Director, Criminal Justice System
Policy, Reform and Legislation Branch
NSW Department of Communities and Justice
Andreas works for NSW Department of Communities and Justice. He feels privileged to be part of the age of inclusion as it is seeking to break down the barriers for people with disability working in the sector, including sharing disability information, seeking reasonable adjustments and working to ability.
Andreas has Stargardt’s disease, a congenital condition that results in macular degeneration. When he was 13, he started losing his eyesight and by 19 he was legally blind. He still has peripheral vision, meaning he can’t read or recognise people, but he can walk around without a cane. At work he uses screen reader software that reads everything out in a robotic voice at a very high speed.
When it comes to working with people with disability, Andreas says to be sensitive to the fact people do things differently, but otherwise treat them as you would anyone else. He says it is always nice when people ask if there is any way they can change what they do to assist working together.
Andreas is also a published novelist, studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and (according to him, when he was younger and fitter!) a national level para-rowing athlete. When he is not working, Andreas hangs out with his family – his wife Zelie and his three boys Miles, Henry and Franklin, who he says are the four best things that have ever happened to him.
Customer Liaison Specialist – Accounts Payable
Transport for NSW
Aparna works for Transport for NSW and got involved with the age of inclusion because she felt it would bring awareness and focus to the priorities of people with disability working in the public sector.
Aparna became deaf after contracting an illness when she was six months old that damaged her inner ear nerves. When it comes to being deaf, she says people are concerned about how they will communicate with her and have a normal conversation. Aparna can lip-read and has spoken publicly about her experience being deaf and on disability awareness.
When interacting with people who are deaf or hard of hearing, Aparna says it is important to:
- Gain attention by waving or gently touching their arm or shoulder.
- Face the person so they can see your face clearly to assist them in lip reading and reading facial expressions.
- Optimising lighting for lip reading.
- Speak at a normal or slightly slower pace and do not shout or exaggerate words as speech and lip movements will be distorted.
- Use facial and body experience, but do not exaggerate.
- Check for understanding during conversations.
Aparna loves to watch movies and travel the world and says her family and friends would say she is always smiling. She has also competed as Miss Deaf Australia in the Miss Deaf World Beauty Pageant in Prague, Czech Republic.
Director, Inclusive Infrastructure, Placemaking and Experience
Department of Regional NSW
Paul got involved in the age of inclusion to dispel misconceptions about disability and the capacity of a person with disability to make a meaningful contribution to work life and their broader community.
Paul sustained a spinal cord injury after a road trauma when he was 11 and uses a wheelchair for mobility. He is proud to identify as a person with disability but doesn’t see his disability as a deficit or disadvantage.
When working with colleagues with disability, Paul says it is important to use language that puts the person with disability first and not let disability define a person. From that point you can build that rapport and get to know that colleague. His advice is to always treat people as we wish to be treated.
Paul really likes physical activity and enjoys anything where he can push his physical and mental conditioning. He thinks his friends and family would describe him as empathetic and adaptable. He believes his life experience has given him perspective and he is very thankful for that.
Manager, Programs | Programs and Commissioning
NSW Department of Education
Ryan works for NSW Department of Education and believes the age of inclusion is about providing everyone with opportunities. He believes for people with disability that meaningful employment derives a lot of social, emotional and mental health benefits.
Ryan has cerebral palsy, a condition which mainly affects his fine motor skills – for example, writing, typing and little everyday things, like cutting up a steak. It also affects his ability to move and his speech, but he says he can do most things that he wants to do, and if he can’t he adapts and finds a way. He says if you are working with someone with cerebral palsy or speech impairments, to be patient and take the time to listen and be open and accepting of people’s needs.
When it comes to people with disability, Ryan believes it’s important as a public servant to try and put yourself into the shoes of other people and be empathetic and understanding of the fact that everyone has different experiences. He wants people to just engage in conversation and take the time to develop a connection with colleagues with disability. This leads to respectful relationships where you can ask questions and learn.
When he’s not working, Ryan likes to get out and about, playing sports and spending time with his family and kids. A typical Sunday for him is taking his boys to the local oval for a kick around with a soccer ball or going for a bike ride.
Advisor, Organisational Culture and Recognition
NSW Department of Justice
Sarah works for NSW Department of Justice and got involved in the age of inclusion because she thinks it is super important that advocates speak out to break down barriers and bias and change mindsets.
Sarah is short statured, a condition which Sarah says has made her resilient and open minded as life is not geared up for people who are short statured. It is a disability that she says is very noticeable and that once people get to know her, she is not Sarah with dwarfism anymore, she is just Sarah.
When working with colleagues with disability Sarah says to not be afraid to ask questions and educate yourself so that you can be better informed and teach others to create a more respectful and inclusive workplace. There are boundaries and it is important to be respectful, but it shouldn’t be taboo to talk about disability.
Sarah loves spending time with her friends and family, including her 20-month old daughter, and loves going to the beach. She is a three-time Paralympian swimmer and currently sits on the board for the Athletes Commission, where she looks after and advocates for Paralympians.
Human Resources Project Officer
NSW Environment Protection Authority
Stephanie works for NSW Environment Protection Authority and became involved in the age of inclusion because not everyone has the confidence or skills to advocate for themselves, and because people with disability come to work to do their job, not stand out as a person with a disability who is encountering barriers. She wants people to be able to bring their whole self and best self to work and to shine because they are supported to be their best.
Stephanie has Stargardt’s disease and lost her sight at the age of 16, which meant she needed to relearn how to do everything that is based on sight, including eating, dressing, walking, etc. She says she is not blind when she is at home – her environment is set up to support her, and she would like the workplace to be the same.
She says there’s no “secret” to interacting with people who are blind or vision impaired. They just want to be treated like everybody else, with courtesy and respect. But some common courtesies if you work with someone who is blind or has low vision are:
- Use the accessibility checker in Word, Excel and Outlook just as you use the spell and grammar checker.
- If you think someone may need help, ask first. This is especially true for navigating and getting around - It’s jarring for anyone to be unexpectedly grabbed or pulled, but especially so for someone who can’t see who’s doing the grabbing. By asking, you give the person a chance to accept or decline your help.
- Identify yourself when approaching, or when entering a room with them. In a group setting address the person by name and inform them when you depart.
- Never pet or distract a working guide dog.
In her spare time Stephanie is part of a running/walking group called Achilles and walks with a sighted guide from the Art Gallery through the Botanical Gardens and Opera House each Sunday morning. She is also part of a book club and completely motivated by her tummy and good food.
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