Dylan Alcott calls for action on disability royal commission report findings

Home Politics Dylan Alcott calls for action on disability royal commission report findings
Dylan Alcott calls for action on disability royal commission report findings

One of the country’s most beloved disability advocates has shared some of his own harrowing stories of exclusion at a royal commission.

On Tuesday, Dylan Alcott AO appeared via video link and gave evidence at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, telling the commissioners about the importance of getting people living with disabilities into the workforce.

He said employing people with a disability provided not only a sense of financial security but an important life aspect.

“Obviously if you do have a job, that comes with financial security, but it also comes with the social aspect, the networking, the purpose or whatever it is,” Mr Alcott said.

“People, all people, disability or not, deserve that choice to get out there if they want to do. We all know this, but there are 4.5 million people in this country with a physical, non-physical, visible or invisible disability and only 54 per cent of them are involved in the workforce. That placing rate has not changed in 28 years.

“There’s an unconscious bias that people with disability, people think we can‘t do the role.”

Mr Alcott told the commissioners of an experience he had trying to get a job at 19 years old as a brand ambassador for a company at university.

“I got to the interview, I didn’t tell them I was in a wheelchair, because if I did I wasn’t getting an interview,” he said

“I turned up, it was upstairs, (they) came downstairs, they said you didn’t say you were in a wheelchair.

“I said I must have forgotten it … and they said, ‘No, we’re just going to cancel the job interview now, right.’ That happens every day still to so many people with disability and that sucks, first and foremost, right.

“There is obviously laws around that so it doesn’t happen, but the reason there should be greater employment of people with disability is there are 4.5 million people in this country with disability, and what are we?

“Consumers, just like you, who wants that choice and control, just like you. Who wants to make the same decisions over our life, just like you. And your workforce should represent your consumer base, should it not?”

Mr Alcott told the commission that employers could make buildings as physically accessible as possible, but work needed to be done to change the culture inside the buildings that made people living with disability feel excluded.

“You can have the most accessible workplace ever – ramps, screen readers, a sensory room, whatever – yet if that person goes, no one talks to them or doesn’t give them a promotion or sidelines them because of their unconscious bias about their disability, what’s the point of having them?” he asked.

“Accessibility and inclusion go hand-in-hand.”

Mr Alcott said what people living with disability wanted most wasn’t to “be normal” but rather to “live normal lives.”

“I think the No.1 thing is to listen to lived experience. That lived experience so often in the past was sidelined and very well intentioned – able-bodied people spoke to other able-bodied people about what we need.

“It‘s like, listen and talk to that lived experience. If you want to speak about somebody at a table, they need a seat at that table.”

Mr Alcott ended his evidence by calling on people to act on “words on a page”.

“This royal commission report, as I said, are just words on a page unless people invest in it, both financially, effort and time to make it actually become a reality, right,” he said.

“There‘s no point talking about it anymore and then say ‘hey, we’ve done our bit’. It‘s not about that.

“We really need to make sure corporate, government, educational institutions, schools, whatever invests in this because it is a benefit to our whole country if that investment is done.”

“The time to get the show on the road and to really get cracking is now, and the commissioners, anybody in government, anybody in the high-up position watching over this, you‘re in a position of power to actually influence change. It‘s not about handing in a report and then saying job’s done, onto the next thing.”

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