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For more information about Women with Disabilities Victoria please visit our website at www.wdv.org.au.
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Welcome to our eNews

This fortnightly email is to keep you updated on the work of Women with Disabilities Victoria, and updated on news related to our priority areas. Contributions to this eNews are welcome, email wdv@wdv.org.au.

In this Issue:
 

OPPORTUNITIES
Nominations open for DJA Systemic Advocacy Award

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of Disability Justice Advocacy (DJA). To celebrate they have announced a Systemic Advocacy Award. The successful applicant will be acknowledged with some great rewards. See the Application Form at https://db.tt/bkZFhwnH.

Seeking work or building your career? See what's on offer at WIRE


Women's Information and Referral Exchange offers a range of free ways to help women find work and build a career:
  • Job Coaching and Mock Interview sessions
  • Employment workshops on ‘Searching for work’, ‘Exploring your career’ and ‘LinkedIn’. 

Be part of the diversity in Victoria Police's image: invitation to a photo-shoot
 
 
Victoria Police is updating its image library to include photos of people with disabilities. Women with disabilities are invited to get involved.

Where and when
The photo-shoot is likely to be at the Dandenong Police Station in late June or early July. There will be a full day allocated for the shoot and a range of options for people to participate. Refreshments and reimbursement of participation costs provided.
 
Expressions of interest
Louise Baring is coordinating the shoot, and would be keen to hear from you. 
Phone: 9247 6293 / 0455 099 367
Email: louise.baring@police.vic.gov.au

NDIS

AFDO launches Disability Loop website


Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) has launched the Disability Loop website to share information about the NDIS that is up to date, easy to find and easy to use. Disability Loop is different to the NDIS website because it is run by and for people with disability and their families. It also brings together information from lots of different websites, not just the NDIS.

PARENTING AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
A difficult letter to my unborn daughter by Carly Findlay

Carly Findlay writes, A difficult letter to my unborn daughter. "You've inspired me and you're not even born yet. You've inspired me to think about disability and genetics and the value of a life."


PHOTO from Daily Life: Carly Findlay

VIOLENCE

WDV's submission to Victoria's Royal Commission into Family Violence

 

WDV has made a submission to Victoria's Royal Commission into Family Violence. Recommendations span prevention and response services.

The submission makes a specific call to the Royal Commission to recognise the strength, resilience, credibility and experiences of people with disabilities by:
  • presenting their stories, using the words ‘targeted’ and ‘at risk’ rather than ‘vulnerable’
  • forming recommendations specific to women with disabilities as a high risk group
  • running hearings and presenting reports so that they are accessible to people with disabilities.
WDV had the opportunity to meet Commissioners at a consultation with our No More Deaths Alliance partners and a consultation for women with disabilities. The Commission will hold hearings and panel discussions in July and August.

WDV's new submissions on violence against people with disabilities

Through 2015 we have seen multiple inquiries into violence against people with disabilities. WDV has called for gendered responses to this violence. WDV's submissions are available via our website. These are:
  • NDIS Safeguarding and Quality Framework Consultation
  • Victorian Ombudsman's Inquiry into Disability Abuse Reporting
  • Victorian Parliamentary Committee on Family and Community Development Inquiry into Abuse in Disability Services
  • Australian Senate Community Affairs References Committee inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings.

Making Rights Reality for people with disabilities who experience sexual assault
 

Making Rights Reality is a tailored sexual assault and legal service for people with cognitive and communication disabilities. This program is based in Melbourne's South East. It is hoped the program will expand to other regions.

The program evaluation has just been launched by Dr Patsie Frawley, South East CASA, Springvale Monash Legal Centre and the Federation of Community Legal Centres.

WDV are proud to have been on the project reference group. In our submission to Victoria's Royal Commission into Family Violence we call for a statewide roll out of Making Rights Reality.


At the lauch, left to right: Dagmar (South East CASA), Fofi (WDV), Jen (WDV), Marg (Federation University), Eva (WDV) and Marija (WDV Board).

WIRE seminar on DHS’ Strategy on Family & Domestic Violence


This seminar will benefit anyone affected by family and domestic violence, and community service workers. It will be held from 1pm – 3pm, Wednesday 26 August in Melbourne.

CULTURE

On stage at the Wheeler Centre: women with disabilities talk Feminism

Feminism and disability rights are both about questioning social norms and removing obstacles to equal access. The Wheeler Centre hosted a panel discussion asking women how disability activism has informed feminism.... and how feminism has informed disability activism. It was fantastic to see WDV members there.

Missed it? Don't worry, you can still listen, watch and read it! The Wheeler Centre has uploaded an audio recording, and a captioned video is coming. 

The Panel: Kath Duncan, Naomi Chainey, Jessica Knight, Jax-Jacki Brown, Maxine Beneba Clarke (facilitator).

 

SERVICES
Which discounts are you eligible for?

To find out if there are concessions you are eligible for, see Victorian concessions: a guide to discounts and services for eligible households in Victoria.

Victorian taxi reforms and disability access - A personal perspective by Grace Poland
 
Grace Poland is a woman with a disability and WDV member who has recently completed an internship at Victoria's Office of the Public Advocate (OPA). While working at OPA, Grace wrote this piece about her experiences with taxis and what she feels needs to be done to improve taxi services for women with disabilities. This article will also be available via OPA's webpage.

Introduction
The final report of the Victorian Taxis Industry Inquiry was released in September 2012 following 16 months of consultations. The purpose of this article is to reiterate the need for reforms from a user perspective. I am a young woman with a physical disability. My aim is to write about the three most important taxi reforms that have been implemented or may be implemented in future. Of equal importance is the Victorian  Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. Within this, the key ideas are freedom, respect, equality and dignity (FRED).  Considering the reforms from a disability access perspective, Driver education, vehicle models and taxi licensing are first priority issues.

 
Human Rights - The Fundamental Principle
People with disabilities are human beings. Thus, we are members of society and form part of the community. We have an equal right to transport services to assist us to access employment, health services, friends, family and enjoy a full life. As a young woman with a physical disability, an efficient, effective and respectful taxi service is crucial. There are many places within my community cannot be accessed via another means of public transport. Consequently, a taxi is needed.
 

Physical Access to Taxis
From the age of 13, I have had a folding wheelchair. It was specifically designed to fit into and ordinary sedan car. All that is needed is to fold down the backrest and remove the main wheels. My carers and I invested a lot of thought and time into this design. We all knew that I would be travelling in ordinary cars and taxis. These would not necessarily be wheelchair accessible taxis  (WATs).  My wheelchair, like many others in the community, was designed to actualise the right to freedom and equality.
 
Freedom of access and choice means that we cannot always use a power wheelchair or a scooter. I have had numerous arguments about my wheelchair with taxi drivers. One taxi driver even drove away with my wheels still in his boot. I have encountered ordinary taxi sedans with drivers that protest my wheelchair will not fit in a vehicle. This issue is usually resolved when my carer or companion dismantles my wheelchair and easily places it in the taxi.
 
Often, to avoid the above argument I often book a station wagon. This means that my wheelchair does not need to be dismantled. However, I believe that there are not enough station wagons or WATs to meet the demand for accessible taxi services. Victorian taxis and those around Australia must become universally accessible to all. To begin this process taxi licensing and vehicle types must change. Can the Taxi Services Commission introduce  different types of licenses and incentives to provide taxis that are accessible to all?


Licensing and Vehicle Models
In his foreword the taxi industry inquiry report, Professor Allan Fels said that the Victorian taxi industry had become ’a closed shop‘ mostly benefiting taxi owners and  network operators at the expense of customers and drivers. In my experience, this has shown itself in a general lack of accessibility, driver attitude and taxi industry customer service.
 
Perhaps if the Victorian taxi fleet grew to provide a range of universally accessible vehicles, each licensed properly and fairly, the taxi industry would become open to widespread reform.
 
In New York, the City Mayor had a plan to introduce a taxi surcharge of 30 cents per passenger to assist in funding the conversion and purchase of accessible taxis. A community consultation began this year and local media reported the reform in early 2014. New accessible taxis are expected to be available there in 2016.
 
In my experience, there are two particular vehicles that can be easily converted for accessibility. These are the Renault Kangoo and a Volkswagen Caddy. Many people with disabilities, their family and friends, use these vehicles as everyday transport. For some, however, the cost of purchasing, running and maintaining these vehicles is prohibitive. As a result, introducing these vehicles into the taxi industry would be of benefit to everybody concerned.
 
These vehicles also allow people with disabilities and mobility aids to travel with other ’able-bodied‘ people, promoting active inclusion and (when necessary and wanted) a positive ‘ridesharing‘ experience. This is in contrast to the experience of ride sharing in a transit van or ‘maxi taxi’ where the person in a wheelchair is seated prominently above the other passengers. The Kangoo and the Caddy have a recessed floor and a foldout integrated ramp.  Each vehicle can include up to four or five fold down seats to accommodate other passengers. Whilst travelling, each person sits at the same level and are situated an equal distance from each other.
 
Everybody is different. When you have a physical disability, that difference is noticeable. When using transport services, such as taxis, why should you be forced to feel and look different? (i.e. more than you already are). Until now, the only WATs used are large vans with vertical lifts. Image is important. Why not assist in maintaining human dignity by allowing everyone to travel in an ’ordinary‘ vehicle?
 
I believe that visible and practical change can be a catalyst for good reform on many levels. In relation to taxi operators and owners, there would be more taxis on the road, increasing economic benefit to all. In terms of driver education and attitude, with new accessible vehicles, drivers would need to engage in extensive training both practical and written. Increasing access to taxis for people with disability would increase visibility and participation, helping to improve the relationship between passengers and drivers. 
 
Throughout this process of vehicle reform, taxi drivers may realise that they are providing an essential service to people with disabilities. Given access and training to use these vehicles, drivers may enjoy the job more and feel valuable. If the role of the taxi driver within the taxi industry changes, service, efficiency and customer satisfaction seems likely to improve.
 

Knowledge Test and Driver Awareness
The Driver Knowledge Test and driver awareness is an essential part of taxi reform in Victoria.  Of particular interest to me sections three and four of the Driver Knowledge Test Handbook entitled ’General Understanding for Drivers‘. Section 3.1 of the Handbook outlines that drivers are expected to pick up a passenger with a folding wheelchair if it can be safely stowed in the taxi. On numerous occasions, drivers have refused fares due to my wheelchair, denying  me a safe ride home. This was of particular note during my time at University. I frequently had lectures in winter concluding at 7pm. I would sit at the front of the University campus, clearly visible, with my wheelchair and walking sticks. I would watch, as the taxi driver drove up, took a look at me and drove away. I would then have to telephone my carer and ask her to call the taxi company. 

Section 3.7 of the Handbook directly mentions that it is discriminatory not to pick up a person with a disability. I have been refused taxi services due to my disability. At the conclusion of an evening performance of Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, I discovered my pre-book taxi had not waited for me outside the theatre. By this time, it was 11pm. My sister and I telephoned the taxi company and asked to book another one. It did not arrive. For approximately the next hour and half, we attempted to hail taxis on the street. Each one refused my walking sticks and wheelchair. It was not until approximately 12:20am that an ordinary taxi stopped to pick me up. It was a cold, dark and wet Sunday morning  This conduct denies all basic human rights. The driver who did pick me up agreed that I had been subject to discrimination.
 
Page seven of the Handbook above outlines ethical and unethical behaviour for a taxi driver.  Unethical behaviour includes refusing a short trip. On one occasion I was even refused a short trip back from the doctor’s surgery.
 
Section 4.1 of the Handbook details the behaviour of a professional driver.  A professional driver is neat, tidy and clean. Drivers are also courteous and polite to passengers. In my experience, I have felt disrespected by discourteous drivers.  Rarely and/or never have I heard ‘my name is... and where would you like to be taken?’ Drivers who speak normally and don't patronise you are also rare.
 
Drivers can also be blatantly dangerous and disrespectful with regard to disability. Recently, my carer and myself were literally dropped off in the middle of St. Kilda Road in Melbourne and told ‘you can get out here’. The driver did not respect our additional needs and drop us off directly outside our destination. The Driver did not assist us with my wheelchair. I nearly lost my handbag under the wheels of the moving taxi. This taxi journey was scary and traumatic. What about the dangers of other traffic on a major road like this?
 
As I have reflected upon my experience of the Victorian taxi industry over many years, it has struck me to what extent safe, appropriate, accessible and reliable taxi services support our ability to participate in social and economic life. The Taxi Services Commission is making an attempt to change.  However, the changes cannot come fast enough. As a person who is experiencing immediate barriers to access, there is no time to wait. I am not asking for anything that isn't readily available to ‘able-bodied’ members of the community. But, until something is done and change is visible, we will not have achieved the freedom, equality, respect and dignity we deserve.

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