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International People with Disability

Today is the International Day of People with Disability. It is a day that aims to increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with visible and invisible disabilities. Today, and every other day, let’s celebrate the achievements of over 4.4 million of us in Australia and the contributions we make to society. Disability inclusion is fundamental to human rights, sustainable development, and investment in our future.

My disability is not something I have been comfortable with all my life. This changed when I came across other disabled individuals, who are not just surviving but thriving in life. This encouraged me to reconsider the way I view myself, and use my disabled voice to break down barriers, drive disability inclusion to create a world where we can all thrive.

Facing both conscious and unconscious bias at various workplaces, I recognise the importance of organisations taking tactical steps to build inclusivity into every aspect of culture and practices, to create a fair and equitable environment for all.  I was involved in a team building exercise where the staff were required to collect game cards off the ground. This was an outdoor activity, where the surface was uneven and the act of picking something off the ground was physically difficult for me. It is crucial for team building activities to consider the needs of the whole team and build an environment which is welcoming and authentically inclusive.

Employers can take simple steps such as checking the accessibility of a venue, gathering information of location of elevators prior to any planned activities, ensuring the venue does not have stairs to access compulsory areas – all make a significant difference to my quality of life at work. We are all different and it is vital to consult people with disabilities to ensure individual needs are catered for.

I would like to use today to also celebrate my achievements. At the start of 2022, I had set myself a goal to actively increase visible representation of people with disabilities in various industries and help create a world that is accessible, diverse, and inclusive. I am proud to say I have been on panels, sharing my story, and walked on various fashion runways, including Brisbane Fashion Week. The road to my first runway included many castings, rejections and a healthy serving of tokenism.  

Self-doubt crept in, but I am thankful I persevered. It’s not easy to get out of my comfort zone, especially when it is uncommon to see someone such as myself on a runway and the fashion world. This is an ongoing mission, one I am determined to continue into the years to come – until it is no longer ground-breaking to see a model in a wheelchair or someone with prosthetic legs on websites and catalogues, wearing clothes I want to be wearing. Every body deserves to be represented and seen. 

Through my advocacy, I hope to reshape the perceptions of disabled individuals and encourage people with disabilities to reach for their goals. Through my advocacy, I hope to build a more inclusive society, one that is empowering, and committed to promoting and attaining the goals of universal and equitable access for all.

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