Parliament: Interesting Speeches

AbleCloset

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: During the parliamentary recess, I was given the incredible opportunity to visit the USA as part of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), funded by the US government to offer networking and research to international visitors in a field of their choice. For reasons that are probably obvious, I chose to look at the States’ record on disability rights and service provision, and today I will talk about one of the many organisations I met with.

AbleCloset, based in San Francisco, is a non-profit paediatric disability equipment loan scheme which lends out used and surplus equipment to families and parents so that they can experiment with which pieces of equipment best suit their child. This can be particularly important if the child’s disability is new or their needs are changing as they grow. It can also be very useful for people who have just been granted funding and are looking for the right piece of equipment to purchase.

AbleCloset was founded by Ms Kelly Steitz after the younger of her two daughters was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a vision impairment and microcephaly. Like most parents—especially, I think, those of children with disabilities—Kelly wanted to do all she could to minimise the boundaries for her daughter and children with similar diagnoses. Kelly is to be commended for her amazing efforts in founding and running AbleCloset, and I thank her very much for the time she spent with me.

AbleCloset stocks a wide variety of equipment—from wheelchairs and walkers to toilet and bath aids—for use on a regular basis, as well as things like beach wheelchairs which someone may need only occasionally to enable them to participate in a family holiday, for example. Much like a book library, AbleCloset runs an online inventory so that its users can see which pieces of equipment are available at any given time. There is also an online guide to donating equipment to the program.

As members may know, current SA government policy can make it very difficult for people with disabilities to use pre-owned equipment, even if this is what they would prefer. I understand that most government-funded disability equipment is sent overseas when its original owner no longer requires it and, while I do not suggest that this is an unworthy cause in any way, I do think it would be wonderful and sensible to see more of it put to good, efficient use here.

I believe there could be huge savings made by government if it allowed the use of second-hand aids in more cases, or if it at least gave people with disability the opportunity to experiment with different equipment before applying for their own so that they get it right in the first place. Particularly in light of the rollout of the NDIS, I believe it is now more than ever time to give people with disability this choice and authority. I look forward to discussing this very exciting concept with members of parliament and members of the community and, hopefully, making it a reality for South Australia.