parked vehicles. I’ve had several close calls crossing this road, and I dread crossing it!

In consultation with my local member, also disabled and uses a wheelchair, we have put in a submission to Council to have some sort of crossing put in there, not just for disabled people, but also to guard the safety of school kids, and the elderly using that path. Considering council is supposedly disabled-aware, they are certainly procrastinating. Safety aware indeed! Not!

Likewise the car park and entry access area of our local RSL were badly edge marked, and with a dangerous ramp to the club’s entry area. In bright sunlight, you could not see the pale yellow fluro markings at all! Coming out of the club into sunlight, I could not see the access ramp at all. I relied on friends or kind members to help me safely to the ramp. Submissions from myself and several other people with vision impairments saw the whole car park remarked, and the club entryway reconfigured.

It is very empowering when you are listened to, and suggestions are acted on.

I used to be frightened to speak up about these things. If if nothing is said, nothing changes. As disabled people, we have a right to be able to move safely around our local areas. Whether able-bodied or disabled, if you know of dangers in your local area, be an advocate and speak up. Small changes can save a life.

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