Sharon Boyce is a Toowoomba local identity, QDN Board Director, Chairperson of the Queensland Disability Advisory Council and member of the Toowoomba Regional Council’s Regional Access and Disability Advisory Committee (RADAC). She shared her story of inclusion at the recent Changing Lives, Changing Communities event held in Toowoomba.
The unique nature of Toowoomba, Sharon says – not a big city, but not quite country either – means harnessing the power of community together is vital to creating an inclusive environment for people with a disability.
“Why can’t we learn from what’s already been done?” she asks.
Links with the community helps to create a conversation, Sharon explains. RADAC provides the community with a clear avenue into Council on access and disability issues and provides Council with guidance and assistance on how best to represent the interests of people in Toowoomba with access issues.
As a person who uses an electric chair for mobility, Sharon explains that a simple case of tree roots disrupting access can create real difficulties. A trouble spot identified locally was fixed within a few weeks after the committee wrote to Toowoomba Regional Council. They were previously completely unaware of the problem.
“If you can’t use your chair, it’s like not being able to use your legs,” she says.
Preconceived ideas of what people can do are the only limit to participation of disabled people in communities, she says, and we should challenge that.
“What is going to help a person get up and out of bed in the morning?” she asks, explaining how health and disability services often overlap.
“If a person can’t get up and have a shower, they won’t be able to participate in a community.”
Sharon has a team of support workers that travel with her, whose “resume of things that they do is out of control”. She says flexibility and celebrating shared knowledge are the keys to moving forward under the NDIS.
“If we have things that are not working, let’s see if we can create a solution.”