The Physical Disability Council of NSW (PDCN) recently hosted a day of community consultations at their Sydney headquarters in Glebe. Several strong themes emerged at the well-attended event including the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), transport and health provision.

Physical and structural access problems that affect a person’s entire journey were repeatedly raised, from the built environment around train stations being difficult or impossible to navigate, to the lack of accessible buses, particularly those in use by privatised bus transport operators. Construction work around train stations was also cited, as temporary access solutions are often difficult for people with disability to navigate. And several people also reported that train timetables do not allow enough time for staff to provide assistance to wheelchair users to board and disembark.

Human problems, such a lack of education and awareness, and poor attitudes toward people with disability, were also raised. One attendee with an intellectual disability who required ramp access to board buses found that many drivers refuse to assist her due to the ‘invisibility’ of her disability. In other cases, people found that well-intentioned transport staff would sometimes physically grab them by the arm without first introducing themselves, or asking if assistance is required.

The NDIS also came in for criticism from most attendees, with complaints around inconsistent information from different service providers, poorly trained National Disability Insurance Agency staff, inadequate funding for special needs and a lack of flexibility compared to the previous Ageing Disability and Home Care (ADHC) funding scheme. Concerns were also raised about the application process, such as difficulty dealing with unhelpful GPs and occupational therapists, navigating the NDIS website, and the general anxiety and stress associated with going through the difficult and time-consuming NDIS system.

PDCN education and operations manager Wendy Banfield said that the feedback provided will be a key touch point for PDCN policy and strategy into the future, and that PDCN will continue to host community consultations through NSW, with plans for Wagga Wagga, Albury and Northern NSW next in the pipeline.