From AAPD (6.6.11):
AAPD International Program:
Australian Disability Delegates Confer with AAPD
by Jenifer Simpson, AAPD Public Policy & Research
Photo: (l-r) Jenifer Simpson, Margaret Bowen, Kim Roe, Helena Berger, and Raymond Bennett
On June 6, 2011 Helena Berger, AAPD’s Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, and Jenifer Simpson, Senior Director for Government Affairs, met with a delegation of three people from The Disability Trust from the Sydney area in Australia. Operating primarily in one of the six Australian states, New South Wales, this non-profit organization both delivers services and focuses on the human rights of people with disabilities. Visiting AAPD were Margaret Bowen, CEO, Kim Roe, Executive Manager, and Raymond Bennett, an advisor.
The Disability Trust operates a variety of programs in their state. These include supported employment, respite care, in-home services including direct care workers, aids and toys for children with disabilities, and sports and recreation programs for people with disabilities, among others. We learned from our visitors that Australia is moving toward a more voucher-like program and away from provider-controlled services for people with disabilities. Called the National Disability Scheme, the proposal is for a federal insurance program replacing the current state-based programs. The new approach is currently under review with a report due in July from the federal government’s Productivity Commission. Controversial issues include whether a new tax needs to be levied, at what level the scheme will be funded, and how it will be overseen.
Of Australia’s 22 million people -- in a country almost as big as the U.S. – about 20 per cent of Australians have a disability, or about 4 million people. This proportion is increasing, particularly as the population ages with 19.8 per cent of all males and 20.1 per cent of all females report having a disability. Our Australian visitors pointed out that about 700,000 Australians receive a Disability Support Pension, somewhat like SSI in the U.S. They believe that the unemployment rate is between 7-8% for Australians with disabilities, compared to 4.5% for Australians without disabilities, although they noted that this rate is not tracked by their government.
Disability Trust staff were very interested in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) implementation and enforcement. They were also very interested in AAPD’s leadership programs such as Disability Mentoring Day, Hearne Awards and our Summer Federal and Congressional interns program. They were also interested in how AAPD programs are supported by the private sector and our ongoing relationships with companies to ensure more accessibility and usability, more hiring of people with disabilities, and reducing stigmatization of people with disabilities. We discussed the AAPD Annual Gala and how that is a key event for the organization. There was considerable discussion about the use of electronic social media to ensure national groups stay connected with their constituencies and how to engage and involve advocates in concerns. The Disability Trust mentioned they used a cloud-based social networking tool, Ning, to support some of their advocacy and other work, including fundraising. The meeting was very cordial and the Australian delegates said they would welcome all visitors who travel there.
Update on Australia’s National Disability Scheme at http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/02/28/3150259.htm
More about The Disability Trust organization at http://www.disabilitytrust.org.au/
More about people with disabilities in Australia at http://australia.gov.au/people/people-with-disabilities
More about NING at http://www.ning.com/
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