Did you know that one in five Australians have disability? International Day of People with Disability aims to raise awareness for this and celebrate the achievements and contributions of those with disability.
Spinal Peer Support Worker, Lynne Panayiotis, wants people with disabilities to know they’re not alone.
“My role is to support people with newly acquired spinal cord injuries.
“As a person with a T12 spinal cord injury and below the knee amputation, I share my lived experiences and knowledge with others, because I know it can make a difference,” Lynne said.
Lynne has worked in this role for over 11 years, and says that the team at Talbot are just 'amazing'.
This week, Lynne was recognised as a semi-finalist in the Australian ASPIRE Awards in the category of Individual Best Achievement in Community Advocacy, for her work with women who have a spinal cord injury.
“I facilitate a women’s group, and it’s an opportunity for us to open up and share whatever is on our mind with a group of people who are experiencing similar things.”
Lynne Panayiotis with assistance and therapy dog in training, Copper.
Lynne wants everyone reading to know that having disability doesn’t stop you from doing the things you want to do.
“People may think that people with disabilities are limited with what they can do. It definitely involves more planning and more time preparing, but people with disabilities can do almost everything they wish to do.”
She also encourages parents to talk openly with their children about disability.
“I think this is important, because it helps with raising the next generation, who will be able to better understand that people are different, and that’s ok.
“I was out, and a little boy asked me how I drive? I explained that I use hand controls. You could see him thinking about it and then accepting that well that’s how you do it!
“I find that young kids are the most curious and the most accepting,” said Lynne.
Austin Health is continuing to support patients with a disability and Occupational Therapist, Isla Jackson, has recently started as a Disability Liaison Officer.
She explains the role was created in response to people with disabilities finding it more challenging to access COVID-19 testing and services during the pandemic.
“We’ve done a lot of work to help people with disabilities know that COVID-19 testing is physically and emotionally safe and they can continue to access Austin Health's services throughout the pandemic."
Isla says her role is to improve hospital services for people with disability.
“I’m passionate about making the service safe and inclusive for everyone."
Isla wants to empower people with disability by removing barriers.
“One of the ways we're addressing barriers is by educating staff to ensure they know how to support the patient's needs when the patient is unable to express their needs themselves.
“With the right support, people with disability are able to participate in daily life on an equal basis as people without disability,” she said.
Disability Liaison Officer, Isla Jackson