I dug deep into the big issues for people with disability in Australia today. This is what I learned – ABC News

I dug deep into the big issues for people with disability in Australia today. This is what I learned
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I've been to quite a few International Day of People with Disability events and celebrations over the years.
I cherish the focus on people with disability each year and the strong intent to do better and create a more accessible and equitable Australia.
My own thoughts and conversations with my community have always suggested meaningful change for people with a disability still has a way to go.
What started as discussions with mates turned into something a bit more and over the past year I've spent time deep-diving into some of the big issues for people with disability in Australia today.
I looked at things alongside relevant law wherever possible. But in particular, I looked at the federal Disability Discrimination Act — the law which was designed to protect people with disability against discrimination and promote the acceptance of their rights.
When the act came into place 30 years ago, three key objectives were outlined:
People with invisible disabilities are still routinely disbelieved — and it can have long-lasting effects, writes Evan Young.
I don't have the legal credentials to debate the merit of the term "as far as". It seems OK if held in the spirit I'm sure it was written with — but should discrimination law be left to spirit?
Have we gone "as far as" we need to when it comes to protection from discrimination for people with disability? And has community acceptance come along "as far as" it needs to ensure the rights of people with a disability?
My work on the ABC podcast Let Us In! has been an eye-opening exploration of disability rights and where we are at with disability in Australia today.
We spoke with Australians making their way through life with disability. Interacting with our education system, housing, access to public places, employment opportunities, transport and identity. And we tackled the big one of the past few years: looking at what it is like for Australians with disability in the COVID world.
Despite being a Paralympian, I wasn’t always proud of my disability, writes Elizabeth Wright.
Our investigation showed that despite the annual good intent on IdPWD, we haven't gone "as far as"' we need to in the past three decades and "as far as" I can tell we've got a long way to go.
We still have a segregated education system. Catia Malaquais, parent of Julius who has Down Syndrome, described enrolling children with disability in school as a Hobson's choice of a "segregated education system, which is not evidence based, and creates a whole bunch of problems, or it's a mainstream system where kids aren't being supported properly, having a really hard time."
We found that the impact of unemployment, which for people with disability in Australia is about twice the rate of those without disability, has a big impact on health in general and particularly mental health. There are also questions around how people with a disability are employed and paid, as well as what steps are needed to improve employment participation.
Our episode on access to public places featured a modern-day David and Goliath story, and a challenge to disability law which made it all the way to the High Court. David Cawthorn has been fighting the case for wheelchair access to Hobart's Parliament Square as part of its $330 million redevelopment but in the end the High Court overturned a decision of the Tasmanian Supreme Court in a jurisdictional wrangle between state and federal anti-discrimination laws.
One of the stories about disability that appears the most in Australian news is the difficulty of accessing transport and the rights of people with disability to fly.
Ella Darling is sick of being mollycoddled, taken advantage of, ignored and written off as "strange".
Former Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes suggested the Disability Discrimination Act is not fit for this purpose and more was needed.
"I think what we need is what already exists in Europe and in the USA, which is an airline accessibility act, which actually directs airlines and airports, and various authorities at airports," he said.
In our look at what identity for people with disability means, I defer to my own experience. The way you see people with a disability matters, because it will shape how you interact with us. And this is important, because it shapes — in part — how we see ourselves. Often people with disability are seen with sympathy, or fear. And sometimes we are told that we just don't belong.
It's not all doom and gloom, it's actually a story of hope and opportunity.
There is hope on the horizon after a decades-long fight for changes to building codes to support accessible housing. Upcoming changes to the National Construction Code, which has been endorsed by most Australian states, will ensure all new housing is more accessible.
Join Kurt Fearnley and Sarah Shands as they unpack some of the big issues for people with disability in modern Australia.  
And while the battle with COVID is ongoing, especially for people with disability, our episode on the pandemic showed that changes to conditions which support a diverse workforce can happen (and fast!) and may open new doors to employment for people with disability. This is not just good for people with disability, but for everyone.
So where are we at when it comes to disability in Australia?
As far as I'm concerned our stories need to be told year round, not just on a single day each December. There needs to be genuine conversation and action not just in the disability community but between all Australians. Law makers, governments of all levels, business, community groups and community — everyone.
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
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